Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Music to my ears Part Deux

I'd made a point of explaining my major musical influences in my last post, but forgot to get back to that of my father's love for Jazz and Classical.

My appreciation for these genres didn't really develop until later in life. As a kid, music didn't speak (or sing!) to me the way it does now. For one, I needed something with words. To me, a piece of music without words was a like a book without pictures: also something I didn't come to appreciate until later in life. The Monkees were the only band I listened to in childhood, as I'd mentioned back in part one, and think it's largely because their lyrics were easy to remember, (although I did realize somewhere down the line that most of the lyrics I thought I knew, were wrong...) and they had a show! And it was funny!

Now, as I said before, my father was intolerant of anything but Jazz or Classical. He'd endure Reggae but only for bout two minutes.I remember one trip to pick up my cousin who used to visit on the weekends, and after picking him up, he asked my father why he always listened to the Loony Toons sound track. A brother of mine recently told me that he'd come home one day to find our father playing some Aerosmith records, and sitting at the table with a grimace. When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was trying to build up a tolerance.

I can't remember the year, but at some point my father's mother who was a terrific piano player, moved from her apartment into my aunt's house, and needed to do something with her upright piano. It ended up coming to my house, and I'd poke around a bit. I managed to teach myself bits and pieces of this or that, including:




(Try to ignore the fact that I was trying to play these on a piano, when the first is violins, and the second is a guitar... At least their all stringed instruments!)

The very idea that I was producing even a watered-down, poorly-tempo-ed version of a masterpiece like these, having no formal training whatsoever gave me a feeling of pride that I had never felt before. Classical music thus began to speak to me and tug at the chords of my being. My father was happy to see I had some talent, and we talked from time to time about lessons to develop the skill. Unfortunately, reality being what it is, it has yet to happen.

My introduction to Jazz was of course Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang. Still love that sound track. I even have A Charlie Brown Christmas. I didn't notice the appreciation I had for it at the time, but that's where the seeds were sewn.

One morning, he and I had a discussion about who his favorite composer was. He said that if he had to choose one composer to listen to for the rest of his days, it'd probably be J.S. Back.

My father died at the age of 62 in February of '94 of cancer of the throat. (Forty years of smoking'll do that to ya.) As per my discussion with him, He was buried to Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by J. S. Bach.

It was a very long time before I could hear that piece again. Eventually, it began to represent something a little more than simply the pain of his death, although that's a prominent pang. Now, looking back and having followed his footsteps into fatherhood, the piece also conjures feelings of tranquility. I feel like it's a piece through which he and I connected, and even though he didn't write it, and I do not own it, it feels like something that he left behind for me.

My brothers, who got to know him not only as a father, but also a friend (a privilege I was denied, as I was 14 when he passed) tell me that I do things very much the way he did. Truth be told, he died half my life ago, and really, I didn't even start to get to know him until I was at least six or seven. I don't remember much about the way he operated, but I take comfort in the fact that if I didn't learn it from observation, there's gotta be a pretty large part of me that I share with who he was. It's almost like I can feel that because I approve of myself, he would (or does) too. It makes me wonder if the feelings I get when listening to pieces like those above, are the same feelings he got.

Anyway, I work in IT, and a lot of my job is Help desk. Troubleshooting problems can be a really frustrating thing, especially if the user is frustrated and unreasonable. I find that a good dose of classical music calming.

That pretty sufficiently explains my affinity for Classical music.

Unfortunately for you, I'm not done writing yet. I thought I'd stray a bit from the overall theme of why I like Classical music, and go into a quick story about how music has since touched my life. Be sure, it has touched my life many times over the years, so I've just chosen the most prominent.

Fast forward nine years, you arrive at my wedding. Rather, OUR wedding, as it was at least half my wife's as well...Perhaps more than half. It was almost "Traditional" in style, although we had some fairly non-standard aspects. For one, we got married at an Italian Restaurant, Vinny T's in Dedham MA. They have a function hall, and it was already decorated for Christmas (Wedding was December 13th, 2003). At the start of the wedding, as is standard, I stood in front of the JP looking goofy, as I'm so apt to do. I figured it was OK, no one was looking at me anyway. As my wife entered, we played Canon in D Major.

I don't mind telling you that my heart caught in my throat as she approached, and I got a bit misty eyed. Once again, I took solace in the fact that she was the only person in the room looking at me. To this day, if I'm in a wistful frame of mind, that piece catches me the same way. I hear it and a gentle peace descends on me, as if I'd made the right decision.

The ceremony itself lasted all of ten minutes, and that was even with the lighting of the unity candle. The wedding party retreated to the downstairs for pictures, and we returned an hour or so later. We set the mood lighter for the re-entry. The wedding party entered one at a time introduced by the DJ to a funky bluesy sort of guitar background music.

Once they were in, the DJ Queued "Welcome to the Jungle". If you don't know the song, pause now and watch the video, or at least the first 20 seconds of it... I'll wait...

You Back? OK, so the DJ started that, and after the first few notes, he began the monster-truck-rally-style introduction. Ladies and gentlemen *pause* Please give a warm welcome *pause* to MR *pause* and MRS *pause* MATTHEW *pause* J. *pause* CONLON!" and we entered just as the introduction build of the song finished, we walked faster part.

It was awesome.