Life, Death, and Music

Up late, thinking about music.

Yesterday I sifted through the collected musical memories of one man, almost 80 years in the making. What did it all mean to him? Sheet music, the tools of his trade, neatly arranged in a dusty filing cabinet; kept in the dark for nearly a decade - since his passing. Each folio, each binder I opened, told me a new story about someone I thought I had known so well. From Brahms to the Beatles; the coronet to the clarinet; the mandolin and the accordion - he was always learning -always expanding his horizons - expanding his frame of reference. Old Czech folksongs, untouched since long before I was born, intermingled with hidden artifacts from a first love; this wasn't just his depository for work papers, it was where he went to dream.

How different is that, really, from my own stockpile? Being less talented than grandpa, my musical memory chest contains the recorded efforts of others - neatly organized in a library relic in the corner. Each drawer, when opened, reminds me of the days when all good news came in the form of a cassette tape: a new mix, carefully dubbed for me by a friend on her parents' stereo, or a gift from my brother. How those sounds made my heart race, and how those same sounds now make my mind race. Each familiar note, beat, and word causes a whirlwind of recollection - sights, sounds, smells, sensations - cascading over my emotions. Did he feel the same when he went into that basement and pulled out a favorite piece of sheet music – written notes that his musician’s memory, later to fail him, didn't even need in order to play? Did his mind's eye see good friends, long dead, or his first kiss as his gnarled hands plucked sweet notes out of his old mandolin? Did he just play so that he didn’t have to think of anyone or anything at all?

A time line of music, now packed into boxes, much in the same manner as the physical vestiges of his own lifetime had been packed away on that last journey.

Shall these memories live on somewhere else? Perhaps they will come to rest with another young musician, eager to learn - his parents looking with bemused curiosity at the dusty box of eclectic folios he had stumbled upon at the thrift store and hauled home. There is no way to be sure how it all will end, but now I will send them out. Hopefully this car load of boxed history will inspire new memories in new hearts.


Cycling Phun said...

Touching really. I had a good chuckle at the mix tape comment. Being a DJ in a past life I have a slew of old mixes on cassette I just cannot get rid of. Sure there are a lot of gifts that have warm out over the years, or have become lost, but something that personal and sentimental says something and that something is too much for me to just too much for me to discard.

yeahdog said...

Whoa nice! We keep a mixtape archive at our place, housed in an old library catalog cabinet. If there is anything you don't want, we'll take it from you. What kind of music did you collect?