Thursday, July 25, 2013

Largo Allargare

Posted at Althouse: 

"Memories are Made of This" could describe the whole series. The evocation of a father through music really speaks to me. I wanted to make that comment on your first posting in this series, but comments weren't turned on, so I'll make it now.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

My father is a great lover of classical music. When I was growing up he had a small but carefully selected record collection of Baroque and early Classical works: J.S. Bach, Handel, Telemann. St. Matthew's Passion on 33-1/3 LPs was a 5 record set, to be carefully stacked on the spindle so they could be released one-by-one onto the turntable, then flipped halfway through.

Mostly my father listened to classical music on the radio. NPR is nothing but self-aggrandizing chatter now, but back then it was mostly classical music.

On Sunday afternoons he would turn on the Metropolitan Opera, lie down on the living room couch, and listen with his eyes closed. During the intermissions he would get up to take care of the bills or just doze. He didn't care about the interviews or the plot summary. He disliked the details of intrigues and bloodletting. He just loved the music.

Parents create a sensory environment that you forget when you grow up and move away. You think in terms of memories, of stories, and forget the colors and smells and sounds. That's why they surprise you. On a visit some years ago I found my father listening to one of Gluck's operas. He had used inter-library loan to locate CDs of multiple versions and he was listening to each one all the way through and learning something new about the music through the different interpretations.

So for a long holiday weekend, I was immersed in my father's aural environment in a more cognizant way than I had been in a long time. It was incredibly poignant. Of all the many facets of my father -- his religious belief, his career as a scientist, his love for family -- classical music is his most personal passion; it is the way that he escapes to his own place.

Music is at once collective and individual. You can listen to the same music as another person, but how the music is experienced, even by someone you know and love, is a mystery. My father is not purposefully a mysterious man, which is one reason I love this about him.

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