I sit outside a closed door through which I can hear my daughter pulling her bow across violin strings. Through another door a rich, young, slightly nasal girl’s voice sings out a soulful, jazzy tune. The teacher stops her now and then, trains the breath, posture, draws out more sound, more soul. I start to sweat. I’m there in my mind–I am the one by the piano, finding my voice again, and emotions rush in. It’s been too long. So many voices to listen to at home, have to stay in tune with them, the audio system and stacks of CD’s don’t get used much. And now the young’uns are making their own musical sounds, more and more. My guitar case has got dusty under the couch where it lives, my tenor uke the same.
I sign up for a weekly voice lesson, and prepare by digging through my dusty music binder, with its blue hand painted cloth cover pull out Joni Mitchell, Indigo Girls, Neil Young, Waterboys, U2, Crash Test Dummies. What do I still relate to? No more heavy angst, hedonistic living themes, just want to ask questions, make observations, celebrate, contemplate, sometimes long or mourn, and, yes, still preach on occasion. And of course loosen up. So maybe I’ll start with “Wish I had a river” by Joni Mitchell…no, I don’t mean what she means, so it’ll be “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Long time ago someone said must be about drugs–silver girl a needle. Lately I read that it’s to Simon’s wife, that line, who noticed her first gray hair. “Sail on, silver girl…your time has come to shine; all your dreams are on their way.”
I find and reread lyrics penned by college friends. See new meanings–I was so oblivious. I didn’t notice the person reaching out through those words…Was I really much of a friend at all? Fun times with guitar, homemade cheesecake, late night conversations about politics, science, religion, the nature of things. But I didn’t like to get too close to the angst of others, except in a philosophical sense. Just wanted to link arms and walk through it together, dealing sidelong with pain and trouble. Music, food and humor being key.
As my kids discover the deeper side of music, I hope they be more thoughtful as they connect, let those tunes and croons draw forth their own meaning. Write their own songs, get out there and share it. And I cringe when I hear them singing along to a spirit of, I’m trying not to say it too harshly, well, stupidity. I did my share of that, and at the same age. So I just ask questions, suggest, at times, they listen for meaning, look for lyrics and musical atmosphere they can in good conscience allow to be part of them. And they’re onto that, seeing things from different angles, separating false from true. Now as ever, I have to watch out where I let my spirit flow. It has to mean something, and it has to be true.