Barack Obama/Louis Arstrong Music Video: What A Wonderful World
Music and Message:
by Ron Powell
Being somewhat 'old school' when it comes to music enjoyment and appreciation, I am not a big fan of music videos. I prefer to listen to music. For me, 'watching' music detracts from, or altogether destroys, the capacity of the viewer to hear the true meaning of any message the composers of the music are attempting to communicate. The video I offer for your enjoyment here is, in my view, a rare exception to the notion that to be truly appreciated, music should be heard, not seen. (Click the play button to see, and hear, the video featuring a Barack Obama photo slide show and Louis Armstrong's signature rendition of What A Wonderful World.)
Vocal arrangements are comprised of two primary communicative elements, the musical composition and the lyrics. (Three, when you take into account that rhythm is the most primitive and fundamental communicative element of all.)
The musicians and vocalists are the messengers of the lyricists and composers, and when everything was just right the performer would become associated with a melody or song. The connection between the message and the messenger became such that it is difficult to imagine one without the other.
The popularity and the commercial success of the music video has altered the process of enjoyment or appreciation of music by making the messenger the message. Generally, music videos are not like Broadway or movie musicals that tell a complete story independent of the story of the individual performers. The music video has made the performer more important than the music. The message in the music, if there is one, is less meaningful. There is little or no mention made of the composer or lyricist these days. Rap artists need no music at all and there are some 'stars' who can't sing a lick.
When everything comes together in a perfect blend of composition, lyric, and performer, the result is a phenomenon that becomes representative of who and what we are as a people and a culture. Would it be Christmas without Bing Crosby singing Irving Berlin or Nat 'King' Cole singing Mel Torme? The combinations seem to be endless, but they are all very special, and can be identified or listed according to the diverse and multicultural tastes and preferences of the many audiences that exist in the population of our country. Where else, but in America, could the most popular Christmas songs have been written by composers of Jewish persuasion? Is it any real wonder that we would eventually elect a president of African descent?
In many ways, our music is a reflection of our democratic impulses and institutions. Our country gives us the right and freedom, if not always the opportunity, to imagine who we are and what we would like to become in much the same way as music encourages the listeners to think, or imagine, or dream.