Oddments

In search of story


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January 17.20

You are right, dear reader: you have seen this little sighing bird before. In my last post.

He has been with me in a singular way. Allow me to take you back to the late 1940s, when I was in kindergarten and my mother was lobbying the highly-respected (read: tyrannical) piano teacher in our area, who didn’t take students before they could read. I was not consulted.

Mom won. I couldn’t read but I started lessons, and I spent the next several years in tearful plea to be allowed to quit. I hated my lessons and I hated practicing. Mom said I could quit after ten years. I remember the moment because one remembers when one’s blood runs cold.

At that ten-year mark everything changed because I had my first Liszt étude: Gnomenreigen. It was the beginning of my suspicion that Liszt had fifteen fingers. Two years later, my next Liszt étude: Un Sospiro, The Sigh. I played it well. Not brilliantly, but well.

I had two dreams as a pianist: to play the original Rhapsody in Blue and to play La Campanella, The Bells, another Liszt étude. I never accomplished the first. I could only approximate the second. Alas.

But I think about the eloquence of those études. A sigh. The bells. They are there in those magical acrobatics. And I marvel at the transcendent power of a grey image, a D flat, and, yes, a tyrannical piano teacher.


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December 8.19

The curtain may come down

on their soaring sounds,

their tearing, teasing

rhythms,

but the curtain also rises

on the future

they will be.

The baton

(magic wand),

the hands that sculpt sound

and send it into the world as music,

directors of the hormone-crazed,

prophets who see the good

and the hope —

God bless them, every one!

 

This was the final bow of my granddaughter’s high school Christmas program. It was wonderful, and one of the countless times I have given thanks for music teachers. What their ears have to go through! And what miracles are wrought! I am ever grateful to all teachers of all arts. STEM is good, but I think STEAM is better. I wish you the joy of music in your December, dear reader, whatever you are celebrating.

 


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June 2.19

Benedick Bullfrog

you might hear

raising to skies

his ballad drear.

Part buzz-saw

part bagpipe drone

Model T horn

baritone,

it wafts to me

in lyric croak

at noon’s high sun

and midnight’s stroke.

His plaintive raspy

tuneless song

his Beatrice finds —

she sings along!

A tuba-thon

would fall more lightly

on my ears

day and nightly.

Indifferent to

my needs circadian

they rapture in

duet Arcadian.

 

 

 


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May 26.19

Words alone

beg,

gaunt and fleshless,

insensate.

Paintings,

entrapped in stillness,

hover,

inchoate.

But music

pulses,

quickens,

in soul’s vaults

resonates.

One red poppy,

one

lone

 soaring

 voice

Dulce et decorum est

exsanguinates.

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg.

And a salute to Symphonicity, the symphony orchestra of Virginia Beach, Virginia, for this poignant vignette, arranged for their 2018 performance of Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Pastoral Symphony, a solemn work commemorating World War I. Their guest conductor was Air Force veteran Daniel Boothe.

 

I wish us all a thoughtful Memorial Day.