Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I Can Hear His Fingers Squeak
My older brother is a lot older than I. His march to manhood always appeared only on my horizon. He was gone from grammar school before I began it. Graduated from college before I started High School. My admiration and affection for him approached that one reserves for an Uncle, or a Father. There is always a kind of awe mixed up in the regard one has for your older relatives.
My brother is a real musician. I've always banged out pop music for grins and giggles - and money- but I never took it seriously. My brother was a musical scholar, while I was in the back of class, passing notes. And bad puns like that one.
When I was very young, he took up the Spanish guitar. He'd listen to records like that Segovia, and Christopher Parkening; and he'd have sheet music for lute laying around the house. It might as well have been Homer in the original Greek to me. Until he played it.
There is something about being in the same room, intimate, with musical instruments being played. It's completely different from listening to recorded versions, no matter how good the apparatus becomes to deliver the recordings.
There's a sense of danger. You wonder the whole time: Can he do it? No matter how many times he managed it, you knew he was always taking a chance of failure, the mildly embarrassing tableau of running out of gas partway through. My brother rarely did. Look at Segovia in the video. He's very old, and his physical tools are obviously diminished. The chance he takes grows profound. He will be compared to himself when he was young and strong. Perhaps it is as important to say: Here is how an old man plays. This is what is in his heart, and his hands might falter but his spirit is not dimmed. What I think trumps what I can do.
We'd visit my aging grandmother and numerous aunts in the 1960s. They lived in rapidly aging triple deckers in sketchy neighborhoods in Boston. I felt as though I was traveling back through time a bit. And eventually my father would say: "Let's have a song." My brother would take out his spanish guitar, and a bit of Scarlatti or Vivaldi would wash over us as we sat in a little semicircle around him. There was a man -barely- that could bring a smile to a hard face. There was a vehicle that suspended a person's cares for a quiet moment, and transferred them to another's fingers. And those cares were worked out for a few minutes; and you knew that any world was not a malign place, that had music in it. And a musician.
Asturias. My brother sent it to me. It reminded him of Segovia. Segovia reminds me of him.