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1 August 2012

Music and...The Olympics


Life is Music. Music is Life. 
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Something caught my attention last week on the radio that sparked my curiosity: ATO - as in, After The Olympics. When a listener questioned when new episodes of The Big Bang Theory would go to air, (now that we’ve seen all 20 million repeats), ATO was the response. I wondered if I should have started categorizing my life into 3 timeframes- BTO (before the Olympics); DTO (during the Olympics) and ATO (after the Olympics)- in order to justify what I don’t get done until post August 12. 

To be honest, I’ve never been glued to the TV during the Olympics, as I’d prefer to be out taking part in a form of exercise myself: like strolling to the supermarket to stock up on supplies for when I do choose to watch, or, giving my arms a workout by opting for the more labour intensive and environmentally friendly choice of hanging out the washing. That said, I am always fascinated by the gymnastics and diving. Watching a girl contort her elastic body into inconceivable shapes or some guy define the meaning of strength by performing on the rings, surely is the true meaning of remarkable. 

I don’t have the fondest memories of sport at school. Athletics Day for me equated to the lobster look, (i.e. bright red sunburn) and weekly swimming class reminded me of never getting enough shower time to rid my long hair of the pungent enduring fragrance of chlorine. Any aspirations I had of mastering gymnastics were short lived when walking on a beam suddenly ignited my fear of heights. By the time I was a teenager having piano and viola lessons, I was already starting to make choices to avoid sports that might damage my hands. Yes, I was clearly Miss Popularity all round.

But now I feel an affinity for Olympic athletes, mainly because they understand the consistency and persistency required to pursue a career that depends on the combination of physical skill and accuracy, health, family support, exceptional coaches, determination and most importantly the recognition of long term goals - just as music does. The other essential factor that applies to sport and music is that should one wish to pursue a career in these fields, one must start as a child. So there goes any thread of hope of becoming an adult Olympian. (Archery has been on my list of things to accomplish in life ever since I realized staying on the ground was a priority for me). And on that uplifting thought, I’ll just enjoy another bag of chips and block of chocolate as I get comfortable on the couch and browse through the TV guide to see which Olympian can entertain me with their skill later this evening.

That’s the thing that’s different about music - it’s hard to quantify as the highest, longest, fastest - you get it. It’s that undefinable quality that makes a musician stand out as exceptional or memorable. It appears we define athletes by quantitative adjectives, but musicians by descriptive terms. Perhaps that’s why the X factor (no not the TV show!) seems to be the only way to acknowledge and connect with what is best. And even that is entirely subjective. But that’s the optimum word: connect. I am not sure we connect with the highest high jump or the furthest shot-put throw. Whereas we do connect with our favourite music. But in the city “where the wind comes sweepin down the plains” someone has tried to rectify that problem by creating the Musical Olympics! Oklahoma City Orchestra League host a series of competitions for classical musicians each year where perhaps more of us have a chance to win a gold medal. 

That is what has gone from the spirit of the competition in the Olympics today - the healthy spirit of competition. Pardon the gushy thought for a moment. I remember when I studied in Holland I encountered the ultimate competition called the “Elfstedentocht” or Eleven City Tour - an ice skating race that anyone could enter where competitors would skate 200kms along frozen rivers & canals through Holland. Why? Some people may ask. That’s another story. But the best thing about this race, is there is no prize money. So good bye drug cheats and corruption, and hello excitement and cups of hot soup, in order to not totally freeze. There’s probably a pair of clogs and a bunch of tulips in there too somewhere.

Sadly I missed the very beginning of the opening ceremony at 6am last Saturday. But I loved the part with the Arctic Monkeys belting out a tune of the Rolling Stones while mystical people on bicycles symbolized the ducks from previous ceremonies. The presence of live music reminded me that even though we were about to admire the sporting achievements of exceptional athletes, we were commencing this feast of competition with a musical celebration for all to enjoy.

Love and Music,


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