Like all of you, I am terribly upset by the Boston Marathon bombing. My heart really isn’t in blogging, and I was wracking my brain to think of what to write that would be consistent with my blog’s mission. I had planned to talk about the role music played in my family. Given the healing and soothing power of music, I decided it is indeed an appropriate topic.
Music in my family
Both my parents appreciated music. My father played the violin and my mother played the piano. I think they played duets together when they were first married. I don’t think that lasted too long, because they stayed married for over 60 years. My older brother, Michael could hum entire symphonies when he was a baby, I am told, even though he was profoundly retarded, autistic and nonverbal. My Dad thought he was a savant. However, the humming eventually stopped.
I started playing the violin at an early age. I remember struggling though the Bach double concerto with my father. Although he was a mathematician, it seemed he had trouble counting, and always came in at the wrong place. The frustrations I had playing with him are only dim memories. Whenever I hear this piece, I only think of the connections we had.
My younger brother is a professional musician. Not only does he get pleasure from the sounds of music, he has a deeper appreciation for its structure. Like my father, he also has a penchant for mathematics, and understands rhythms and harmonies in his muscles as well as his mind. He was very patient with Dad, when they played together.
Music’s soothing properties
The night before I went away to college, I was a nervous wreck. I had never been so nervous in all my life. Somehow I found a recording of Bach’s Toccatta and Fugue in D minor played on a pipe organ. I played it loud, so it vibrated my chest. I tried to hum along. I don’t know if it was the inner vibration from my humming, the outer vibration of the stereo or the long, steady breathing that I had to do in order to hum, but I felt a calm descending on me.
I wish a calm on everyone affected by the events at the Boston Marathon. Perhaps being flooded by music will be of some comfort.