Sunday, February 8, 2009

TONE DEAF: Part Three

        Despite my hatred of piano lessons and relative indifference to music, as posted in Tone Deaf: Part One (Piano Lessons) and Tone Deaf: Part Two (The Missing Gene) somehow almost everyone I ever dated seriously or married was/is extremely interested in music. I wonder what a Psychiatrist would have to say about that. There have been far too many to write about here, but I will mention a few.

        Of course the first man in my life was my father, a pianist and church organist. He also became my piano (and later organ) teacher. See Part One of this series: Piano Lessons for more information on our relationship


        My first boyfriend, J, was a saxophone player in his high school band and orchestra. His family belonged to a conservative Christian sect and he was not allowed to listen to rock music, but he loved popular music and listened to it anyway. He just had to remember, before getting out of the family car, to set the radio back to classical music or to Christian radio. 
        We met on a blind date at the beginning of the summer just before I turned 16.  J was tall, handsome, and blond. He gave me my first kiss and I fell hard for him. But while I lived in a northern suburb, he lived on the southern side of the city, nearly an hour’s drive. When school started, his parents made him stop seeing me because I lived so far away and they expected J to perform at the top of his class during his senior year. His family’s extreme religious expectations would have eventually turned me off, I'm sure, but the break up from my first serious boyfriend was devastating.


        My first college boyfriend, D, was a French horn player and music major. He and his friends had a small combo in which he played piano. We rarely attended college social events because he was always playing for a school dance, a frat party, or a local wedding. He was involved in rehearsals and performances of the marching band and for the annual musical. He played his horn in a brass ensemble and the university’s orchestra. He often played piano accompaniment for vocalists at music recitals.
        Music majors were expected to practice every night in the music building’s practice studios and they had to attend every musical performance on campus. There were performances by undergraduate and graduate students, visiting musicians or orchestras, both instrumental and vocal concerts ---several each week. I started attending the concerts with D, not to hear the music, but because it was one of the only chances we had to see each other.
        In college, I was the only person in my Music Appreciation class who earned an A ---partially because of what I had learned from my hated piano lessons, and partially because of D’s help.
        I learned one valuable musical lesson from D. He taught me to listen to the lowest notes of music. If I listened to, for example, the bass, I could hear all the music above it. If I just listened to the melody, that was all I heard.


        Fast forward to my first husband D2. Although he was not a musician, he was extremely into rock music. Despite financial struggles, he often purchased expensive tickets for live performances. We attended a Led Zeppelin concert at the local stadium. People in the audience were throwing firecrackers into the crowd. When I was in elementary school, a boy in my school had blown off several fingers with a firecracker, so I knew the damage they could cause. I was afraid someone would lose a finger or an eye. I insisted we move to the highest section in the stadium, far above the firecracker crazies.
        Sometime later, we attended a B.B. King concert at a large municipal auditorium. The couple behind us talked throughout the entire concert about which kind of pipe they used for smoking marijuana. When others asked them to be quiet, they were told to f*** off. The guy was rather large and had a menacing appearance, so everyone let it go. But I was fuming. Why would someone pay good money to attend a concert, then not listen to any of it? Then some audience members started to light sparklers in the crowded seats. Finally, B.B. King stopped the show to announce he could not continue because of the fire hazard ---and finally the idiots put away the sparklers.
        We attended an Alice Cooper concert at another public arena. While most of the seats were tiered, we were on a flat floor on uncomfortable folding chairs. When the people in front of us stood on their seats, we could see nothing. It was Friday night. I had been on my feet all day ---actually all week ---teaching school. While D2 stood on his seat, I refused to stand up. So I sat through the concert and saw nothing. After that, I told my husband the next time he wanted to attend a concert, to buy one ticket. With the money he would have spent on my ticket, he could buy himself recordings of the artist and listen as often as he wished, because I had attended my last rock concert.


        My second and current husband, K, played classical guitar, which he had taught himself. He had taken voice lessons, studying opera while he worked in New York City. His job there was in a recording studio of the music department of a major university. Also, he had built himself a clavichord which he also taught himself to play.
        K listened to a classical music station or classical recordings. He rented opera videos from the library. I don’t have much interest in either classical or operatic music, but, as explained in a previous post, I don’t have much interest in any music. Willing to learn, I asked my husband to tell me the story lines of the operas he watched. Soon I began to notice a trend. After that, I'd walk into the room where he was watching or listening to an opera and I would ask, “Which woman dies at the end of this one?”  
        My husband claims the only time I seem to be interested in music is when some oldie comes on the radio and I get silly and start swaying to the beat while mouthing the lyrics.
        We have a huge detached garage. If it weren’t filled with tools and other junk, we could store five cars. At a secondhand shop, we found some old traffic lights. One is a stop light that is wired to flash green, yellow, red about every five seconds. The other is a walk/don’t walk sign which flashes between the two options. We installed both in the garage. 
        In order to entice me into helping him with a project in the garage, one night K turned off the classical music and cranked up the speakers on an oldies station. When we were finishing for the night, we turned off the overhead fluorescent lights. Neither of us likes to dance much, but when “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” came on the radio, he grabbed me for a twirl around the garage floor. With only the flashing traffic lights, it was a romantic moment, almost as if we had our own private disco.


        I called this piece A CAPPELLA, which means "unaccompanied." I thought it was an appropriate title because the men in my life (father, boyfriends, and husbands) have had to, for the most part, enjoy their music alone, unaccompanied by me.

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Please see my previous posts on this topic

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