Reading may enlighten and calm the intellect, yet it is music that soothes the soul. There are times when one tires of books and opinions. Good music seldom fails. Of course my own choices are fairly selective—not being overly broad, but deep. They are less confined to particular periods than they are to certain styles. Whether classical or jazz, I dislike works that are dissonant or overly improvisational. This is as true for a violin solo by Giuseppi Tartini as it is for a piano piece by Thelonious Monk. They may be interesting tonal experiments for musicians but they are disappointing to the listener.
When in a more boisterous mood I will take in something by Respighi or the big band sounds of Pete Rugulo and Terry Gibbs. But for a quieter frame of mind I am apt to listen to Renaissance polyphony, baroque concertos, some works of Beethoven, and early moderns like Debussy and Satie. The “Arabesque” and “Gynopedie” are among my favorites. From there it’s a bit of a jump to postwar sounds like the melodious jazz artistry of Billy Taylor, Vince Guaraldi, Red Garland, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. The epitome of the gentle jazz meditation can be found in Bill Evan’s “Waltz for Debby.” I also enjoy tranquil organ music and have been fortunate lately to attend a church that has a large hand-crafted pipe organ. This past Sunday, for example, we were treated to a piece by the 17th century Spanish composer Pablo Bruna. And there is invariably something by the sublime J. S. Bach.
Music provides pleasant and even necessary interludes between activities. It also combines well with other things, lending harmony to whatever we are doing.