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Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I was going to write about another day in the monastic life (well, pseudo-monastic life) but find I must interject an interlude of music into such a conversation.

Tonight I watched the movie, August Rush, a movie I've long wanted to see but each time I picked up the DVD at the store or at the movie rental place, it seemed...uninteresting.

How wrong I was.

One of the many secrets of Adoro:

I once aspired to attend Julliard. Seriously. This was a very probable dream even into high school, and I even planned to apply there. I couldn't wait to play with the New York Philharmonic and perform on Broadway...on stage or in the orchestra pit. It didn't matter to me. What mattered to me was that I would be THERE. Living the music in every way possible.

I'd always loved music. As a child I used to dance around our large living room to the grand concertos of "The Sound of Music", and on other days, "The Best of Peter, Paul, and Mary". Oh, yes. I danced, I sang, and I wanted to make music come alive at my fingertips.

(As a side note, would you have even less respect for me if I admitted that the above records, yes, records, were played on a...record player? Yes, I said records. Not tapes or DVD's. Records. But at least not 8-tracks)

Because I so long had such a deep love of music, Mom desired that I have piano lessons, and talked Dad into it as well. But, instead of buying a piano, or even renting one, he found a small organ with an octave-and-a-half-sized keyboard. I still remember the salesman and thought Dad was probably joking because, well, let's face was completely stupid.

Resigned, Mom brought in a music teacher, almost embarrassed to do so. He came a couple times, but we hated the organ so much because of its stupidity that we never actually practiced but through force, and Mom understood because she hated it worse than we did. She loved the pipe organ, not this joke of a machine, and even as she tried to enforce the lessons, her heart wasn't in it and she finally cancelled our lessons. Our teacher understood. He told her to get us a piano. She agreed.

She didn't give up though, and in 5th grade, when we moved to Minnesota, when I brought home the flyer for Band, I announced that I wanted to play the flute. It wasn't in doubt. It's exactly what I wanted and nothing else would suffice. I'd grown up considering the violin and piano and all sorts of instruments. Mom wasn't surprised, but in looking at the cost of buying or renting a flute for me, she was shocked so went to our family to see if anyone had one to spare. She found that a cousin had a trumpet and wasn't using it. Did I want that?

No. I wanted to play the flute. Period.

So Mom scrimped and saved and sold her left arm and maybe her feet, and bought me a wonderful used Gemeindhardt for $450.00. I cared for it as though it was my own child.

And that flute served me well, served God and His people, and performed at state competitions. It was later joined by a piccolo, compliments of the inheritance given to Mom from my late uncle Bill. During High School, having made the "decision" that I wanted to pursue music in college, and upon learning the Pep Band needed trumpets, I dusted off my cousin's trumpet and learned to play THAT, which I did for both the Theatre and for Pep Band, confusing many of my classmates who thought it was only possible to play ONE instrument. It was fun to blast the trumpet in their faces, and even pretend ignorance just before we went on stage.

Seriously, a classmate suddenly realized, after hours and hours of practice, that I was standing behind her not with my flute, but with a trumpet.

"You don't play that!", She exclaimed.

I smiled and played Reveille. (Well I would have except that we were about to go on stage and that would have really ticked off the director AND the band teacher both! But I COULD have done it!)

Anyway, I thought at the time that my flute, piccolo, and trumpet might very well take me to at least the Minnesota Orchestra, if not Julliard. As it was, I "discerned" I wanted to obtain a degree in music and was actually a semi-finalist at Concordia College for a full music scholarship. But it wasn't to be. The weekend of my audition, we lost the brakes on our car as I drove it to school the day before our six hour trip up to Moorehead, dashing my dreams. There would be no scholarship because I couldn't get there to audition in the finals. Sadly, I called to withdraw. A door slammed shut.

God's will was done. I lament only a little these days, but sometimes, I'm taken back and wish I could be so lost as once I was in the music I played every day, in hopes of greater perfection.

Music Lives

In the movie, August Rush heard music in every moment. It drew him, it defined him. To a certain degree, I understand. I still remember falling asleep to symphonies I could hear but not write, full orchestra, even choir sometimes. The music I practiced for hours every day drew me into it and found an outlet even in my dreams. For awhile, I began to believe that maybe some day I could put that incredible music down on paper, for maybe it would come to me while fully awake and in possession of a far greater understanding of music than that which I actually possessed.

But it was not to be.

Julliard, whether theatre or music, was not mine.

But we come back to August Rush.

What an incredible movie, and what a movie ripe for theological commentary! Do I really NEED to point out the themes?

Do I have to discuss the themes of good and evil? Of musical prostitution?

Do I have to point out the soul directed to perfection but pulled back out of false obedience and a lack of trust in what was good? Do I have to point out the symphony in the background, how God orchestrated each and every movement to bring the warring dischord together into one final unitive crescendo?

Oh, yes, I could speak of how God writes music, but the best I can do is maybe to share my own poetry, from several several years ago. It seems the only proper way to end this particular and very discordant post as I lament my years of study, now almost lost, but never forgotten. Those of you who also love music will hear in your own way:

Carried away
on the strains of music
my very soul reaches
Trying to catch the notes.
I swallow them whole
inhaling deeply their essence.
Inhaling, diaphragm swelling, lungs expanding
Until the very notes themselves
Take on life...

I release them at will,
propelling them to heaven, to
praise God's very existence,
rounding them sweetly, imitating
the songbirds,
letting the notes ripple like water
through the air, over the ears,
the music inherits the world.

Inhibiting nothing
inviting, inspiring, raising up
dropping off soothingly
adagio cantabile, mezzo piano
crescendoing in swirling emotion

In a full cycle, but this time they escape...
the song is done, the notes are sung,
they have taken wing
to alight somewhere else.
For that soul to embrace,
and send forth,
renewed in wonder
music imitating nature...
there is no such thing

Al fine


Fr John Speekman said...

A nice read, Adoro, and thanks.

Jenny said...

I can so relate to this post. I did major in music in college. Toward the end of my college career, I realized I was supposed to be a wife and mother and not a professional musician. It is very difficult to have a proper family life while walking the path to musical perfection, so it was not to be. It has been 10 years, this August, since I played my senior recital and last played my instrument with any serious practice or intensity. Most days that is just fine. Other days...

Wayne said...

I'm going to be honest with you. My wife and I just saw this movie a couple weeks ago and we loved it, but I hadn't even thought about it in theological terms. What a great insight into a tremendous movie!!

Adoro said...

Father Speekman ~ Thank you. Nice to see you again! :-)

Jenny ~ I so rarely play my flute anymore, haven't even tried the piccolo in years, and it kills me that I can't do what I once could. I hope you've kept up with yours much more. After all, you got a lot further! (Wanna give me some music lessons? It'll force us BOTH to practice! lol) :-) But Vocation is far more important, isn't it.

Wayne ~ when I read your first line I thought, "uh oh! They hated it!" So I was happy to read the rest! It was a great movie, and I have to be honest, too: I bought the soundtrack today. I had to. I couldn't help myself. You understand.

It would be interesting to use this movie and start a theological discussion group on it. Good for creativity and friendship, I'm thinking! (And faith, of course!)

Hope your family is doing well.

LarryD said...

When I was a junior in High School, I considered applying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester NY. For piano. Then I got "all smart" (as teenagers tend to do!), quit taking lessons, and thus never followed through.

Now, twenty-five plus years later, I play more, teach 5 kids, and compose from time to time. Though I don't sit around thinking "shoulda-coulda-woulda", knowing if I had taken that route, my life would certainly have turned out differently.

Nice post, Adoro - thanks!