I listened to the first recorded music on the village radio station. The station was managed by the Post office that got a sort of magnifier device to distribute the sound to a network of speakers installed in the people’s houses. I thought that was my life’s highlight! The station distributed the main national radio channel, where music was a main part of their programmes. I was fascinated and always all ears to capture each sound coming out from the magic box.
I used to sneak into the house to look for a place next to that box especially when music was broadcasted. I was too young to understand news or any other entertaining items, so the music found its way to me. The moments were especially enjoyable late in autumn and winter when the days were shorter and the landscape dry enough to make me stay outdoors longer. I remember that the box was next to a window. I used to sit in front of it and look far away. The music made me look at an imaginative world where people and things moved according to the music rhythms and tonalities.
I was familiar with folk music, which was still untouched by ideology in the 60’s. The folk music started to be polluted by the regime little by little in the 70’s and 80’s. I was therefore privileged to get to know famous folk singers and enjoy genuine music, which I still remember today.
The radio station had special transmission hours for live concerts. I remember that at an early age classical music was not for my taste. Then, year by year I was able to understand and like easy pieces of classical music especially when our parents bought a radio receiver. What a day! Being able to “travel” with a little button from a radio station to another, not only in Romanian, but also in many other languages, was something very exciting. It was not an easy job to control the button in such a way to capture the sound perfectly. Radio broadcasting meant a rich range of entertaining possibilities, from news and music to dramas, comedies and variety shows.
I remember the most exciting day of those years when my parents bought our first TV set. We were among the first ones in the village to own a TV set. I looked curiously at the antenna that my father placed in the garden. He mentioned to me that a whole world would get into our house through the cable connecting the antenna and the TV set! I could not believe that until I saw how it works. Some days after almost all the village people were in our yard to watch the funerals of the former communist leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. It was in March 1965.
It was hard for me to understand why people cried and mourned someone I did not hear about. The TV set was placed on our largest window frame to enable as many people as possible to watch the funerals. My mother was unhappy when the ceremony came to an end and saw that one of our beds and a number of chairs were broken while people desperately tried to watch the little black and white screen.
There was a mourning period after the funerals, so I could watch only classical music on the TV screen. It was a big step towards feeling and understanding the music, because my ears made a good pair with my eyes, so I could feel richer as involving two senses enabled me to better understand the music I listened to.
I was eight when another important moment on my way to the music happened. Our parents bought our first vinyl record player. They also bought our first vinyl record with Margareta Pâslaru performing four pieces of folk music. So we listened and listened to her songs day after day. It was in 1967. Margareta Pâslaru is a famous Romanian singer, actress, composer, lyricist, TV producer, and artistic director. I had the pleasure to meet and work with her in Bucharest in 2011.
My first vinyl record was a gift from my brother. He left the village to go to a vocational school in Brașov. When he first came home during a school holiday he brought something for each of us. His present for me was a record with the music of Riccardo Del Turco. I was the happiest chap on Earth! Owning a vinyl record and playing it whenever I wanted made me very happy. By that time, the French and Italian music were popular in Romania.
Classical music was a special territory. The radio announcers were actually my first teachers in the field of classical music. They provided basic information about each piece of music and very often they enhanced their introduction with background information about the composers, the music periods and the performers.
I recall the day when I first listened to the powerful and unique voice of Maria Callas. It was in the 60’s when she recorded most of her discography. In Romania, most of the classical music was broadcasted on the 2nd national radio programme and very often I needed to persuade the others to let me switch to the 2nd programme. I used to bribe my sisters and my brother to let me do that since they found my taste for classical music a little bit weird.
Many years after, at school, when learning music and singing in the school choir I realised that the human voice is and will always be the most fascinating musical instrument. No instruments can convey such complex emotions as the human voice does. A singer turns his body into a magical rich space where unique harmonies and resonance work together to make the music come to our hearts.
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