Common cliché is “music is the language of the soul.” I dare say that it’s more than that – it triggers memories dear to your soul. Have you ever wondered what music does to you? I’ll tell you what it does to me.
I enjoy music of any genre, as long as there’s captivating melody and, if with lyrics, the words make sense. Good music to me is like eating good food. It satisfies.
When I take a break from computer work at home, I sit listening to classical music on the TV arts channel or PBS. I take delight in Chopin, Mozart, Schubert, Saint Saenz, Vivaldi, Bach or Beethoven. Relaxed listening is perfect respite from work. But when Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite comes on and “Dance of the Flowers” is played, I jump to my feet to render waltz moves, swings and sways with ballet-like lifts congruent with the movement. My mind then drifts back to my college years when I was part of a dance troupe that performed the lively interpretation of the piece. The dancers were decked in flowery costumes aimed to represent different colorful blooms. I was a sunflower, perked up by the vivacious harmony of wind and strings from the school orchestra. A lovely stage experience that I re-live over and over again, with Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.
Flowers and music – they make me dance! (Photos by Monette C. Valencia and Nikki Gordoncillo Arellano)
Recently, I listened to Andy Williams’ “Moon River”, and immediately, the melody and lyrics floated me back to my youth in my home in Naga. The backyard of my Philippine home contained a vegetable garden tendered by Papa and Mama, and beyond that garden was the Bicol river that snaked through almost the entire stretch of the city. Often, as a break from studying in the open balcony of my home, on moonlit nights, I would stand by the window’s edge to gaze at the moon’s refracted beams on the gentle current of the river. Adding to the mystic aura were silhouettes of boatmen traversing the waves and the soft thud of moving oars. I hummed the melody as I immersed myself in the magic of the scenery. That magic is still with me when I listen to “Moon River”.
“On the street where you live” from My Fair Lady always tugs at my heart every time I hear it. It reminds me of my husband’s strong tenor voice belting out the passion and longing in the captivating strain. He envisioned himself as Freddie of the story who unashamedly flaunted his love for Elisa while lingering on the street, hoping for her appearance. Personally, I’d rather he was the romantically clueless but brilliant Professor Higgins who ironically captured Elisa’s heart. But I decided, that song suited my husband’s voice so well, and I swooned whenever he sang it.
Then, there’s Tevye’s poignant song “Do you love me” from Fiddler on the Roof, a musical film I’ve watched eight times over the years. This was a question prompted by his second daughter’s leaving home for a strange, far-away land to be with the man she loved. The surprised response from Golda, his wife, that started with “Do I what!” was indicative that years of togetherness through rough times could be nothing else but love. That reminded me of my Papa and Mama, especially as they got older, who often engaged in animated discussions about space and the cosmos. Mama was a chemistry professor, and Papa, a college dean and statistics professor with a penchant for science and arguments about the physics of the universe. Now, as I hear that reprise, my lively imagination envisions Papa asking Mama, after the robust arguments, “Do you love me?” And, I imagine, she would answer, “After all our arguments over science and still being together – do I what!” Funny how I associate that rhetorically romantic exchange with older married couples like Papa and Mama.
Chopin’s Polonaise always intrigues me. The movements span the range from alluring, exciting to placating and gently sentimental, with a break into measures contrived with a shade of mysterious urgency on the lower keys, leading to a contemplative climb back to enchantment and pomposity. All in all, Chopin, I think, presented nuances of musicality not exactly predictable in Polonaise, but majestic and charming in the same space. I recall Polonaise being played many years ago during a party at a friend’s home, by a young Stanford professor who completed his master’s/doctoral Engineering degree in three years, utterly impressive. He learned piano by himself, no formal lessons – and just like his advanced studies, excelled in his own musical adventure. He played Polonaise like a skilled concert pianist. I thought, I wish I could teach myself to play piano like that. We were enthralled by the spontaneous entertainment of the evening.
Then there’s Dave Clark Five’s “Because” and the Beatles’ “If I fell in love” that trigger memories of serenades. In my late teens and early 20’s, the twang of guitars would pierce the night air to accompany wonderful male voices in serenade below my window. Serenades were the perfect introduction to courtship in an old fashioned community where dating was not the approved norm at that time. Though privately enthralled, I didn’t welcome the serenaders by turning on the balcony light for them, or opening my window to acknowledge them, nor asking them to come up for tea or coffee. No, I stayed behind my closed window, secretly relishing and bewitched by the musical compliment. Now, when I hear my favorite Beatles or Dave Clark Five songs, I ponder – should I have opened my window at least and smiled at the serenaders? Should I have turned on the balcony light for the singers standing in the shadows to come out in the light and show their faces? Should I have said a demure thank you when they left? Should I have … Hmmm … That’s the extent of my reminiscing as I hear their songs now – strange and funny, don’t you think?.
Then my all-time favorite, Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah – a masterpiece that swells with praises and victorious innuendos in worship. The composition is profusely exuberant in spiritual expression. Whenever I hear it, I am moved to stand and wave my arms in lively response to the joy of the music. It never fails to bring me back to the years when our choir at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California held Easter services at Shoreline Park amphitheater in Mountain View, to accommodate more attendees from the communities. The place was packed, up to the grassy area above the auditorium seating. With full orchestra and chorus, plus the congregants’ energized voices, the whole amphitheater reverberated in jubilation. So glorious. So ecstatic.
See what music does to me. Definitely a ringer for great memories – floats me through various time warps — pleasurable and delightful, even funny sometimes.