Monday evening last week was good for Classical Revolution after yoga. I texted Tom from the train about that, but he went MIA. So, I met Charlie at the Revolution.
About a year ago, Charlie tried to meet me there, but as soon as we exchanged a sentence each, Tom showed up and kissed me hello, Charlie vanished.
This past Monday, with Tom MIA, I invited myself to sit by Charlie, semi-acknowledging that I might have seen him before.
The music was odd this time. The first set was this guy playing flamenco guitar. Not terrible, but no Paco de Lucía either. The crowd spoke right over him. That wasn’t very nice, but then again, the music wasn’t exactly meeting expectations set at approximately a string quintet. From where Charlie and I were sitting, a bit further than, say, actually touching non-Paco, it was barely audible and there was too much interfering chatter to enjoy whatever sounds got to us. Charlie and I exchanged remarks about that, then he asked: “What kinds of music do you like? Classical mostly? Or more eclectic?”
I started a post somewhere addressing the “what kinds of music” question, but this time I didn’t have the Response Tool (described in a maybe future post), so I said “Eclectic. Lots of tango music, because I dance tango.” I didn’t say it out loud, but the non-tango music I listen to for background, has been getting boring lately. Did I grow out of it? Where to begin looking for new music?
I told Charlie about El V. He told me about bluegrass down the street, where he goes on the Mondays he’s not at the Revolution. Charlie grew up in a family of musicians, so he was exposed to all kinds of music a lot, even though he isn’t a musician himself.
The second set was short of a string quintet as well, a piano-violin duet, but they had some presence, so the chatter subsided. I don’t recognize much classical music; it sounded somewhat modern and disharmonious to me, but I got used to it after a while. Charlie leaned towards me and whispered: “I think, this is Prokofiev, your compatriot, I am guessing.” “I don’t know,” I said, “I haven’t met all of my compatriots.” “Fair enough, besides that one has been dead for a while, so hard to stay in touch. Wouldn’t return calls.”
One piece had a lot going for the violin. “That’s a lot of notes,” I said (one of those never-gets-old jokes). “Too many, if you ask me,” Charlie replied, “I admit I don’t enjoy his playing at all.” We left at the same time. Charlie explained in technical details going straight over my head what was wrong with the violin technique. “So, your parents were musicians?” I asked. “Yes, both of them.” Other family members too. “We all had to take piano lessons growing up. I didn’t stick with that, but to this day, when I walk by and hear someone practicing piano, I stop and listen for a while.” After a block, Charlie turned right to go listen to bluegrass, and I turned left to go home. “It was nice to finally meet you”, he said.
As I walked home, I realized that even though I never studied an extraneous instrument (not sure that relationship with guitar qualifies, as fun as it was at the time) and feel deficient whenever that comes up, my instrument is the voice.
I found a little singing voice when I was maybe 8. I’ve been in this and that unambitious chorus now and then growing up. As teenagers, we sang at gatherings, at school performances (some, self-organized), or even out in the street, just walking from one place to another. Some of my friends found the walking singing embarrassing, others joined right in or initiated. After one concert we organized, 3 or 4 of us singing Russian rock songs, with some guitars, our formidable math teacher commented that I was the only one actually using a singing voice. No idea what that meant, I was flattered nonetheless.
I sing in love. I sing in distress. In the past two years, I sang half the time driving from San Diego to San Francisco; twice; both sets of travel companions still talk to me :-). I love chanting in yoga classes. I enjoyed Christmas services at Methodist churches the few times I had to go to those (long story), because they have singing and books with the lyrics.
I never quite owned that, because I am not trained, some people have perfect pitch, and it’s not like the voice is a real instrument. Yet it was right there with me the whole time, unmistakeably mine.
The Tallis Scholars were the background music the whole day at work the next day. Then the day after that. And Thursday, too.