Adagio – A Musical Memory
I’m addicted to handwritten notations whether it be in music or in personal notes and letters. For years, eight in total if memory serves, I took piano from Miss Edmonds, a matronly spinster who lived in a grand Victorian with her sister also dwelling In spinsterdom. Their house bulged with big rooms and overgrown gardens and a long spindled staircase where would-be-virtuoso’s could sit and have a balcony-esque view of the June recitals which we prepared for all year.
In those days there were no public school programs for music so teachers like Miss Ellen, as we called her, would come to our school and teach us for a monthly fee of $9. In retrospect, I think my parents got what they paid for in the 3 or 4 lessons per week for the nine-month school year.
We learned to practice, to almost fully memorize our recital pieces, and to show up and perform. Our parents must have thought we were all musical as so many of us took lessons. Musical theory and critical elements like counting and such? Well… that was not much a part of our curriculum. In fact, in a recent discussion with a dear friend, it seems neither of us learned to count or learned theory at all.
In discussions with her as discussions usually go, we shared thoughts about our experience and mine led to “adagio.” That word triggered a memory when I was reading The Bridges of Madison County when it first came out.
Somewhere, inside of the breathing, music sounds, and the curious spiral dance begins then, with a meter all its own that tempers the ice-man with spear and matted hair. And slowly— rolling and turning in adagio, in adagio always—ice-man falls… from Dimension Z… and into her.
When originally reading these passages from The Bridges of Madison County the word ‘adagio’ immediately triggered an image of Miss Ellen and my music lessons. I am transported to Accomac Elementary, and it is fourth grade. From Domenzion Z and always adagio — I flop into Counting Purgatory on a tinny-sounding upright. Memory, at that moment, seemed to think I needed to remember Miss Edmonds? Memory, I think I problably thought, needed to get a life!
I hadn’t thought of that book or my short-lived music career in years. But having a discussion with my friend triggered this complete sequence of thought again. The link to the full passage from the book is a must read for further inspiration as the love-letter portion is poignant. I’m still annoyed, however, that one of my most beloved literary letter’s segments is marred by images of dear Miss Ellen looming large as the irony of the crescendoed interlude picked up this unlikely interloper.
What memories do you have from childhood that may have popped up at in inopportune time? What did you study as a child that recently came to the forefront, triggered perhaps by a word, a song, or conversation with an old friend?
I’ll share some fragments soon as I’m sure I can marry Miss Ellen to Dimension Z in some meaningful way. My hope is you develop a draft or completed work as well. I’m working on a poetry workshop for April and will post links here of interest. Stay tuned.