Sunday, February 7, 2010

Musical Interlude - A Frameless Art.

The magnitude of nature’s beauty is wasted on the unflattering eye. It is like a frameless art. Life is a perception of reality. It escapes through the many pores of daily living. The pressures of the survival instincts weigh down on the rituals of enjoyment and happiness; like the sound of a gavel ending the dream-like state of perpetual frivolity. And yet both nature and nurture can survive and we humans can foster an alliance with both. The song of the bird goes heedless on a bright blue day dotted with tiny wisps of clouds. The radiant color of the red rose on a bush remains hidden when the children have to be driven. The smell of jasmine flirts with the olfaction but is relegated in the deep recesses when limits of time are imposed on a daily constitutional.

What is it in humans that function to limit the scope of nature’s treasure? This is a question that pricks the mind and then is laid to rest for other competing arguments.
It was on a fall day when the bluster and blister of the wind kept the crowds huddled within their sweater, overcoats and hats. He waited on the steps of the D.C. Metro Station whiling the time before his train would carry him to his destination of potential lucrative adventure. His eyes wandering over the masses that walked in and out the automatic glass doors. His eyes caught sight of a teenage girl wearing torn jeans, a sweater with sleeves ending well beyond the limits of her outstretched hands and a black knitted ski hat. She sat forlorn in the corner contemplating the vicissitudes of her life or the lost boyfriend or whatever a teenager would think her time away with. On the other wall was a well-dressed thirty-year-old with a briefcase in one hand and a long stem rose in the other. She was also oblivious to the world, carrying the most radiant of smiles as her within poured out of her being. She had found her love and her thoughts revolved around the gift of the rose. An expression of requited love.

A tall stately man wearing a pin-striped suit carrying a briefcase in his right hand his overcoat draped neatly on his left forearm bent at the elbow hesitated a moment, looked at his watch and then with equal and quick dispatch hurried into the hallway towards the departure station of his train ride.

It was then when the lady in the red coat came strolling through her neck held high straining to catch the status of her train time when the first sound of the violin broke through. It started with a gentle sweeping lilting cadence, initially disruptive to the chaotic mass that surrounded it, but then as it built on itself, the melody, pitch and harmony of the solo violin surrounded the square platform. The lady burrowed in her voluminous bag and threw a dollar at the soloist’s feet and hurried on. This was her expression of helping the needy.

The masses still moved at the same pace. Some broke their stride momentarily, while others glanced and yet most appeared to not notice. The music enchanted him. It was the first time he had heard the solo violin being played out in the open. He loved the sound of the violins in a concert. It had a bewitching melodic tug to it, as if it should go on forever and lull him to sleep and awaken him and be around him all times. But this, this was something else. It was the sound of a soloist. He strained his neck over the stairs where he sat and found a young man dressed in a black suit jacket standing erect with the violin perched delicately on his right shoulder held gently by the force of his clean-shaven chin. The crop of his hair partially hidden under a baseball hat dancing madly to the music that emanated from the instrument he held. It was as if the instrument moved him into playing it. The sobbing sorrowed notes merged with the joyous, playful and romantic cadences filling the cramped air of disjointed apathy. The majesty of this spectacle with the ambience and rapturous melody that floated from his instrument was of equal measure. And yet, and yet he was alone with his melody and not a single soul seemed touched. They just hurried to their destination forfeiting this beauty.

The frailty of this quintessence of dust called man lies in self-deception and his intermingled lofty desires. The loss of contentment bleeds from the ruptured vessels of desire. Through this frothy subversion of thought the human spirit continues its “progress” bereft of the melody of life. And to all lives, that come to their natural end the question arises. What was it all about?

A three-year-old clutched and dragged by his mother stopped and yanked his hand away, in defiance to his mother to watch and listen. Something affected him differently then his mother, whose frown and disdain at this impertinence matched the anger that glowered behind her face; they would not be able to catch their ride! The boy persisted in his desire and stood with both his hands clutched together held in between his legs – a melodious defiance, until the mother stepped between the music source and her son’s ears and they moved on.

The janitor on the far side stood with his cleaning tools in his hands enjoying the melody that was not commonplace in this habitat. His head and eyes darting around carefully so as not to get caught shirking his work. The melody of the music lost on him by the rigors of the demands imposed upon him. The tempered feeling that imbued him from this music held his whole while the half-scared, half-defiant selves fought out their battles within.

