A typical strategy in my music class is to sing a song with gestures or body percussion, then just think the song in your mind while continuing with the motions. Some music educators call this practice “audiation”, still others “inner hearing.” It’s a way to bring the music inside so it’s permanently housed in the folds of the brain and the contours of the heart and the gestures of the body. Jazz musicians improvising often have the song still singing in their mind while they weave and dip and dance around it on their horn. It’s a simple, but effective and profound practice.
Last night I dreamt of my childhood home, a house that was felled by Hurricane Sandy a few years ago and doesn’t exist any more in the material world. When I awoke, I spent some moments visiting every room in my memory. How clearly I could see every detail, how easily recall all the small and large things that happened in each, all the different selves I was living in them.
And so it occurred to me that this little music class strategy was preparation for loss, a strategy for becoming acquainted with the invisible forms of all that we once knew that we can no longer touch or talk to— places, things, pets and people. We miss them terribly and long for their physical presence, and yet they live on in us and can awaken by the simple act of remembrance. We can sing their song while continuing on with the gestures of our life still granted us, improvise around their inner presence with our voices that can still sing and make the air vibrate, our hands that can coax tangible sound from piano keys or xylophone bars.
Yesterday I played piano at the Jewish Home as I still do every Friday and how I missed my mother at my side, where she was for six years. And yet, of course, she was there still and I could hear her little yelps of astonishment when I successful negotiated a driving passage from Bach and hit the cadence of the last note. Or see her with eyes closed during a slow Mozart piece in a heaven that may have been coming attractions— who knows?—for the home she was heading to. I miss her as much as I knew I would, but those six years of playing out loud was a blessed apprenticeship to the years to come of an audiated version.
Friends, sing and play and dance every day of your life— out loud and exuberantly—while time grants us its gift. But also practice the silent inner hearing, the vibrant inner seeing, in preparation for all the loss to come.