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Tonto and Barbie sneak in the classics


by Olin Chism 2 Feb 2008

Barbie has been going to the symphony a lot lately. She has flitted recently between Fort Worth, London and Glasgow as well as widely scattered other places. She’s the star of a new multi-media production that joins projected scenes from Barbie films with live orchestras to give kids (mostly young girls) a taste of the […]

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Barbie has been going to the symphony a lot lately. She has flitted recently between Fort Worth, London and Glasgow as well as widely scattered other places. She’s the star of a new multi-media production that joins projected scenes from Barbie films with live orchestras to give kids (mostly young girls) a taste of the classics.

We sophisticates are supposed to sneer at this sort of thing, of course, but maybe the sneer should be slightly modified. While granting that the Mattel toy company and the creator of the series have a commercial stake in this, one can also propose that the production has a positive effect and the effect is long-lasting.

Children of Barbie age soak up knowledge like a sponge, and that includes musical knowledge. My wife, an elementary-school music teacher, has stopped being surprised at what kids know. After putting on a recording to give them a taste of, say, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 or Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, she’ll often see a roomful of little hands going up. “I know that,” they’ll chorus. “It’s on Little Einsteins,” or Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus.

They may or may not become concert-goers when they grow up, but the music will stay with them.

I know from experience. Eons ago I was a faithful listener to the Lone Ranger radio programs. There probably has never been a program that equalled The Lone Ranger in the use of classics as background music. Not just the fast part of Rossini’s William Tell overture, but bits of Schubert’s Rosamunde, Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave, Weber’s Oberon, Beethoven’s Egmont, Liszt’s Les Preludes, Wagner’s Rienzi and a host of other works. Composers and titles were never identified; there was just the music. We were being indoctrinated with the classics and didn’t know it.

The music lingered on, and there were times, years later, when I would hear a piece at a concert or on a recording and finally learn the name of the composer and the title of the music that had accompanied the Masked Man and Tonto as they fought injustice long ago.

By the way, if you’d like to see the complete repertoire of The Lone Ranger, there’s a web site you can go to. Click on the “programs on CD’s” link on the left and then scroll down to “The Lone Ranger” and click there. It’s quite a list.

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