It has been a very, very long time since I listened to some of these songs. I can even remember some of the times I played these. Right now I am listening to Second Suite in F by Holst, which has four movements: “March,” “Song Without Words,” “Song of the Blacksmith,” and then “Fantasia on the Dargason.” I think I played this in an honors band that I was in with what would then become my college. It is a very odd feeling, I can literally feel parts of me falling away to dive back into the music. I can feel. These were some of the only times I let myself feel when I was a teenager.
You can’t just play notes on a page, well I mean you can… but then half of the point is gone. How you play something, the emotions you push through while playing, that’s what gives music life. That is what gives it meaning. I cannot play the Ticheli arrangement of Amazing Grace without wanting to cry, because of the emotion and softness I have to push into my notes. This is why I could never play trumpet for concert band, I was not able to do that. I could not, no matter how I tried, create the same kinds of emotion that were needed that I could do with a flute. Soft, delicate, dainty… words that are never used to describe me as a person. But the sounds I could make, that’s what they were. It was an alter ego of me, high above the rest where I was allowed to feel. I could hide it, because I was just playing music right? There was nothing there, I wasn’t spilling every “bad” emotion I was having into what I was playing.
People wondered why I was always spending as much time as I could down in the band room during high school. Well, it’s a pretty simple thing… I was learning how to live. I was learning to live without inflicting so much pain on myself because finally, I had a different release valve. Did it always work? No. It was not a miracle cure. It did however, lay some of the groundwork for what college did for me afterward. I did a bit of music in college, but I could no longer connect on the same level as I did before.
Listening to these songs I played before, most of which were played during high school and a couple were from college, I am able to calm down the beast that is my inner teenager. He remembers this. He remembers how to move his fingers and manage his breath for longer runs. He settles. He allows himself to immerse himself within the music that he is hearing once again. I have not been able to calm my inner teenager like this before. Which on one hand, I am very thankful I am getting him to settle but I’m also worried that it could be a calm before the storm.
I cannot remember where I played it, but I do remember playing “A Childhood Hymn” which is based on ‘Jesus Loves Me, This I Know,’ a song my one grandmother used to sing with me all the time. She really wanted me to be a good little church girl, or at least one who knew her form of religion. Oddly though, she’s one of the only people who doesn’t seem to really give a damn about who I married or how I present for the most part. Hearing that piece again makes me feel so small inside.
“American Civil War Fantasy” was a district band piece, I remember that much. I think it was Junior year because it was the same year we did Prairie Dances I believe. It was such a fun piece that let me combine my music with a historical period I liked quite a bit. I remember the energy from this piece, especially when the percussion section got to beat the living shit out of everything they had back there in an effort to show the battles. Directly after that, it becomes soft and sad as it then rolls into reconstruction. This was a piece that certainly made you feel like you were a part of something much bigger than you could ever imagine. Starting from the beginning, you roll through the tension, the build up of armies and the breaking of the Union, continuing into actual battles, the death and destruction but ending in a time of rebuilding of one Union. It is very, very odd for me to listen to this piece again. I think they had the flutes audition with part of this piece, because there was a lovely flute part within it.
I played a couple Percy Grainger pieces in high school but one of the ones I remember the most is three movements from his Lincolnshire Posy. That was junior year, second half of it because I remember the band director we had for it. I remember watching his hands as he directed, especially the second movement “Horkstow Grange” which is slow and sweet. It was full of little spots you needed to watch carefully for so that it was just one continuous piece of music. As it rolls into the third movement, which is actually the sixth movement of the full piece, “The Lost Lady Found” I can see his eyes bounce with his hands. This man had been a director for years upon years, and he fully embodied any and all music he did. Hell, he still does. I’ve played with him a couple times since then and he helped keep me on an even keel that second half of my junior year.
I wonder if I can open up my curiosity by settling back into that almost tranquil state I could enter. I don’t know if I remember how to let go in that manner. It took so much time, so much trust. Even though there was trust, there was fear. I could completely let go when basically alone in practice rooms. Mind you, that could go either way, good or bad. I had some of my biggest bursts of anger locked away in a practice room. Almost soundproof walls were a good way to hide the sounds of me punishing myself. I had four directors between seventh grade and senior year. Only two of them had noticed what I was doing and one of them was the old man who had seen it all. He was safe and so was the guy that he was replacing til the end of the year. They were safe, the other two never noticed. I could still play out my emotions, but I kept my pain more in check away from others. I had a lot of bruised knuckles senior year.
While in my current state, I do have those underlying urges and the want to sabotage myself. However, I think this is the calmest I have ever been with my teenager running the show. He is running on a lot of anger and bitterness, but once you dive under that there is an odd calm. There is this stillness that I have not felt in a very, very long time. It doesn’t stop my want to run away from everything, but it creates a still sense of being.
I might be able to stay curious. I’m unsure, but I might be able to do this part.