Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Sing! Sing a Song!

Originally posted on December 7, 2010

I love the words from that Sesame Street song that includes the phrase, “Don’t matter if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear.” I’m interested in helping more people enjoy the arts—not just by witnessing, seeing, listening, but by doing, drawing, doodling, improvising, singing, drumming, dancing. I guess this might be a form of artistic populism. But it’s needed! More people who used to sing, for example, are being edged out by recent trends in popular music. In the olden days, songs were eminently sing-able, which is partly what sold sheet music. Nowadays, mass media package these modes of art, so that they’re presented by top experts in singing backed up not only by good instrumentalists, but also many fancy props, costumes, quick-change videos, etc.

Have you noticed that over the last 50 years the background music has been rising in ratio to the lyrics in popular songs by an estimated 0.2 decibels per year? ! It has made hearing the lyrics to songs almost impossible. Not to speak of the way songwriters often become so poetic as to be logically incoherent. (I don’t mind some poetic phrases, but the normal mind should be able to follow the allusions!)  (Forgive me if I’m coming on like a curmudgeon, but I think there might be some validity in these observations.)

Then there’s the fascinating upgrading of the difficulty of songs, mainly with the work of Neil Simon in the 1970s, so that Broadway songs must be sung by people in the top 5% of singing ability. An increasing percentage of Broadway Musical and other pop songs require that the singer  must be able to make non-natural note transitions precisely. The rhythms are often tricky. This demonstrates the skill of the singer and the composer and perhaps the instrumentalists, but it makes singing those songs by the audience and others almost impossible. So those Broadway songs become no longer part of mainstream culture. In the olden days of the 1930s – 1960s, at least 53.4% of people could sing-along to many of the Broadway Musical songs. Alas. So, to say again, I think we need a fair measure of popularism to balance the over-valuing of expertise—that’s my bias. I want to hear many more people singing!

One Response to “Sing! Sing a Song!”

  • I disagree! I believe it was more like 53-point-ONE percent of people used to be able to sing along with broadway musicals. 53-point-FOUR percent, you say? Preposterous! I demand to see your evidence.


    Seriously, I loved this post! Speaking as someone who loves to sing (but is frequently off-key), I have to suffer with a dear brother who sings with the Chicago Lyric and a sister who sang with the Chicago Symphony Chorus. At relative’s birthday parties and at Christmas, *who* gets asked to sing Nessum Dorma or Fall on Your Knees? Not me.

    But I sing anyway. Sing on!

    What do you like to sing? Make sure you do lots of singing with your son during your visit this week!

    (David’s business partner, and a long-time admirer of yours)

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