This weekend I saw and heard a performance of the Brahms 4th after a terribly long absence. I was so completely carried by the music that it made me realize how different it is to hear music now than it used to be…how many years ago?
I felt no barrier to it. I could appreciate the whole process of Brahms’ woven framework of elements, the gathering of energy from one place and another and its assembly of power. Hear the dissonance and the melodies as texture, hear how the music pans over the full landscape before picking out parts of beauty or difficulty, the mirroring of motifs and the yin yang of the first two movements, the particular pleasure of violins chasing each other and swooping up like birds, then making the sound dissipate in a puddle, the darkness in some places because Brahms doesn’t fear to go there either, and the unbelievably moving place where the cellos gradually come up and initiate the complex conclusion, like in the best novels. I didn’t miss a note.
It was Brahms that made me love this kind of music, yet now I realize that perhaps I never completely heard it.
How many times I have listened to performances with some distraction – catching a phrase, where I heard that particular part before, or was it upside down from that? Searching the patterns of the piece, what did that movement want versus the other? Mind wanders, lands on a part that I especially like, then takes off on a train of thought. Floating through the music, I heard parts but not everything. There is a hint of letdown.
I am naturally curious: why this wonderful opening? Because it is happening often.
I think it comes because I am not studying. I giving up all the questions, and just opening into it. It is like relaxing all of my muscles and riding into the notes. It is freeing and amazing.
I am sorry suddenly for people who are afraid of what they feel they need to learn about music before experiencing it.
When I was little my dad played the piano and the clarinet. The piano he picked up on his own, and played by ear. He drew out the melody of songs he heard by a do-re-mi scale onto old punch cards, since he didn’t really read music. He used these to play in the evening, harmonizing chords in the left hand. Listening to the classical station on the FM radio in the morning, he wrote notes on what he liked. He kidded me about listening to “longhair music.” This was the beginning of my hearing.
Dad took me alone to a concert of the Gary Symphony Orchestra when I was a teenager. I never forgot the special gift of this, because it meant that he recognized something shared.
Maybe I am suddenly hearing what he did. Little bunny, this is what I was hoping to make possible for you.