19 November 2014

Music for the Memorial


when I die
IF people decide to gather and
IF there's a space for music in the programming

I have started a list here called "Music for the Memorial" which will contain the titles and, in some cases, the composer and/or recording artist of the music that moved me.

When I die
IF people do not decide to gather

the list will still be here for anyone who's interested.

11 November 2014

As Another One Bites the Dust

All signs suggest I'm about to lose another piano student. It always hurts. In this case, it's not the student's lack of interest or willingness; it's a Parent Problem and this familiar situation is one of the most dreaded and heart-breaking.

What I wish students and parents knew -- what I wish everyone understood about me -- is that I am strong but not invincible, flexible but not insensitive. When you leave, my heart breaks. When you lie to me, I fall apart.

Yeah, so far,  I always pull it back together, crawl out of Hell and march on. But there are scars and something is lost.

I don't know if you ever look back and think of me but you can be sure I think of you. Where teaching and music is concerned, it's always a matter of the heart for me and I never forget.

For the record, I'd always, always, prefer a difficult conversation to being prettily lied to or just ignored. I'd always rather work out a payment schedule to your leaving without a word because you can't keep up with tuition.

I should start a list of Favorite Things. Then, on occasions of heartbreak it would be easier to soothe myself; just pick a treat or luxury from the list to distract myself from the distress and grief. It is difficult (so far, impossible) to interrupt the sorrow this morning. It's always like this:  memory and imagination fail, I writhe and wallow in a flood of sad regret.

It will pass. I'll survive. New students will appear and I will begin again.

06 November 2014

Father's Face

This beautiful image of James Baldwin appeared in my FaceBook feed today. It contrasts sharply with photos of my father I revisited this morning while clearing my desk. While all the pathos, passion and drama of Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concert exploded on the CD player, I stared at the three images:  two of them taken from a distance and a closer shot on his front porch. His face is indistinct in all of them. "I don't have a single decent photo of my father," I thought.

It requires special attention and intention to capture photos of dark-skinned people. Formal school photos were never a problem but as a minor celebrity in my small town, my picture appeared in the newspaper from time to time. I hated those pictures:  they were always either under-lit or over-lit, turning my face into either a featureless dark blob or a mosaic of shine and shadow.

My name in the caption and, in the best cases, the recognizable pattern of whatever I was wearing were the only clearly identifiable features of the photo.

The Baldwin photo was likely shot by a professional photographer, but there's more than the quality of photo or the skill of the photographer contributing to my dissatisfaction with these photos of my father. I struggle to see my father's face even when I'm with him. It is in part my reluctance to read the pain of his life written there. And it is also a reluctance to read the pain of my life that I project onto his face.

I look at the Baldwin photo, and the several others of him that have appeared recently as part of an ongoing celebration of him this year in New York, and I see pain; but he is not my father. I also see triumph and intellectual vibrancy in Baldwin's face. The Baldwin photographs reveal an artist, a complex human, a black man.

My sister, who is currently willingly estranged from my father, is sending me a camera. It was to be a bon voyage gift for the trip to Brazil. I decided this morning I will make a trip "home" in the next few months and attempt to take a decent photo of my father...if he'll allow it. I'm ready now to see him, to read whatever's there in his face, in his eyes.

02 November 2014

The Big Erase

It wasn't just our tree.

We are his neighbors to the west. He also stripped the trees on the eastern border of his property. Now, from either side, his neighbors have a clear view of his house. I am sitting on the back porch. I can look into the windows of his house. Probably his eastern neighbor has an equally clear view into the house as well.

The other thing I notice is that he has created an ecological dead zone:  the squirrels and blue jays and raccoons and cats and robins and crows and spiders and tree frogs are gone. These are just the creatures I'm acquainted with for whom a "there" has disappeared.

It is the story of Civilization, writ small and close.