"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
Playing the Score, Tasting the Music
The topic for this week's Blogger Idol is "Play." My entry's a bit late, but this is the soonest I could get it here.
sym-pho-ny Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -nies
Etymology: Middle English symphonie, from Middle French, from Latin symphonia, from Greek symphOnia, from symphOnos concordant in sound, from syn- + phOnE voice, sound -- more at BAN
1 : consonance of sounds
2 : To me, the feeling of music touching my soul
I don't know about you, but my life has to have a soundtrack.
Since as early as I can reasonably remember, music has had a place in my life. Some of my earliest toys were a plastic violin, a toy saxophone (only played one note, you know the kind) and a portable record player that would play all of my 78 records, and later my 45's and even my 33's till I got a real stereo.
I started actually playing music in kindergarten when we would march around banging on various instruments and singing who knows what. Hey, it was a parade, it was fun. I used to get the instrument that had a music box in it, and we would march around singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" or something while my "instrument" was happily chirping "Old Gray Mare."
But it had a melody. That was a lot better than the wood blocks and sticks the other kids had. At least to me it was.
I don't know how the teachers stood it.
In grammer school I picked up the tamborine as an instrument. I got one for Christmas, one of the nice ones with a drum head on it. I spent interminal hours in my bedroom playing records at almost full blast on that little record player and banging along on the tamborine. Usually I would want my parents to hear me too.
Which probably explains why my parents bought me a guitar the next Christmas, and not drums.
Over the next few years, the guitar became part of me. Within a year I had learned so much that my guitar teacher told my father he had nothing else to teach me. Before two more had passed, I had taught myself several styles on my own. I not only spent hours each day playing, but was now teaching lessons myself.
And music was consuming me. By now, records had been replaced with 8 tracks, and I had a voracious appetite for them. I had over 500, well over 500, and would sometimes buy them several at a time.
When I began to drive, my car could not move without a tape in the tape player. And it might be anything. Beatles, Hot Tuna, Yes, Johnny Paycheck, Peter Paul and Mary, even some symphonic works. And the list of eclectic music was huge too, probably 75% of my collection was of artists that hardly anyone had ever heard of, at least here in the US, groups like Zephyr, Head Hands and Feet, and Barclay James Harvest. Mixed in with the rest was a selection of Christian rock, which was my personal favorite, with groups like Love Song and Selah, and artists like Ron Moore and Larry Norman.
I would go to at least one concert each week, even if it was just in a small coffeehouse. I was also performing as part of a singing group called the "Reach Out Singers." We were named that because we were based in that coffeehouse, called "Reach Out." Somebody had a stroke of originality, I guess.
Onward to college, and now I was a professional entertainer as well as a student. Now I began to actually meet some of these people. I met Barry McGuire in my driveway when a member of the 2nd Chapter of Acts, who was at the time touring with him, stayed at my house. I even met Larry Norman, who was probably the very most influential musician of my youth.
I met some other musicians in other venues who did not have such a sterling resume. We won't go there right now.
I shouldn't have gone there then either, come to think of it.
I had some really nice guitars by this time, and all of them had names, all female of course. There was Roxy, and Ginger, and Euterpe (I know, sounds wierd, its the name of a Greek muse) and some others too. Had a few other instruments (banjo, etc.) but they went nameless.
There's just something about a guitar, ya know?
I was also writing music. I had written well over 100 songs. Some of them were actually good ones, too. I had taken a group into the studio to record several of them and even considered doing an EP or an album. At the time, that was a very pricey thing to do if you were solo without a studio backing you.
My soundtrack was now mostly my own music. Even when I was listening to other music, in my mind I was playing along, singing along. There was no longer anything between me and the magic. If I heard it, I could instantly play it on my guitar or even sometimes on piano. I had found my life's love and we were joined as closely as any two lovers on the planet. Music could fill my every sensory perception, I could smell it, breathe it, taste it, feel it, embrace it.
But then, in my senior year of college, everything changed in an instant. My life, which had been so intensely pointed in a single direction, would be derailed and sent careening off to the side in one moment of time.
One night, I had an accident. I sustained a traumatic injury to one of my eyes, my left eye. To my profound shock, I instantly and utterly lost my ability to play guitar, or any other instrument, and my ability to enjoy music as I had.
The soundtrack was just silenced, just like that. The magic was dead.
The best I can figure is that, since the left eye is "tied" to the right "creative" brain, the shock of the accident had done "something" in me that caused my left "analytical" brain to take over. The music stopped.
But at the same time I suddenly got really good at math and computers. I even ended up selling insurance, and doing most of the rating myself. Now I work in accounting and computers.
For several years I bought very little new music, and hardly listened to the radio. But gradually, the love filtered back, at least into my ears. Slowly, I found myself acquiring cassettes like I had previoiusly collected 8 tracks. Again, I centered mostly on the eclectic, buying a lot of Rickie Lee Jones, Joan Armatrading, Paul Winters and stuff.
Now, the world has graduated to CD and MP3.
My car cannot be driven by me without a CD in the player.
My CD collection grows almost daily, and I'm finding all sorts of cool artists out there, like Cory Sipper, Jump 5, Norah Jones, and the Whitlams.
Yeah, I love the Whitlams.
I'm writing music again. Granted, it's on the computer and I'm not singing any (yet) but it is writing. I started with techno and now I've done some world music and hard core rock. Not bad for a grandpa.
And the guitars.
Six months ago I opened the case of my favorite one, a limited edition Ovation Patriot, made out of Concord walnut named "Ginger." I took her from the case carefully, and found myself turning her towards me, and embracing her across the back that is molded and curved so perfectly, holding her like a lover, close to me, breathless with the distance of years and my still intense love for her.
And I cried. But they weren't tears of loss, they were tears of welcome.
For the magic was back, I could feel it.
It was there, just like before. After all these years, a spark deep within me survived and readily fanned into flame.
Hello Ginger, I have missed you so much.
I had not opened her case in over ten years, maybe fifteen. I turned her around and nestled her against me, then started to tune her, to hear her clear voice again after such a long time apart.
And she was still in tune.
After all that time.
She had been waiting too.
We played together then, my forty four year old fingers and her now mellowed and dusky voice, a perfect symphony, a reunion long desired and never hoped for, yet somehow, magically, there we were.
And there, in that place and moment, the soundtrack began, again.
Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Socerer's Stone, 1997