Monday, May 5, 2008

Music that reverberates

From middle school on, I had a close friend who was an amazing musician. When she was a child, her family lived in Germany, and a cache of instruments was found in the attic of a nearby high school. Before they disposed of them, they offered a few to her parents. They chose a violin and a cello, and their two children learned to play at an early age (As the daughters of two music professors in the woodwind family, strings were a little radical).

For years I sat second chair to her first (She went on to be a violin performance major at Oberlin). When we warmed up, I would loosen my fingers to the delightful strains of Vivaldi (concerto #1 in A minor—the allegro), and she would play the haunting melody that repeats throughout Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade (Op. 35). For years, just hearing the opening notes to that symphony would make my entire body shudder in perfect, musical rhapsody.

It has been years since I have heard it (I cannot figure out why I do not own it). Yesterday, in the car, grumpy from having an abbreviated nap, I turned on the radio, and once again my heart was tuned to the rapture-inducing strains of that first violin solo. Time slowed down; everything around unfocused; any stress melted out of my cells. My arms jumped with goose bumps; and my synapses sparked with that violin. The exquisite beauty of that refrain always resonates to a point of near pain within me, and in that single moment it was just me and the music—nothing else existed. I sat in the parking lot, not wanting to lose that moment. Nearly sobbing, I felt a prayer of thanksgiving—no words were adequate enough, and let it go in order to go inside.

The definition of reverberate is “to continue in or as if in a series of echoes,” and the single memory of that moment continues to echo. Besides Christ, I don’t think there is a lot of perfection in this world, but the violin solo in Scheherazade comes close.

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