       Joshua Bell playing at the D.C. Metro Station

A man rested against the wall facing the violinist, he seemed to be enchanted with the melody. Looking once at his watch, he never looked back at it again enjoying the moment. He had musical ears. He remained through most of the 43 minutes of play.
The soloist rested in between pieces for a perfect measure and then resumed the thread of his offering. The teenage girl got up from her corner and walked to the soloist with tears streaming down her unwashed face. She left. The soloist watched her leave but continued to play and there was just the touch of a forlorn whine in the melodic pitch that lasted a few moments in his virtuoso performance.

       Johannes Sebastian Bach's Signature

    Chaconne, Bach's Musical piece for the Violin

He saw all this and wondered at the loss humanity witnesses every minute. But he was going to enjoy it a few minutes longer and take the later train to is destination. He would call his office and announce his delayed arrival. The melody enveloped him. He was one with it. He felt the waves come crashing onto him resisted by his body as they thrashed at him. He felt the rise and fall of the cadence, the change of pitch, the softened notes and those Legato ones that made you crawl within into a place of quiet with a soft blanket, a table lamp and a good book. As if awakened suddenly from this reverie there was a blue sky and a bright sun in his mental enrapture and then all was quiet. No music. He was no longer the king of his infinite space.

The un-repeating melody of Chaconne considered one of the most difficult of all pieces

“Where am I?”
“In the hospital.”
”What happened?”
You were brought in by ambulance from the Metro Station.”
“You are ok now.”
“What was wrong with me?” He said as his hand moved up to his head and he felt the bandage.
“You had a seizure and we discovered a tiny aneurysm inside of the brain that had a contained bleed. You are very lucky.”
I was listening to this man playing the most beautiful music on a violin. The sound was exquisite. I remember…oh!”
“I had an important meeting with my clients.”
“Your wife was here and she took care of that. She told us to tell you not to worry. She will be here in the afternoon.”

Photomicrograph of a dissected Circle of Willis with aneurysm

“Aneurysm?” He repeated mostly to himself. Then he asked if someone would ask his wife to bring his collection of music CDs from his home.
“What is that?”

         Diagram of the A Berry Aneurysm

“It is an out-pouching of the artery in the brain, usually in an area called the Circle of Willis where all the blood vessels branch in and out making a circle. This out-pouching is in the form of a sac with weak walls. It can be genetic or form as a result of atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and other causes. The rising hydrostatic pressure in the artery from high blood pressure can rupture the weak walls and cause stroke.”
He fell silent for a while digesting the information. “How common is it?”

                           The Circle Of Willis

“About 1 in 10,000 people have it.”

“So people are walking around and not knowing it.”
“Unfortunately that is true for a lot of things. But it is more about taking care of yourself with less stress and low blood pressure and contented life that prevents one from being a statistic. However there are a few rare genetically medicated cases where it forms at childhood from collagen vascular development.”

“So what did they do in there.?”

Photograph of the Brain with arrow pointing to the aneurysmal sac in the Circle of Willis

“They clipped the sac.”
“Seems oddly simple.” He mused.
“Since you are doing so well, you can call your wife from your bedside phone.”

That afternoon as the music played from his CD Player, it covered him with a sense of comfort like a soft blanket, one from his past that he had until he was 10 years old. He had to give up the tattered 2 by 4 feet of cashmere blanket because it became a brunt of many jokes from his family and friends. He had traded music for his blanket. Now it seems to bring in the same comfort. Even though the music from this modern equipment was good it did not translate as well, as full bodied, as deep as the one he had heard at the Metro Station. The richness of sound seemed to have been amplified in the confines of those moving hurried masses, the opening and closing doors and the conversations of the rush-hour traffic. There was a one-to-one experience. A richness in the knowledge that the music was for him and only him and yet it also was for others if they chose. That was a sound for a lifetime. It was a memory he would cherish.

That was also the sound that saved his life. Had he been in the train the medical help would have been delayed. Had he been at the high-powered meeting later that morning the aneurysm could have burst and killed him instantaneously. There were so many ifs, that no one could answer. But through it all, it was still the music. To have enjoyed that moment that had saved his life was a gift he would cherish. The sound of that soloist melody etched in his mind once again seized his being and reached his inner sanctum, his eyes closed propelling him into deep sleep. All would be well again. He had his music.

                    Antonio Stradivari 

The soloist at the Metro Station was a world-renowned violinist conducting an experiment to determine the value of value. He had played to huge crowds commanding $1000 a minute and to the Library of Congress and on that day he performed on a 3.5 million dollar 1713 Stradivarius Violin 
                               A Stradivarius Violin

to the lost masses, one of the most intense and brilliant musical notes of all time; Johannes Sebastian Bach’s “Chaconne”.

The mind that sees the frame for the art is blinded to beauty.

If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
Twelfth Night 1,1.

No comments:

Post a Comment