Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mozart and the Ineffable Priming

How silly to use the word “ineffable” and then to go a-yammering with words.'s what happened.

In 1980 (or thereabouts), I began to be “bothered” by classical music. Something was there in that stuff. It whispered seductions to me, but I was too rough and dull-brained to decipher the murmuring. I was also too stubborn to let it go. Something was there, and by god, I would keep listening, keep trying to understand, to become one with it.

(It would take another dozen years or so before that night, when Beethoven escorted me into a complete affective grasping of what great music is and what it communicates.)

Hard day at work. Then driving home. Car radio on the NPR station. To that regular afternoon program of classical music. Another Mozart piano sonata! And played again by Robert Casadesus, that light-fingered Frenchman.

It was all about the cascade. The pianist offered up the score with a delicate touch and tone. With verve -- ripples of notes, almost hypnotizing me as I drove through the Little Rock traffic. An inexpressible mood would wrap around me. I was getting close to real music but was still at arm's length from its deeper significance. I had not crossed over.

This ignorance is hard to describe. An attraction was there, but I didn't understand what I was hearing and experiencing. Those of profounder sensibility would say, “You're not supposed to understand.” But after my later Beethoven epiphany, I think they would be wrong. Later, I did understand, though that word is problematic. It's more like this: later, the music bonded with fibers in me that before had been merely burgeoning threads of significance.

The intervening years passed, and a few other pieces goosed the carbeurator of my curiosity, of my accruing response: Schumann's Symphony No. 1, Schubert's Symphony No. 8, Debussy's La Mer, Chopin's Preludes.

Mozart primed me with his liquid, dancing piano sonatas. And later, with Beethoven, my musical soul began firing on all cylinders.

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