Berlioz’s hair, and other startles

Much of the day, I have a TV music channel on, playing the stuff I love, what most people call “classical” music. I used to listen to QXR until the reception became poor. That’s when I discovered the music channel called Music Choice.

Music Choice is actually Music Choices. I could tune in to Christian rock, jazz, smooth jazz, swing, underground hip-hop, funk. Soundscapes, whatever they are. I can slide backward into the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s. Too many choices. Fortunately, my own tastes limit me to classical, with an occasional dip into golden oldies or country hits.

When I’m sitting at my computer, as I am now, the TV is behind my left shoulder; to see the screen I have to turn. This makes for some fun moments: since these channels do not have DJs, the music continues without identification except on the screen. So I can make an informed guess as to the composer, and then turn to see if I’m right. Or not.

Beyond this, though, Music Choice supplies short info about a composer on the screen, under the rubric, Did You Know?

What I don’t know is how they decide on the factual tidbits they then supply. Why is it important for me to know that Rameau, whom I love, was born in Dijon? I am now unable to take my mustard jar from the fridge without thinking, “Rameau.” This is not useful.

There are times I’ve wondered whether whoever writes these things is well versed in English. One favorite tidbit when Brahms is playing: “Brahms is one of the three B’s, which are Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.”

You see what I mean, right?

On the other hand, they informed me that Telemann had once gotten a job at the Church of the Barefoot Friars. I love them for this one.

For much of the repertory, Music Choice plants a portrait of the composer on the screen, along with the Do You Knows?, either a contemporary sketch or painting or photograph. (Recently, when there was no photo on my screen, I mentioned going into Wikipedia to see what Ralph Vaughan Williams looked like.)

Well, the other day, Music Choice was playing Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. I’m pretty good at identifying Berlioz. (I even know his dad made him go to med school; the first time he witnessed a dissection, he immediately passed out.) But when I turned to the TV to confirm, what did I see before my eyes? This:

That hair! I didn’t like Vaughan Williams’ hair (see above link) but Berlioz’s is a whole other thing.

I’m wondering whether this was a hair style of the times, or just Hector’s hair. This– 19th Century French composers’ hairdos — is potentially a rich research lode to which I can bring my little hammer and chisel and chip away for gold.

If I find a pattern, or more bad hair days, I will report in.



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