Saturday, March 29, 2008

Immanence and transcendence

It's as if the universe is trying to tell me something. Twice this week, I've been lifted out of myself by a cellist.

I was not exactly ripe for the picking; work has been stressful, I'm still pretty tired from the big Holy Week push, and our house is a mess (to the point that I'd actually be grateful if the dirty dishes ran away with the spoons!). In short, I'm not at the top of my game this week.

Maybe that's exactly when this sort of thing happens.

Thursday night, Beloved and I went to see the Minnesota Orchestra in concert (as it was her birthday yesterday–HB, Babe!). Excellent program, including one of my favorite pieces ever: Dvorak's B minor Cello Concerto. I was a cellist for about 12 formative years, and this piece in particular was a source of complete bliss at a very difficult time in my life. I'd shut myself in my high school bedroom and listen raptly as the conversation started again between the capering cello and the plaintive French horn. Whatever my frame of mind when I started the cassette(!), by the time it was over I'd experienced some serious reframing. Cosmic, consuming joy within my reach.

Hearing the Dvorak in person was an event I'd dreamed of since I was sixteen. And it was an amazing performance. There was a substitute soloist called in to cover for the illness of the original guy, and I liked him before he even began to play. There's a long orchestral exposition before the soloist enters, and this young guy was turned halfway around in his chair, with his eyes closed and a huge grin on his face while the orchestra teed him up. I got the impression that he'd never been as happy to be anywhere as he was in that moment, and that instead of being nervous or stuffy about his role as a classical soloist, he was sitting in with some really great friends, loving every second of it. The music was glorious–he and the conductor received five ovations before intermission. Tears on many faces, and shouts of "BRAVO!" rang through the hall.

And, all of a sudden, I was that kid again, spellbound and at peace, in spite of everything. I saw a singer/songwriter named Rachel Garlin not too long ago who named this experience for me (play track 7 at the link if you'd like to hear it):

Now we're pulling back and forth
on our childhood joy
and our childhood woe
like a long bow
playing the cello.

And then there's August Rush. Simply a radiant movie. Loved the beautifully conceived and shot opening sequence. Loved the soundtrack. Loved the fact that the actors (who were playing professional musicians) had actually learned to play "their" instruments. They also happened to be the ones that I play: there were several guitarists and a cellist, and not once was I lifted out of the story by obvious musical fakery. Gratitude for that...but even more for the expansive, magical feeling of the entire experience. It went well beyond storytelling and became an invitation to experience the music that's present all around us, every minute–witness this conversation between Wizard, sort of a Fagin-like character to a bunch of musical-but-lost kids in NYC, and Evan, an 11-year-old just discovering his prodigious musical gift, as they stare up at a star-filled sky:

W: Know what's out there? A series of higher tones. It's arranged by nature, governed by the laws of physics of the whole universe. It's an overtone, it's an energy, it's a wavelength--and if you're not riding it, good Lordy! You'll never hear it.
E: Where do you think it comes from–what I hear?
W: I think it comes from all around you, really. Comes through us–some of us. It's invisible, but you feel it.
E: So only some of us can hear it?
W: Only some of us are listening.

Tune in, friends. It's the beat of your heart, the song of the birds, the thump of the tires on the street, the cry of the neighbor's baby, the tink-tink of the chain link fence, the roar of the wind, the rustle of the leaves, the bang of the machinery. Stand still. Close your eyes and listen. Really listen. Nature combined with the sounds of our living–the pitch, the rhythm, the random call and the steady groove–what's the soundtrack of your day?

I dare you to find out. It's impossible to know the answer to that question and to not feel connected to the world around you...and also like you're soaring above it.

Miraculous. :-)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey J, Thanks for what you share. I am going to share this post with my staff today as a devotion. Inviting us all to really listen! It would do us some good to shut up around our table and really listen! Maybe we will really begin to hear each others contribution to the soundtrack of our community! THANKS! Love! B