Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Poetry: Musical Interlude

ta tum ta tum...
the notes are so clear, life is clear
they are so simple, life is simple
they take my whole attention
they take me out of me and into a place where there is only the music,
swirling around and up to the sky,
taking me up to heaven on its tendrils of featherdown
I have been still in anticipation
I have been immobile in letting fall away everything inconsequent
and now in the music I cannot but move,
slightly at first, fingertips timidly moving to the tune
then hands flying like birds
to the ends of my arms
my whole body joining in in the dance of the music
and when it ends there is peace, and a quietness, and an empty space where the music was, space to live in again.
The tune is Planxty Fanny Power, by O'Carolan, the dulcimer version Sally Rogers played on her 1986 album, In the Circle of the Sun.
I first heard this piece in concert, as a college student discovering live music for the first time. I was astounded. Sally's voice is clear and perfect, her unaccompanied songs are glorious; and she's a consummate musician. But when this instrumental came up it swept me away.
The thread is simple and elegant. The music comes around in four broad circles with a bridge, like something you'd sing. But the playing is so intricate and detailed it's incredible it comes out of one person's two hands. Every time I hear it, I just have to put down what I'm doing and go along.
There's an annex story that goes along with this song. It's perfectly set up to serve as a wedding march, and the only part of my wedding ceremony that I really cared about what happened (aside from the getting married itself, I didn't care who wore what, or who sat where, or what Tim's mother thought of the man of honor's pony tail (did it make him more of a maid of honor, or less?), or for any of that stuff, even the vows we left so to the last minute that we just went with a standard - and very nice - bit that our friend judge Martha had in her files), was that we play this song walking down the aisle past family and friends.
Our DJ friend Monty in charge of the music ran through it a couple of times in the house, working out when we should start walking, how fast, and all. It was perfect for a garden ceremony in July. Its simplicity was the perfect complement to our simple decorations and my cotton dress of eyelet lace sewn by my mother.
We were having something of a heat-wave that week in Saint Paul. The days before and after the wedding, temperatures were in the upper 90's, but the day of, it was a mere 88. As at many weddings, our schedule was tight, and the photographer wanted his time, and our friends were putting out chairs and filling the helium balloons, and the guests were actually starting to arrive when we decided we just had to - finally - practice the march before it was impractical. So we got in our positions in the back yard. Monty put the record on the player.
And it melted.
It hit the oven of the covered turntable and just turned to liquid.
So I didn't get my special music at my wedding. We did come up with a last-minute stand-in. Bach's Joy of Man's Desiring, on cassette, a beautiful piece in its own right. I don't think anybody was the wiser among our guests.


Rachel Fox said...

A while back I went to a concert by a Spanish band called O'Carolan who play pretty much nothing but his music. Brilliant.
Now I will have to look up Sally Rogers.

Totalfeckineejit said...

What a great wedding story NanU,what were the chances of that happening?I've never knowingly heard this piece of music but now my appetite is whetted, my curiosity piqued, I'll have to find it and have a listen. Is that here comes the bride at the start of the poem? Love these lines
'there is only the music,
swirling around and up to the sky,
taking me up to heaven on its tendrils of featherdown' and the empty space music leaves us so that we can live again.Music certainly has powers, what a great poem,thanks for joining in NanU.

Titus said...

Loved the poem and the way you describe the music's effects on you as listener. Loved the last line.
The wedding story is priceless! Thanks NanU.

Dominic Rivron said...

"my whole body joining in in the dance of the music..." It's a fantastic state to be in. I often put music (all sorts)on full blast when I'm alone and start dancing to it. It's visceral stuff.

I read or heard once that the composer Michael Tippett used to test his tunes by dancing around his studio while singing them.

Dave King said...

I was just enthralled by the whole thing.

Reya Mellicker said...

Love the new banner pic. Looks like you dropped the bike and ran inside for cookies and tea ...

Also love hammered dulcimer. That sound is heavenly.

the watercats said...

Beautiful poem and beautiful memory.. sorta, lol! I can only imagine heat hot enough to instantly melt a record!.. wow!... I'm also going to have to source the piece you write to, sounds enchanting!