Music leaves a powerful mark on one’s life. Hearing a song from long ago can remind us of a happy times, a new love, or remind us of what we’ve lost. Music can inspire or annoy us. It has the ability to reach across the years and pull us back or it can push us to a fresh future.
My mother played the piano. She was good. I recall being in the backyard and hearing her play her favorite, “Clair de Lune” with its haunting melody. She’d start slowly, almost quietly, would let it build to a crescendo and then let it fall back. I always felt a bit sad when she stopped. I wish I would have asked her to play it more. Today when I hear the song my first thoughts are of that upright piano in small dinning with the beige walls, grey carpet, and the afternoon light flooding the room with warmth.
Saturday evenings Mom and Dad would watch the Lawrence Welk Show, just before Dad made popcorn for everyone and we settled down watch the movie of the week.
On radio, rock-n-roll was big when I was growing up in the sixties. My brothers and I listened to the local “Top 40” station. We didn’t have much of a record collection. Records cost money that we didn’t have and our only record player was a small poor quality portable thing. Some of my richer friends had vast collections and fancy stereo systems. At home we had a few records – one of my favorites was a Kingston Trio album that I would listen to again and again.
The other source of music in my early life was from church where we sung the old gospel songs. Properly motivated I can still manage a fair rendition of, “Go Tell it On the Mountain,” provided 50 others sing along with me.
Sadly, making music isn’t a gift I was given. I tried. I took piano lessons, violin, and choir. By the 8th grade I could read music and find my way around the piano keys and violin strings. One couldn’t say that my efforts were exactly “music.” I have no natural sense of rhythm and am near tone-deaf (I can be half a tone off and not realize it). When it came time to learn how to tune my violin, I couldn’t do it. The teacher would play a note on the piano and I’d turn the little knobs on my violin trying to match the pitch. I thought the sound matched, but the teacher never did.
By high school I gave up trying to make music and found other artistic pursuits. I found that I am reasonable good public speaker, can write, and am able to make things with my hands.
But still, there is music playing in my head. I remember being 17 and sitting on the floor in the apartment of a girl I knew and listening to her collection of Beetles albums. The first few notes of “Black Bird” still remind me of the dark paneled walls and sun pouring through the single window warming the room. Deep Purple’s, “Smoke on the Water,” reminds me of that high school dance, the drive to her house, and that awkward first kiss.
One day, a few decades ago I was a computer repairman driving a beat up ’76 Ford Pinto across the Bay Bridge flipping through the channels trying to find something to listen to – something that didn’t remind me of anything. Something that would let my mind rest for a few minutes before I had to put the neck tie back on that was hanging on the rearview mirror. Soon the sounds of folk music sung by a raspy voice came through. It was a program from the University on 19th century Sea Shanties.
Songs of the sea. Working songs of men pulling heavy loads. Songs of lament at leaving port. Songs of happiness. Songs of the joy of a voyage’s end.
It took awhile after that but in time I found a few cassette tapes of shanties I could buy. Then CDs came along, and I have a nice collection on my computer. These days my job has me sitting in front of a computer screen writing programs, scheduling meetings, and planning projects. When the noise from my neighbors gets too much or I want to signal that I don’t want to be disturbed, I’ll slip on my headphones and resume the playlist – shanties, folk songs, rock, with a few hymns.
and drift somewhere far from the next meeting or the next line of code.
Till next time,