by Jared Adamson 5/16/2019
Today, I reminisce about Mr. Backus, my sophomore English teacher. He was a jolly man that understood me. He recognized my quirks. He spoke my language. He taught me well. And in his classroom, he had a poster.
I don’t remember all the specifics of the print, but essentially it was a collection of phrases including the word “black”. Black sheep. Black ball. Black eye. You get the idea. The phrases were arranged within a grey square, printed in black ink.
But in one small corner, in white letters (so it really stood out) was the phrase “white lies”.
I remember staring at the poster nearly all year long when I REALLY should have been paying attention to the discussion about Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451o.
In the case of this print, I was challenged by the connotation of black as an adjective. A sheep is lovely and pastoral…but a black sheep is a trouble maker. A black eye implies you’ve been brawling. To black ball means to be vindictive. I knew my colors but had never considered the stigma they may carry.
As a musician, I’ve always been intrigued by the Blues. How does it make sense (and yet it makes perfect sense) to have an entire genre reflecting a mood and to describe that mood with a color? But it works. And the vast entirety of complicated emotions and temperaments can be collected and communicated with a single word!
Hey, how you doing today?
And we understand. Even if we don’t understand from practical experience, we empathize.
Color Psychology is a recognized branch of research and study. Red and orange capsules increase the effectiveness of placebo stimulants. Pla-ce-bo stimulants work better when they are red or orange. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_psychology )
Although, an episode of my beloved Big Bang Theory, hypothesized that orange was the color of lonliness because “nothing rhymes with orange”. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v2Id-6qlik )
As a musician, I realize that sound can do the same thing for us. When my students begin major and minor finger patterns, one is happy and one is sad. And let me veer off-topic just for a moment: gosh, I really, really miss quality minor key music (and not this faux deceptive cadence stuff today). The Et Incarnatus Est from Bach’s Mass in B minor—that’s some good tunage.
The Star-Spangled banner can stir us because of its place in popular culture, but also simply because of the notes. In fact, I’m still reeling from a rendition I heard by Cincinnati-based The Mistics.
I’m not sure I really have a point in writing today. Maybe this is just my feeble attempt to gather my thoughts. But often in our quest to know ourselves, we describe things in color. What’s your mood? A bottle of white? A bottle of red? A bottle or rosé instead?
Sadly, Mr. Backus passed several years ago. I literally wept and mourned at my office desk when I read about it online. He was a great influencer for me.
Through literature, he introduced me to critical though and abstract thought; black and white thinking, as well as every color in-between.
Jared Adamson is the Minister of Worship and Creative Arts at Centerville Christian Church in Centerville, IN and a member of the DIVA Board of Directors. Studying voice, composition, organ and improv, he has a Bachelor of Music in Church Music with a double major in Bible and piano from Cincinnati Christian University where he later served as an adjunct professor in the music and worship department.
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