Sunday, May 29, 2011

New music makes me sad

We've been listening to several homeschool convention speakers whenever we travel in the car lately, and yesterday Megan (5) asked if we could listen to some SONGS instead.  So today I flipped over to some Beethoven, and was surprised that the whole crew listened without comment.  The last time I tried classical music in the car, the situation was mutinous.

Later this afternoon, I began humming a line from the piece we'd been listening to, and to my surprise, Aaron (11) said "is it just my imagination, or was I just thinking about that a few minutes ago?"  Onto the computer I went, clicking open my music program and starting the song in question.
"This song?" I asked him.
"Yes, that one."  So I let the piece play, and once again, classical music filled the air without any complaints from my children.

There is a danger, however, in playing any piece of classical music around me for very long.  Inevitably, it leads to me thinking about my long, lost music collection...and I grieve.

In late 2001, we moved from Louisiana to Indiana.  I lovingly packed up my 250+ tapes, that I'd hauled from New Mexico to college, back to New Mexico when I got married, through two moves in New Mexico, to Louisiana, and through two more moves in Louisiana.  Somewhere along the way, I'd begun to collect CDs, the "new" music medium, but the tapes were listened to as much as, or more, than the CDs.  I moved them to Indiana, where they waited for over a month while we looked for a house.  They were one of the first things I unpacked.
Somewhere around 2003, the last tape player in the house died.  The tapes sat unplayed for months until the day I did a massive cleaning in anticipation of the birth of our third child.  Once again, I lovingly boxed them up, and I stored them on top of the laundry room cabinets.  Not out of sight, not out of mind, but out of use, at least for the time being.
We moved to our current home in 2006.  It took us two weekends to move out of our previous house, but that was partially because a good portion of our belongings were being stored in my sister-in-law's garage, so we essentially had to move out of two separate places.  We packed, moved and unpacked what we needed that first weekend, and went back the second weekend for the rest.
I very vividly remember crawling on top of the washer and dryer to empty the laundry room cabinets and to fish the boxes of tapes off the top.  I know I put the a box.  Which one, I don't recall so vividly.  That was the last time I saw them.
At least once every six months or so, I go a little crazy in missing them, and tear through every still-packed box left in the house.  All the boxes in the basement, all the boxes in my room, all the boxes in the garage.  I untape and open every single one.  Even the ones that I know don't have my box of tapes.  It's been nearly four years, and I've almost resigned myself to the fact that the tapes are gone.  Whether they never got packed, or were mistakenly thrown out, or left at the curb or put in a pile destined for Goodwill, I'll never know.  All I know is that they're gone, and I'll never get them back.

Among the missing...
  • The recording of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, given to my by John Reno.  John was a surrogate father to me throughout high school, and this particular version was directed by his brother Phil.  This tape opened up the world of Broadway musicals to me.  I've tracked down four different recordings since then, but none of them are as good as that first one.
  • The complete symphonic recording of Les Miserables, including the libretto (the little music book with notes and lyrics).  Three tapes in all, and I listened to this one so many times I'm surprised the tapes would still play.  I'd never seen a live musical yet, and when I finally did see this one, it was just like I'd imagined it.
  • Following the theme of musicals, I'm also missing my tapes of Grease (both the musical and the movie soundtrack), Miss Saigon (complete London recording, with Lea Salonga), Aspects of Love (which has beautiful music and a terrible story) and many more.
  • And in the theme of movie soundtracks, I had nearly every Disney movie soundtrack, even the live action movies like Newsies.  Soundtracks from the Disney animated movies filled a large section of my collection: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The ORIGINAL Fantasia, and The Lion King.
  • My classical collection - what started this post - is what I miss the most.  Let's say I had unlimited funds and could replace all these taps.  Well, with my classical collection, I wouldn't even know where to start in reconstructing it, because I don't know classical music by name, or composer.  I only know it by tune.  
Let me explain.

I grew up as a Suzuki violin student.  For those of you who don't know about Suzuki, here's a quick summary: You learn to play by listening, just as you learn to speak your native language by hearing it.  I didn't learn to read music until I was in late elementary school, after I'd already played the violin for 6-7 years.  I wasn't proficient at reading music until late in high school.  But starting in sixth grade, I played in one of the highest-rated youth orchestras in the United States: the Albuquerque Youth Symphony (AYS).  Since I wasn't all that great at reading music, and we had to learn three full programs every year, I ended up with a LOT of classical music.  Every time we received our new program music, I'd beg my parents to go out and purchase me tapes of the music we were playing, so I could learn my part.  4-5 pieces of music per program, times 3 programs a year, times 7 years equals nearly 100 tapes.  Add to that 4 years of All-State Music Festival in high school, during which we learned another 4-5 pieces, and a year that the AYS was invited to play with the New Mexico Symphony; I probably owned 120 tapes that had been purchased so that I could learn one of the pieces on each tape.  I learned the majority of that music knowing what it sounded like.  19 times out of 20, I couldn't tell you the Title of the piece or the name of the composer who wrote it.

Another set of tapes that is forever lost to me are the live recordings of the high-school AYS and All-State orchestra performances.  Those probably aren't all that great, and I rarely listened to them.  But they were a sign of accomplishment - something I could point to and say "I played that" (something I often tell my husband when I hear a piece of music on TV or in a movie).  There's a piece of my history in there, and now it only lives in my memory.  

That is, unless I happen to unearth a box that has previously eluded me, and rip off the packing tape that seals it shut, and discover the treasure trove that I've mourned the loss of many times over.


  1. I completely understand ... mine was All State choir performances ... funny though, my mom has hers on records.

    Delighted to meet you today. I hope you don't mind if I splash around a bit to get to know you. This looks like a refreshing place to dip into some serious goodness.


  2. I'm glad you dropped in Sarah. Welcome to my little corner of the world! (My mom has her All-State orchestra performances on records too!)