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Tom Wolfe Tag


2714Take a moment to sit back, relax, and listen to the following piece of music. It’s “Clair de lune,” written by French composer, Claude Debussy, performed by pianist John O’Conor on his CD, Piano Classics: Popular Works for Solo Piano.

Debussy originally composed this delicate work in 1889 for his orchestral suite, Suite bergamasque. My classical music knowledge is limited. I was exposed to the great masters through Cleveland Orchestra concerts as a child or hearing classical music while my father drove me around town (he liked to listen to it LOUD); however, my interests were in rock and roll and some jazz. As a teen and into college the most personal attention I gave orchestra music came through the soundtracks from the films I loved. That’s how I came to know “Clair de lune” for the first time — through a movie.

I first saw Philip Kaufman’s 1983 epic, The Right Stuff, in the fall of 1989. Kaufman’s adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s famous book is an exciting, inspirational, funny and very human story about the United States race to get manned flights into space. It contrasts the story of test pilots like Chuck Yeager, who were breaking the sound barrier, but were never selected to be astronauts, and the Mercury Seven, the first men trained and eventually shot into the great unknown. Besides the incredible special effects that hold up 25 years later, the masterful work of all five (!) Academy Award winning editors, the exhilarating cinematography by Caleb Deschanel, and the moving score by Bill Conti, The Right Stuff features an ensemble of some of today’s most respected actors who were then considered fresh faces. They include Kathy Baker, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Quaid and Fred Ward. If you have not seen Kaufman’s brilliant movie (he wrote the screenplay, as well), you should listen to my Popdose colleague Jeff Johnson and check it out immediately.