The water is as still as I’ve ever seen it on the point and everything is uncharacteristically quiet. The gulls and the mallards fly lazily about, and thirty minutes of intoxicating solitude passed before I saw the first ship heading for Bay waters, we nodded at each other in quiet recognition. The wheels scuttling the scoop to and fro, unloading raw sugar from the rusted, docked Hanjin Bombay is the only sound in this beautifully serene and quiet early morning. The smell of raw sugar reminds me of the pouch of tobacco my father was fond of when I was growing up. The mallards fly only inches above the surface before coming to a quiet rest, I feel again the wonder and mystery of mornings like this. The mornings of my youth that made me believe that all things good and pure would remain untouched by the ravages of humanity gone mad.
A camera would be a waste. I would never capture a scintilla of what I see, I would rather have the silent, mystical memory of it like every important morning in my life, as on the cliffs of Scotland at dawn, and my Arabian winter.
I marvel at this gift, and I miss you so. The Church bells ring in every direction for miles and miles and it echoes the words you said to me: We can live whatever life we choose.
When I walked outside this morning, my mind rushed to a future I have yet to even make. I was too preoccupied to take notice of the change that seemed to have taken place while I slept . . . slept so poorly. There on the back of the car lay the first coloured leaf of Autumn. I stopped and listened carefully to the moment.
“Get your head out of your circumstances and on the beauty in everything around you! The beauty is in the change.”
I’ve heard it before, but this time I tried to take heed. I took the leaf and put it in the back of my book. How could any dying thing be so beautiful? Vibrant and colorful as the setting sun, containing in itself – in it’s very signal of death – the promise of spring.
By noon I had already forgotten.
An hour ago, though, I took a break and I walked outside to call my mother to see how her day was going. The memory of the most wonderful years of their marriage would be before her, but would weigh heavy with every change of season. I know this as my loss, though different, is heavy on my soul. Thanksgiving would come soon, then Christmas, then my birthday, and then hers — all without my father.
He was the leaf I could not catch that blew out of sight on the wind with a Promise.
When I have one of those recurring memories that play like a short film, it can stop time. One that plays often is a short of my life as a child in the Philippines. My father was teaching me to ride a bike. It was a cool evening, almost dusk, and when he finally let go of the seat, a surge of excitement overtook my child brain. It was pure joy. Me, the wind before the storm, and my wild imagination taking me to places that my bike never could.
My dad had to let go of the bike for me to get there.
A few years ago a young woman wrote to tell me she would like to visit with me at an upcoming performance in New York City. Whenever I’d play there, she’d always stop by to say hello. She sent CDs of her music hoping I would listen to them before we saw each other again. After the show, she approached me and asked if I had a chance to listen, soliciting my honest opinion; I knew she had come hoping that I would share some arcane secret to better performance or composition. Instead I shared something infinitely more important with her. I shared insight by having a frank discussion about my approach to viewing my own work, something passed down me in a book by one more brilliant, and prolific than I.
“[Music is] the Inarticulate, unfathomable speech which leads us to the edge of the infinite, and lets us, for a moment, gaze into that.” – Carlyle
I first read The Psychology of Music, by Max Schoen maybe 15 years ago or more. It’s a fantastic book that goes beyond what role music plays in the development of our already complex psyche, but finds ways to measure and quantify, what would seem to many people unquantifiable, states of musicality and talent.
Some 67 years after TPOM was published NPR NewsHour (h/t Laura) had a special on Music and Brain Function. It was an interesting view, but in the end I was surprised at how little has changed in our understanding of the role of music in human evolution and why it excites us.
It occurs to me that it’s as much tribal as it is transcendent, and is given as much to firing the synapses that lead to breath-taking rites of passion as it is to the nuanced, tender evocations of the spiritual.