Music is my oldest friend. Life has ebbed and flowed, changed me so much that I hardly recognize who I used to be. Friends and family have come and gone, moved in and out of my life, died. But music has always been there.
A number of threads make up the tapestry of my life — and woven through it all is music that has stood the test of time. Groups, singers, popular and folk music — they all have their place. Some of them have moved me to tears, woven their way through parts of my life. But the music that supplied the underpinning of my whole life has been around a lot longer than all of them.
The first sounds to move me were the old Polish folk tunes and dances that I heard at home, on the piano, the accordion, and sung around the piano. Through them, the minor mode always had a power over my emotions that major-mode sounds can’t duplicate.
I learned to play those by ear when I was 5, but once I started learning to read music, at 7, I discovered that those old guys — like Chopin, Schubert, Mendelssohn and all the others whose company I enjoy — all wrote down secret messages to me! Okay, not only to me — but they tell me, in their own words written on their music, how to play the notes they wrote. Their suggestions in this secret language come to me over the centuries, and help me understand how it should sound. Magic!
Music has always been my solace. When I was a teen and things got tough between my mother and me, I’d retreat to my piano, often for hours, and pound away my frustrations. When adult life ganged up on me, the piano welcomed me and listened patiently. My survival, my sanity, has often depended on it.
What do you do, to survive life? I find that next to a journal, a piano or other musical instrument is the best therapist. Working on a Chopin Nocturne, figuring out the sounds, the fingering, how it should sound — how he wanted it to sound — can take you into what the modern media call ‘the zone,’ or ‘the flow.’ Once there, cares, problems, trauma cease to exist. Or rather, they exist outside the universe you’re now in. Outside your zone.
My son often mentions in his interviews that state of flow that he gets into when he’s free-soloing. And although my daughter doesn’t often talk about it, that ‘flow’ is most likely the reason she can’t seem to live without running. It’s compelling, addictive even — but in an oh-so-healthful way.
As I get older, climbing and running will no doubt fade away. But music, my oldest friend, will always be there, my one, immutable solace, always ready to listen and give counsel.
What more could you want from a friend?