Out and About:
What I’m Talking About When I’m Talking About Music


There’s a first for eveything: saying this is how we package experiences that we’d never imagined.

I went to Carnegie Hall this evening to hear an Orpheus Chamber Orchestra concert, the last of the season. The beautiful performances were not, as you can well imagine, the new experience. On the program were Stravinsky’s Octet for winds, Bruch’s First (and only famous) Violin Concerto, and Beethoven’s Second. If you have to ask, “Second what?”, send me an email.

There were two new experiences, although they were both of one kind. In the first, I listened to Stravinsky’s very playful chamber music as if my grandson Will were on my knee. Rationally, I understand that the music would not have appealed to any four month-old baby. Stravinsky did a good job of tempting me to think otherwise. Even Kathleen thought so.

Then, at beginning of the slow movement of the Bruch, Ryu Goto’s stroke of firm crescendo was as gentle as my grandson’s skin. That is really what I thought as I heard the sound — a first in my long history of responses to music. Skin!

If Orpheus’s performance of Beethoven’s Second failed to rouse any reminders of Will, that’s undoubtedly because I’d had a very early lunch, and nothing to eat since. Just at the time when I’d ordinarily be enjoying an afternoon snack, I was in a taxi bound for Will’s house in Alphabet City. His father was taking his first business trip qua pops, and his mother, I thought, could use a few moments of supporting staff. So I popped into a taxi, in tie and blazer, daring to be spit up upon (Will rose to the challenge!), and spent an hour with mother and child before heading uptown. I was so freaked about the uncertainty of snagging taxis that I arrived and departed early. I’m sure that I was of no real help to Megan at all. I’ll try to make up for that tomorrow.

But “they can’t take that away from me”: the memory of a smile that makes life not so much worth living as simply imperative.

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