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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Quick Look Back

I should like to imagine for a moment what I would be if I were not busy being what I am at this moment. This is not the place I intended to be in many respects (geographically, professionally, spiritually, emotionally, etc.) and though I am able to accept where I am at present, and knowing how I got here, I can say “this” was not my intention; but is better than I imagined.

Don’t get me wrong. I like where I am now and there are not many opportunities in the world today that make such a place possible. I like the quiet, but I also like helping people and I like being busy. I like academics and reading and study. I get to do all this and many combinations of all of the above; but, this was not my plan.

Long ago, way back in the back, back, back part of my mind was an inkling of a writer in me. While I enjoy the exercise, I daresay I am far from being a writer (the saying is that one is not a writer until he or she is told one is a writer). I suppose I would pound or scratch my fingers to nubs. Maybe someday. Tomorrow perhaps. My dream growing up was to be a musician, an orchestral conductor.

I was in love with music once. Deep passionate love. Once upon a time, I lived music. I closed my eyes at night and watched as musical notation floated in negative through the dark. My personal "Fantasia." I sat in a quiet room and sensed orchestral strains and rhythmic refrains echoing through the silence. My right thumb was flattened from holding the cello bow and the tips of my fingers creased and calloused from the strings.

Let me be clear: not any music. Classical orchestral, from Renaissance through Baroque, though the “standard” composers are present as well (I loathe referring to them as “standard,” for the record). This music is alive.

The sun rises and rivers flow as Grieg and Smetana describe. Vivaldi announced the seasons. Beethoven captured the sound of the moon. Bach falls before the Majesty of God and no one weeps like Barber. Who is as humorous as Mozart? Wagner grasped dark and Handel displayed light! Holst, the music of the spheres.

Consider for a moment what it takes to produce these sounds: heart and soul. Think not of these as two separate entities but one. As we say we are “good and hungry” to describe the greatness of our hunger, so “heart and soul” means the whole person. It is one thing to view the dots on the page and reproduce what spilled from the brain pan of the composer. It is another to fill space with another perspective on viewing a thing.

Look at the instruments and how they are an extension of the person: strings, winds and percussion (in no particular order). These are the bones, sinew, flesh, breath and heartbeat of music. Even the piano (a percussion, not a stringed instrument) has a place, albeit, an odd one (in my own world, I would release Dr. Terwilliker from his dungeon once in a while; otherwise we would have no “Pines of Rome”).

My instrument is the cello. I should say “was,” but that’s another story for another time. One embraces the cello, against the heart. The person disappears into the instrument from which are drawn the depths and heights of all emotion and mood, breath and movement. The violin and viola rest under the chin and are part of the face, expressive. The bass turns even the smallest who mount into a giant.

Winds make their sound with life-giving air. Of the woodwinds, the oboe and bassoon are the most difficult on the head.

Percussion is the heart, and one can feel the pulse in every phrase. Blood moves with rhythm.

Take all these together and in their various parts construct a body that for the eye to enjoy must be showered, shaved, tuxedoed, dressed and coiffed. Otherwise, only a structure fills the stage. One does not appreciate a painting by viewing the staples and nails stretching and holding the canvas. This body will produce sound that requires imagination to interpret and understand.

Then there is the one who stand with his back to the crowd. He is God’s man on earth instructing the sun if but for a moment, gliding the swan, thundering over Black Mountain. He is the one who gives reason to weep, tickles into laughter, draws out wonder from the things we cannot see, hear, touch or taste.

This was where I was going.

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