Friday, February 25, 2011


An old high school friend asked me in an e-mail several years ago what music I’d like to hear again, and I remembered so many wonderful melodies and moments that I went on for two pages. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been more musical than usual lately; this morning I awoke to loud thumps and what, from the mists of my slumbery state and the warmth of my bed, somehow became entangled with the score to a Tarzan movie from the Weismuller days. I opened the door to a loud, rousing version of Joe Cocker’s The Letter blasting on the speakers, with Chris singing along from the depths of the utility room, where he was compiling the little daily snap-tops of our week’s vitamins.
And we’ve been drumming quite a bit of late, because we have TWO now, plus a just-acquired “'monica” which had belonged to Chris’ Dad, who was quite the virtuoso. Our little one loves the thing, and caught right on to the running of scales and the intake/out-blow method of music-making. She hands me a drum and some sticks, and picks up her harpoon---we play. Any and all who enter here play, as well, being handed around drums, sticks, maracas, a pot lid---we’re like the geriatric version of a kindergarten rhythm band, with a tee-ninecy conductor.

Here, the musical memories and wishes may have to go on for several chapters over several days, but if you’re interested:

All images from the Internet

I’d dearly love to hear my dear, dear neighbor from Mississippi at his Steinway, playing Liebestraum and Pavane for a Sleeping Princess and Moonlight Sonata and the mystical, haunting Traumerei, which he always played for me after a hard day at work or when the boss’ mannerisms had been especially harsh. I would sit in his Mother’s little gooseneck rocker, and he would hand me a dainty glass of Tawny Port; I would rock and dream and it would soothe away the day, and by the end of the Schumann I was almost melted into the chair like a spent snowman, dwindling in the sun.

I severely regret the misplacement of a plate-sized reel of tape during one of our various moves; I’ve had no way to play it again, as we have never had a reel-to-reel machine, but just the having of it was enough. It was the pinnacle of my friend’s career as an artist and teacher, playing The Age of Anxiety, with Bernstein conducting. And just to hold it in my hands would be a miracle, of sorts---all that talent and those gifted hands and minds condensed and graven into that fragile, spinning hoop of vinyl and dreams.

These could have been mine, except there were ten of them, and save for  Mammaw's mandolin, most of the instruments were just what they could put together. 

I’ve always longed to see that ragtag band of my ancestors out in the hills, to see the home-made instruments and their faces and their clothes and how tall they were---to see the young, sinewy boys and the too-soon men and the innocent sweet girls with the string-callused fingers and the palms of field-hands. Had they had a good dinner and were they tired from their day in the field before they felt the sun’s arc ease toward the horizon so they could come home to the shade of the yard? I imagine they lined up to wash their hands and faces, sluicing their heads and the backs of their necks for cooling, and toweling down with the same old gray towel on the porch-nail, a small, backwoods semblance-rite of purification before entering the sanctity of their Mother’s home.

Another use for an old galvanized washtub:

I would love to watch and hear them play and sing the old hill songs---Lorena and Wildwood Flower, and all the other old warbly, plaintive songs which would have been blues had they known the word---playing at barn dances and weddings, or congregated at home in the parlor or front room or wherever their phone was, playing over the party line.

And more music tomorrow---I'd love to hear your own memories and longings for music of times past, or music missed, or music yet unheard.


Southern Lady said...

I miss the old "classic country" music most ... the kind I was raised on, sitting on my Papaw's lap while he sang, "Get Along Home, Cindy, Cindy," to me and bounced me on his knee. And listening to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights, gathered around his huge old radio.

There's so much music from those days, both country and gospel ... and it all brings back such sweet, sweet memories (like my grandmother rocking me to sleep, her voice singing or humming, "Farther Along," accompanied by the creaking of the old rocking chair). And those old favorites from grammar school -- Clementine and Go Tell Aunt Rhody (which I've taught Avery Grace). I could go on and on, and can't wait to hear more of your favorites.

Tonja said...

Oh, my friend, you do love music, don't you? Your description of the way the music made you feel is like poetry. Isn't it amazing the places music can take you? And, make you feel things you never knew you could!

I'd love to hear you and Little One on the harmonica and drum!

Beverly said...

Rachel, you remind me of myself. I can close my eyes and feel the stress melt away.

Southern Lady's comment reminded me that my daddy used to sing "Get Along Home, Cindy, Cindy".

AngelMc said...

I guess you always love what you grow up listening uncle John playing the Carroll County brother playing Maybellene....
Southern Lady made me think about the time that The Martins gave an outdoor concert at the tabernacle in North Carrollton.
The wind was gently blowing, their harmony was so sweet and towards the end of the concert, we were all on our feet swaying to the music and Joyce said.....sing Farther Along.....and we all sang it a cappella...that is a very sweet memory for me...