Music As Muse

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m one of those people who needs music in my life. If I had to choose between television and music, I’d have to choose music. I was a classically-trained pianist for fourteen years, but I never quite had that something that separated me from the pack. Those of you who have taken lessons for years but never felt that you could actually do something with your music understand what I mean. That’s not to say that I didn’t have talent. I could practice, and phrase, and get the technique, but I mostly relied upon my ear. I was a good mimic. I felt the music of artists, true artists deep in my soul, but my own playing never moved me, and so finally, I put it to rest. Occasionally I’ll sit down at the piano and play for a few hours until my wrists and my back rebel, and then I will close the cover on my piano until the next time I am moved to try again, but the times are very few and far between. Being a perfectionist at most things makes playing music hard for me because I know that I am not that good, and so I prefer to listen. All of my children at one time or another have asked me to teach them how to play the piano, as has my husband, and I have assured all of them–quite truthfully–that I would not be a good teacher. I would be impatient, and it is hard to impart to them all of the reasons why because it is something deep in my soul. I do not like to hear music that is not played well. Isn’t that a horrible thing to admit? But it is true, so I know that I would not be a good music teacher, no matter how much I love my family.

Music, in its many forms stirs and moves me. I love classical, rock, country, folk, pop, even reggae. It truly depends on my mood. I remember the first time my husband and I went on a cruise, and we were on a large catamaran bound for a reef to swim with the rays. The crew had on the best mix of music, and I felt so at peace. I had not been on the water on a catamaran in years. I love to be on the water. This water, in the Caribbean, was deep aquamarine and clear; the pontoons hummed as they glided through the water, and this very eclectic mix of music played in the background. I remember sitting on the deck, completely at peace with everything. It was a feeling I had not even been close to in years, but all of the elements came together, and the music was the perfect backdrop.

Some of the best moments in my life have been like that: the music has been the perfect backdrop: a friend’s wedding that I attended while my daughter was fighting for her life in the hospital; it was a brief respite from endless pain, but the music at the wedding was incredibly beautiful. The first time Corey sang, “I Cross My Heart,” to me was so perfect. The first time I heard Nessum Dorma was at a rehearsal dinner of all places and the restaurant had singing waiters; the server was an incredible tenor.

Then there is the music in movies: The first time I watched Platoon and heard Samuel Barber’s Adagio for String’s and wept. The entire soundtrack from The English Patient; I did not want to leave the theater when it was over. The way in which Peter Jackson was savvy enough to realize that music had to be an integral part of The Lord of the Rings. And I cannot watch Robin Hood and hear Everything I Do, I Do it For You, which granted, is better than the movie, and not want someone to love me that way. But the killer for me is the sweeping saga music from Legends of the Fall: the scene in which the horses appear over the ridge and then there is Tristan, the prodigal son returned. Yes, my heart still skips, and it’s not for Brad, it’s for Tristan.

So music for me remains that elusive undefined quantity in life: that forever shape-shifting uplifting and heartbreaking elements that I must have. Nothing is better than when a friend introduces me to a new artist who I can add to my repertoire. My playlist, the background sound that plays when I am writing is not just one artist, not just one type of music. As of this writing my extended playlist is 10 hours long and contains over 100 different artists. That’s a good start. Just don’t ever ask me about When You Wish Upon a Star.