Friday, December 28, 2012

Pandora's Box

I use Pandora Radio’s program while working at my computer. Having music while I work is wonderful. And my program is diverse. My “radio stations” range from: Anonymous Four, Cantus, Santana, Josh Groban, Umphries McGee, Deva Premal, Antonio Carolos Jobim, Michael Buble, Adele, Joe Bonamassa, James Taylor, Grateful Dead, Mary Youngblood, Seals and Crofts, Paul Simon, Loreena McKennitt and music that resembles any and all of the above. And I have them scrambled so I’m liable to hear a religious chant by Cantus followed by Santana (my favorite). Music truly is magical.

Pandora, an interesting choice of name for this program. In the original story, Pandora opens a forbidden box and lets loose wild and evil spirits. There is no evil in any of the music I’ve ever heard—even those “bad” boys who try so hard to be shocking. I rarely understood what they were saying and just enjoyed the music. When watching artists perform it is evident to me they are visiting some wonderful place of inspiration and beauty. Those that make it deserve to, for they’ve invested hours of time and passion to their craft.

I love to watch fans at performances. Their singing along, swaying their bodies, waving their hands, all their expressions of joy and admiration move me. They too are adding their energy to the universe, the other half of the equation.

My friend Dennis plays the ukulele. He was first exposed to it when he lived in Hawaii. And he understands the dynamics of performing live for an audience. Singing in the shower is one thing. Singing on a stage is a whole other dynamic. And making music with others is joyful and deeply satisfying. My friend Carter decided he wanted to play a musical instrument other than the harmonica (at which he is very good). So he bought a bass fiddle. Why not! I introduced him to Dennis and they now perform together.

Years ago, I had a friend who had received an unusual wedding gift. (Her husband was a church organist). Someone sent them a harpsichord kit. They came home from their honeymoon and put the thing together. The problem was that my friend played the flute, so she asked me to play the harpsichord. Another friend who played cello joined us and we met weekly to practice. Margaret (the flutist) played the violin part. The cello and I joined in and we had a wonderful time struggling our way through Mozart, Hayden, and Beethoven. We always finished our playing time together doing Mendelssohn’s “On Wings of Song” for we did it rather well. Otherwise, we feared we’d all give up.

I also spent about 20 years singing in a large chorale (about 150 voices). We performed with the symphony orchestra, were on TV, and gave concerts throughout the year. I remember once during a concert I had the feeling we were all connected to one another in a subtle network and the director had us all like fish caught on his hook. As he moved his arms, we all responded. Magical moments and all great fun, but it was the rehearsals I looked forward to. Making music with all those people kept me high for an entire week!

I’m impressed with all that is required to become proficient. Not as easy as it looks. The Beatles spent years playing in bars to noisy drunken crowds before they made it. The idea of overnight sensation is a myth. (Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours.) I appreciate them all—professional or amateur. For all of you who are making music, I say thanks. I think the universe is better off as a result. Maybe if we required all the politicians to sing their policies (even if off-key) there’d be more harmony in the world.

I remind myself of that when I’m writing. There are good days and bad. Paragraphs that give me goose pimples and others that are tossed into the recycler. But each moment that I sit here and work is of value. When I open my Pandora box, I get to listen to music written and performed by masters. Magic.

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