Sunday, March 14, 2010
I found a Walkman, not an ipod, or iphone, but an old-fashioned Walkman from the late 80s. It was a yellow “sports” Walkman, with waterproof seals and dark grey plugs for all of the holes. Inside there was a cassette. Contained on the tape was a composition labeled THOUGHT-MUSIC. No mention of the composer.
It caught me by surprise; what was the Walkman doing on my little section of beach, at the head of the trail right near my back door?
It was wrapped in banana leaves and resting on a little pedestal made from carved coconuts. It was as if some impish cat had caught a mouse and proudly offered it to her owner by leaving the carcass on the doormat—but instead this was some gift for me (I suppose?) possibly to be inspiration for one of my shows for a new mood or a new direction. I normally listen to the most difficult, unpleasant styles of classical music: the kind of music that feels like mathematics rendered through a rainstorm that occasionally breaks into a melodic phrase of clarity that feels so refreshing that the entire struggle seems worth it. I had studied composition in my youth, and ever since listening to difficult music has remained an indulgence.
This cassette was indeed classical music, but of a different kind. It was a special type of intellectual statement—less about the bombastic tinkering of a shouting poet and more about the clarity of thought that comes from having something to say. Parts of it were dark, but other parts were lighthearted and even funny—when the music seemed to drop away all concerns and pretense and began to display a sense of humor—not silly humor, but more like the droll humor of a great wit—before turning its attention to shapes and thoughts of intense beauty.
The line was melodic, but also structural, without being too pedantic or literal. Sometimes several phrases would play at once—like a thoroughly entertaining cocktail party, where you overhear conversations that lay atop of one another— the resulting tonal lines (sometimes even simultaneously in different keys!) were complimentary and unique, as if to say although we are all having different conversations, we are all at the same party. It reminded me of the type of music I would have like to have written had I gone on with composition instead of switching to fashion when I found the musical world too remote.
I showed the Walkman to Tako, and she just smiled and said Happy Anniversary. I asked her who the composer was, and she told me to go look in the mirror. The music, she claimed, came from a pile of scores she had found in a box at my mother’s house. She had sent the score to some friends of hers at Julliard, who had cleaned it up a bit (but not too much she promised), recorded it and sent it back as a CD. She had dubbed it to cassette and left it for me to find.
Tako gives the best gifts. She gave me a piece of my old self. Do you see now why I love this woman so?