formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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November 19, 2013 The Sound of Flying

The Liberty Gazette
November 19, 2013
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s "Flight of the Bumblebee" is a well-known orchestral interlude in his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan. Originally featuring a solo violin to create sounds of the bumblebee, the piece was composed 1899–1900, the same time frame that the Wright Brothers began laying plans for controlled flight and flew their first manned glider. The Bumblebee music is played in the scene where a magic swan changes a prince into an bee so he can fly away to visit his father without being seen because his father doesn’t know he is alive. This might give some idea as to why I don’t write operas…but on with our story.

In my car classical music often plays and I sometimes ponder the complimentary couple of song and soar. The Flying Musicians do, too; their motto, "Two passions - one goal – bringing aviation and music together." The group has enticed talented musicians into their membership, entertaining and educating youth.

I’ve flown cross-country flights over soft blankets of clouds with a variety of music piped into our headsets (the most unfortunate choice being "Danger Zone" reverberating in anything slower than an F-14). I’ve flown aerobatic flights, drawing graceful loops and rolls like a flowing musical staff, as though our ship were the conductor’s baton leading an orchestra as its notes danced in waves of the expanse. As common as these two passions are – flying and music – they seem to have traveled through time holding hands but never becoming one.

Having set my mind to searching for the place where music and flying no longer parallel, but join, I came across the transcript of Aron Faegre’s speech given at an Airport Management meeting on October 27, 2001, "Aircraft Noise, Wildlife Sounds, and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony."

Beethoven lived during the time of aviation pioneering. Balloons, both unmanned and manned first flew when Ludwig was a teen. When his Ninth Symphony premiered in 1824, flight by balloon was all the rage.

Aron imagined a symphony created from airplane noise, saying, "It is my hope that future aircraft can be designed so that they are able to produce more specific tones or frequencies of sounds when flying. In this way while aircraft fly overhead they can be "tuned" so that via use of standard air traffic control procedures, planes may be arranged in either major or minor chords as is appropriate to the community activities below. Perhaps if we are able to sufficiently develop the technology, there will be a day when aircraft coming to and from airports will be able to provide the sound of Beethoven's 9th Symphony to all below. Truly, we can hope that there may still be a time when the sound of aircraft is considered music and not noise."

Belgian pilot and composer Bruno Misonne seems to have shared Aron’s hope as he willed together the two beloved delights. Raised on classical music, he discovered new "instruments" during his pilot training. Mixing aircraft sound bites with instrumental music, Misonne’s aviation orchestra produces a unique sound. So this is where that pondering took me, to the place where the parallel ends. As Rimsky-Korsakov gave an insect voice to a violin, Misonne has given musical voice to aviation. Twelve compositions were released on his 2007 disc, Aviation Music. Perhaps one day, Aron Faegre, you’ll hear your arrangement, coaxed by careful conducting controllers.

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