A Variation on a Theme: Musical Imagery 

I suppose one of the observations I have had over the years with my own behavior and tendencies is that whatever subject or endeavor that I am interested in, my focus goes full boar. All in.

For example, I don’t just listen to classical music, I become engrossed in classical music. I listen to music daily and at times select a composer focus for the day. For a time, I kept my listening to the B’s: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms. Then, on another day, the Sonatas of Liszt and Chopin. Whoever the focus might be, I become fascinated by the carriage of their tunes, the push and the pull, the climbing and descending, the lilts and the hammers. When I listen, I want to hear the variations, consider the emphasis, play, or spirit of the music. Sometimes, I try to imagine what the composer might have been thinking at the time the music was created, what drama might have been playing out in his life, what imagery was he or she exposed to, what beauty or pain was he attempting to craft within the energy of the piece.

For me, that is what music offers. It’s an illustration of life’s moments. When I listen, it is hard for me to not consider these things because that is the very nature of music. I see pictures when I hear music.

A bird in flight.

A man walking a lane alone.

A dog lying on a beach with his tail swishing the sand and the waves as they come in while his owner is lying on a blanket nearby, shading his eyes from the sun. Then, the man’s arm comes back down because a cloud has formed overhead providing him with some relief from the glare. Now, the sun gone, the rain begins. Moments pass and then the waves begin to crash just a little more fervently than before and with each tumble up the beach towards the shore, the dog becomes more and more wet until finally, the dog rises and walks up towards his master lying nearby. The man on queue rises from his lying position, gathers up the blanket and calls the dog to join him back up the path towards the house. Afternoon siesta is over, time to run for cover. The sky has now fully opened up and the rain is pouring down in large sheets and the man moves his blanket to cover his head while running towards the house. The dog moves faster and faster as well, following his master up the path, now up the front stairs onto the porch and they end with their retreat into the homes’ safe walls.

This is not a scientific experience for me, necessarily. I guess I am just particularly driven to imagery. And, music helps me launch my writing to places I otherwise may not venture.

Today, I decided I wanted to experience some Schumann and I was delighted to have the benefit of hearing his music through the hands of Mitsuko Uchida, a pianist to whom I was recently introduced within the editorial page of International Piano magazine which I picked up at the local bookstore. Again, all in. I purchased a keyboard recently and I am relearning the piano, as an adult who has been away from the ivory keys for over thirty two years. In my return to the piano, I grab all the information I can get my hands on and find inspiration and motivation through talented offerings on my Spotify app and through my lessons on Udemy. All good stuff. And, as I listen to a new piece- a Piano Sonata No 11 in A- I hear a lullaby. A gentle piece that encourages a child to seek courage. To move beyond comfort, to walk towards hope. A story bubbles.

I imagine a time during the Victorian Era, a young boy of perhaps eight or nine years of age. He wears one of those blue sailor suits; a cotton combination with Bermuda length shorts. He sits on the floor of the parlor – his legs splayed wide as he bats his big blue ball from one hand to the other – back and forth in front of himself. Nearby, his mother is at the piano. The boy is bored. He wants to play outside. There are no children to play with. He continues batting the ball between his right and left hands and then pushes it at an angle so that ball rolls towards his black leather clad foot. He kicks it lightly and it rolls across the floor and gently hits his springer spaniel on the backside of his leg, as he lay sleeping nearby. The dog wakes and wags his tail at the image of the boy before him. This swishing action of his tail pushes the ball back towards the boy but not quite in a straight line. The ball stops and rests near the boy but somewhat out of reach. He will have to get up to retrieve the ball. The boy smiles at the dog. The dog’s tail wags some more. They’ve connected and that was exactly what the boy had in mind. The boy moves from his sitting position up to a standing position. He walks over and picks up the ball and pushes it under his arm pit, cradling it with his other arm. The dog gets up very slowly as well, exhibiting the ache in his extremities that come from his old age. This faithful friend has played many a game of fetch with the boy and although tired, he makes his way up to a full standing position and begins his sway back and forth as he manages to follow his master outside to play ball. The boy walks slowly to allow the dog to keep up. These are two soul mates that care deeply for one another.

