I always think that a lot can be learned from our elders. I hope, in fact, to be an elder one day, perhaps someone whose accumulated life experience may benefit someone younger. For now, I’ll just have to settle for being a middle-aged nuisance, as well as a real “eclectic.” I try to learn from all sources, not just those closest to my chosen field of so-called “classical” music.
The downside to this is that I have to be turned around to face the future more often than not. I recognize the importance of youthful energy, while retaining my fondness for history and “time past.” I suppose the challenge is how to honor, respect, and learn from the past without becoming its melancholy, regretful slave. Today’s end quote will summarize that issue.
Recently, my attention was drawn to some of the sayings of Willie Nelson (b. 1933), the American country singer/songwriter, activist, and philosopher-poet. Go figure. What he has to say about music and performance would make a great manifesto for any classical musician.
“A song in your heart will take you far.”
“An audience wants to find love in a performer’s heart.” When was the last time you thought about that before taking the stage at a recital?
“The meaning is already in the song. The song is the meaning.” You don’t have to “graft” interpretation “onto” the music. Trust the material!
And lastly, a bit of humor, “Perfect pitch is when you throw a banjo in the trash and it hits an accordion.”
Now to return to the youth/old age issue: a beautiful short poem by Thomas Hardy (1840–1928), who wrote over 1700 poems (!) that were his true passion. The novels by which he became famous were “merely” to pay the bills. This is from “Moments of Vision and Miscellaneous Verses.” (1917) By the way, this poem was set to music by English composer Gerald Finzi (1901–1956), as the final song in his cycle “Till Earth Outwears.” (pub. posth. 1958)
“Life Laughs Onward”
Rambling I looked for an old abode
Where, years back, one had lived I knew;
The site a dwelling duly showed,
But it was new.
I went where, not so long ago,
The sod had riven two breasts asunder;
Daisies throve gaily there, as though
No grave were under.
I walked along a terrace where
Loud children gambolled in the sun:
The figure that had once sat there
Was missed by none.
Life laughed and moved on unsubdued,
I saw that Old succumbed to Young:
’Twas well. My too regretful mood
Died on my tongue.
© 2010 by Frank Daykin, for Innovative Music Programs