Monday, May 25, 2009

Memories of music

Saturday I was setting out for my walk to the library when a women from the next townhouse building greeted me in the alley. She was a short, gray-haired matron in her sixties. She introduced herself as a retired art teacher and said that she had been hoping to meet me for some time. I asked why.

"You're the violinist, right?" she said.

"No, ma'am, I don't play the violin. But my sons are violinists," I replied. After a brief conversation I sorted the matter out. The lady had been talking with the Sharlene, the elderly widow in the corner townhouse, who described hearing beautiful violin music during the summer evenings. I had to regretfully explain that the music stopped seven years ago.

Back in 2002 my older son finished high school and was preparing to start college in the fall majoring in music with the specialty of violin performance. To keep up his technique during the summer, he practiced his violin in the evening, playing an hour of scales and exercises and an hour of Bach's unaccompanied sonatas and partitas. The well-lit area of the living room near the screen door served as his practice room.

As he played, the parallel townhouse buildings acted as a natural megaphone and channeled the sound down through the neighborhood. The music carried clear and strong down to Sharlene's townhouse, five doors down. Later, after my son had gone off to college, Sharlene confided that she and several other nearby widows had made it part of their evening routine to sit quietly before an open window and listen to my son during his hour devoted to Bach.

I also enjoyed listening. Even after seven years, I can still summon up a mental picture of my son playing the Siciliana movement of the G minor sonata. His back is towards me. I see him sway with the phrasing.

Memory is fastened in the mind via emotion. The vividness of my mental picture is surely due to my son's heartfelt approach to the movement. I had never heard the Siciliana express such a cry for consolation.

My son's senior year had been difficult for him. His playing revealed more than he ever told me during this period.