A world as seen through its music

Evelyn Minch

February 12, 1992|By Evelyn Minch

MUSIC in its symbolism expresses the thoughts, ideas, fears and joys of an era or a culture and in its essence becomes a lesson in history. We grow up with music and frequently rebel in our teen-age years with rock 'n' roll, hard rock or rap.

You can pick your own era, but mine began with rock 'n' roll. It was an era I have never outgrown -- I still listen to the popular rock stations.

I sing "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" with the Beatles and "Pretty Woman" with Roy Orbison. My all-time favorite is "I Can't Get No Satisfaction." Rolling Stones. I switch the station when "Cherish Is the Word" begins. It's a reminder of a not-so-endless love.

The history of the '60s rang out from the protest songs: "Stop, shh, what's that sound, everybody look what's going down." The Fifth Dimension's album "Aquarius," from the musical "Hair," shocked the establishment, but it's still being performed. The music is still radical, only now the actors wear clothes.

The music shocked, but it echoed our hearts and minds. We could lose ourselves in it or explode from within because in the music we could find ourselves. I know the music probed my thoughts and bared my soul about feelings I thought were my secrets: "He was strumming my pain with his fingers, telling my life with his words, killing me softly with his song."

While the voices, rhythms and styles change, music never does. It exposes us.

Now a German group called the Scorpions comes on the radio. It is the early '90s. I turn up the volume while the whistling haunts my senses. My skin tingles, and I lose myself in the words of a song called "Wind of Change." The haunting brings into focus the TV coverage of all those people at the Berlin Wall. The winds of change hit the wall like a hurricane, and joyously, with singing, laughter and tears, thousands chip and hammer away. The wall comes tumbling down.

"Down to Gorky Park" comes as the wind sweeps east into Moscow, and the Soviet Union is no more. Now the "Unified Team" is competing in the Olympics with the partial sponsorship of American companies.

Saturday, as I watched the opening ceremonies from Albertville, I again felt the winds of change and cried a little as the unified German team marched by.

The "Wind of Change" is a beautiful melody with provocative lyrics. It is today's lesson in culture, today's history. The song is playing now, and it is singing out from my heart. I see all those people at the Berlin Wall, but the wall isn't there any more. I see athletes of the German team, formerly bitter enemies, walking arm-in-arm, laughing. The tears that blurred my vision begin to dry as the wind picks up. I sense the history in the music.

Evelyn Minch is a student in the Weekend College at the College of Notre Dame. She lives in Reisterstown.

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