Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Beat of a Fly's Wing

The days are long and full in their own strange way, and to add some variety, my wife Karen (normally not a game player) and I played Rummy 500 after dinner. In re-organizing my CD’s the other day, I came upon Claude Bolling and Jean Pierre-Rampal’s Suite for Piano and Flute. So I decided to play it in the background during the card game. 

That music holds a special meaning. My first-born daughter was born at home with midwives and labor was a day-and-half affair. During the rests from contractions, we often had this music playing in the background. So just like a smell that reminds you of Grandma’s kitchen, those sounds brought me instantly back to that time. While we were listening and playing cards, Karen asked whether Claude Bolling was a contemporary composer and I said, “Yes, he is. Or rather, we was, oh…40 years ago.”

40 years! That moment the music carried me to seemed just yesterday, the snap of fingers, a beat of a fly’s wing. The days of quarantine may seem like they stretch out, but damn, those years were a flash of lightning, instantly traversed but also intensely lived one day at a time. 

As have been my 45 years at school, a long storied-sentence that I’ve been preparing all year to put the final period on and now it looks likely that school may be over for this year and there will be no satisfying cadence and closing chords to my life’s symphonic work. The instruments have gone out of tune and the musicians are walking off the stage before the V chord resolves to the I. 

Nothing new to say about time, which always shocks and confuses and surprises us, but still we—or at least I—feel compelled to say something, as if I’m the first one to discover its winding labyrinth that at once feels like a slow lingering stroll on a fine summer’s day and a blinding flash in which 40 years can travel instantly on the back of a few notes of piano and flute. 

With both feet firmly in the 21stcentury, I couldn’t resist looking up Claude Bolling on Google and am happy to report he is still with us— at 89 years old! (Jean Pierre-Rampal left us in the year 2000 at 78 years old.) Maybe if I ever have a retirement party, I’ll play one of those pieces at it. 

Meanwhile, tomorrow beckons.

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