After a bit of channel-surfing, we settled on a PBS special, Live from Lincoln Center: The New York Philharmonic Orchestra concert. Still a little dazed and doped up from adventuring, I couldn't tell you all the details of this wonderful program of music – I was just enjoying it, not studying it - except for the piece at the end of the concert: Bolero, by Ravel, I think.
If you aren't familiar with this piece, I encourage you to find a recording and listen.
It starts simply, with a snare drum, a flute, and a sinuous melody which is repeated, over and over again, by one instrument after another. All the while the snare drum plays the same rhythm – I'm sure I must be getting the terms of the music tangled up, but you get the idea, I hope – and soon this same melody is layered upon itself – the same notes, but with each instrument repeating and revealing a different emphasis, a different fluidity, a different beauty in the melody.
By the end of the piece, the whole orchestra plays together, triumphantly – but essentially the same melody line, only of course, it sounds so different, so rich - yet still recognizable as that sinuous dance between the flute and the snare drum.
My husband John can't hear this piece without thinking of Torvill and Dean, the ice skaters who danced a perfect Olympic routine to this music, but last night I thought of something else.
Most of us do the same basic things every day: prepare meals, wash the clothes, the dishes, the dog; discipline the kids, pick up the house, pay the bills.
Like the melody, the litany of responsibility doesn't change a lot from day to day. It's how we play the melody – how we carry out the responsibility – that makes the difference in the music.
Last night, I was caught by the expressions on the faces of each musician as they took their turn interpreting the melodic line of Bolero. The musicians revealed their feeling with a lifted eyebrow, a shrug of shoulder, or a twinkling eye, but also in the intonation of the instrument, the timing, the slurring – all the ways musicians have of infusing feeling into the music they play.
How do we infuse our daily routine with feeling? Each of us “plays our melodic line,” and our music -- the way we “play” our days -- builds itself into the whole of our community.
Each of us contributes to the whole in our attitude, in the way we carry out our responsibilities – we're all part of the music.
Madeline Bruser's observation is helpful, not just in music, but in life: “When you feel overwhelmed by how much you have to do, take a few moments to remember your love for the music, and let yourself enjoy it as much as you can.”