They make their way together past the manicured gardens and out toward the open field, still in view of the home’s bay window where mother continues her scales up and down the keyboard. The sun is shining. The boy left the door open so that as he plays with his dog, he can still hear his mother’s measured tones and occasional high shrills as she now makes her way through Mozart’s Sonata Facile No 16 in C; a piece that is as well known in his system from the years of hearing it as it is in his mother’s fingers. The boy allows the ball to fall from his hands and bounce slightly. With his right foot he begins the gentle kick of the ball forward and catches it with his left foot as he steps forward. He does this again with the left foot and catches it as he lunges forward with his right foot. And he turns and faces the dog who has now sat down to take a break. “How are you, Sir Thomas?” The dog cocks his head in response and opens his mouth to bring in some fresh air and cool down. It’s as if he is smiling back at little Jack. Jack moves to the dog and kneels and places his arms around the dog “it’s Ok Sir Thomas, no need to work up a sweat today”. The dog immediately lays down on the grass in gratitude and shows his belly and looks up at Jack “Pet Me” he seems to be saying. And Jack obliges. And then finds himself laying down beside him, and moving onto his side, he pets Sir Thomas on the belly vigorously- as requested. Sir Thomas’ left leg begins a gentle beat of gratitude as Jack hits just the right spots. They linger in this way enjoying the sunshine together, cherishing these summer moment, which will soon be over since school starts in just a few days.

And there is the start of the story of a boy and his dog Sir Thomas. Thank you Schumann, Mozart & Mitsuko.

Mozart over, the music turns to Albinoni, the piece now is Adagio in G. As I listen, I experience the sorrow as it slowly moves from a high note to the depths of the keyboard into a dark area. In one moment there is hope and in another there is despair. I sense a quiet hollow sadness as if grief is in the air, there is a feeling of just having missed a critical opportunity or that something or someone has been lost. With this change in composer and piece, I thus find myself walking down a very different lane. On this path, there is a deep sense of loss and I imagine that an unexpected tragedy has befallen my heroine.

Daria sits in the bay window on a padded bench, her one hand holds the curtain up to gaze outside, in the hope that he will return at any moment. She tugs at her lower lip with her upper teeth, a small lesion forms there and blood appears. She had not realized she was cutting herself so harshly with her incisors. She sucks the blood into her mouth, licks her lip and tastes the salt. She gets up and paces. She is grateful that Gertrude is gone, she would only make matters worse. Yes, she is glad she is alone at least to bear this burden alone, with no background chatter. She couldn’t bear having to listen to a narrative about her silliness and self centered behavior. No, not today. Then she hears it, the thunder of hooves outside coming closer and closer to the front entrance of their family’s manor home. She rushes to the mirror to check her image and push some loose auburn strands back into her bun. She pinches her cheeks and smoothes her billowing skirts. She goes to the front door. She waits for his knock and then finally, it comes. She slowly opens the door and tightens her facial features so that they are as dead pan as possible. They must not call her out. Calm, cool and unaffected. This must be her demeanor if she is to save any face in this situation.
“Daria, forgive me” he utters in a barely audible tone. “I don’t know what came over me” Oskar looks at her with eyes of plight, as if to say – please Daria, please give me one more chance.
Daria keeps Oskar in suspense. She moves her eyes up and over his brow and looks over at the side chair in the foyer.

“I am not sure I can bear it, Oskar, all your nonsense”.
“What can I do to receive your forgiveness, what can I say?” He begs. He dips down to one knee and holds her delicate hand up to his lips “please tell me, please”.
She looks down at him and offers the slightest smile.
“Well, if I must – you can promise me that under no circumstance whatsoever, will you ever mistrust me again- or I daresay, I may never recover again.” She looks him deeply in the eye.  He returns her gaze and considers her ultimatum.
He kisses her hand “no, never, I will never underestimate you again my dearest, never again, you have my word.”
And with this he rises and kisses her fully on the lips, a long hungry kiss that lasts for many moments.
Then, when he withdraws from her and steps back “what happened to your lip, Daria- is it swollen?”.
“Oh, dear me” she responds “it must be the weather.”
They both smile and walk arm and arm through the foyer out towards the back door and down the garden steps, as if nothing had happened in the first place.  All is well again in paradise.
So it was not a tragedy after all, but rather a tease. A playful romantic exchange that offered a window into a somewhat superficial coupling laced in dishonesty and lack of integrity. A game that will likely end in hurt, someday. A relationship based on surface importance and one that misses deep purpose.
Indeed. Classic music. Instrumental fare. So much to consider, so many angles. So many settings and people and emotions and motivations. I could create a story of honor or one of frivolity. The beauty of writing is that I meet the players and experience the exchanges through each keystroke – both those typed and those heard. And, I will follow the keys and look forward to the next adventure and hope to share those along the way with others.
Thanks for stopping by, for reading and listening and hearing.

About katesolveigsong

Like many other souls on this planet, I am finding my way one step at a time. Reading and writing are tools in this quest. Grateful for expression through words.
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