How’s that for a long gap between posts.
I’ve been listening to Snap Judgement on NPR, via their Podcast. Good show but the host is annoying. The stories are great. Real people telling stories, just awesome. I was going to send one of mine in but they seem to have enough content, I don’t.
When I was in university I really was having a good time. I loved my classes. They were diverse and I was anonymous. Political Science, Economics, History, geography and English. 30,000 students.
But as winter came and stayed, Christmas passed and we were firmly stuck in February I felt the creeping blackness creeping over my mind. Much as it is now which is why this story came to mind.
I was leaving my last class of the day and headed out to the cafeteria. I had no one to sit with so I grabbed a table on the side and just ate in silence. That may not have been the best course of action. I started to dwell on the fact that I had not met as many people as I would have liked, I was not doing as well in class as I would have liked and the sun was not as visible as I would have liked.
It was in this state of mind that I left the building and started the walk back to my rented room in a house. I had discovered a shortcut between two residences that knocked a few minutes off my walk so I headed that way. The night was cold, crisp and dark. As I made my way though the snow that had accumulated between the building I heard the most astounding thing, a violin. And it was playing Tchaikovsky. I stopped in my tracks and looked for where it was coming from. It was loud so it must be either outside or through an open window. There was only one open window so I stared up at it and just listened. He or she did an entire movement of his violin concerto. And then it was over. And I heard the window close. I stood there hoping, praying for an encore. But none was forthcoming.
I walked home in a much better mood. As I learned later the best way to manage stress and defeat depression is to listen to music, sit in nature and really just to take a moment to empty your mind and gain perspective. And that is what I did.
The next day I did not have any afternoon classes but I went to the cafeteria for dinner and sat with my TA from Poli Sci. Then at the appointed time I left and walked between the two buildings. My heart leapt for joy when I heart Mozart. Absolutely beautiful. I was not so well schooled in Mozart at the time to realize that whoever was playing was playing a piano concerto on the violin. But I didn’t care. It was live and alive and it moved me. And then again it was all over too soon. And I was left to walk home in the dark but I was now carrying a light inside.
My house mates started to get suspicious that I wasn’t home for dinner anymore as every night I would go back to campus for dinner and come back after 7 PM, snow or shine. They though I had met someone, and in a way I had. But I didn’t tell them. I wanted it to remain an audience of one. I thought that by sharing my secret concert I would wreck the magic.
Now not every night did the music waft down to my main floor seat. Some nights I waited until well after I should hoping the window would open. And it never did. But most nights it would. I soon realized that the night that the music was missing was every Wednesday night. So every Wednesday night I would skip dinner on campus as whomever they player was obviously had a night class. But I alway knew that my Tuesday night concert would have to tide me for two days.
It was my little secret and I am always amazed that no one else ever came to listen, or saw me leaning against the wall listening. It was magical.
My maestro was getting better too. An hour a day was making a difference. The playing became more bold, confident and then later inspired as they took liberties with the music and started to play. I was overjoyed in their joy in the music and always forgave any mistake they made.
Now I am no music aficionado. I am a useless player. I took piano lessons for years and never passed grade 1. But I could always recognize good music and good playing. My little orchestra was not world-class. In fact they were not proficient. I could hear the lessons they took but they had no latent talent. They did it because they loved the music and when they played that love shone through. To me that is how music should be played, by people who love music. And I loved they way they played.
And now we come to the crux of the story, when I go from audience to participant. The player gave me so much. Hope, peace, and something to look forward to. And I was taking and not giving. And when in April when the music started to die I felt cheated. The concerts started to get shorter, and sporadic. Sometimes they never finished the movement or switch pieces halfway. I was getting pissed off. This is not what I had come to expect. So one week there was only one concert and it was short and it ended with a growl and a slammed window. I went home feeling particularly jilted.
When I got home there was tension in the house. My housemates were at each others throats. And it dawned on me. While I didn’t get stressed out over exams, other people did. The lightbulb went off. My maestro was stressed. I felt incredibly guilty. Here I was expecting. No regard for the person playing that violin. So I decided it was my turn to give back. And the only thing a musician wants to be is appreciated.
So I wrote a note. Snuck into the residence, deduced where the room was and slipped a note under the door. It was addressed to “The Violinist”, and it read:
I am your shadowy fan. Every night I stand or sit under your window waiting for you to play. I have been listening since February’s darkest days. Look between the buildings and you will see a bare patch of grass attesting to my loyalty.
You play beautifully, with real heart, real emotion and you move me. You saved me during my darkest days and you will never know how much your playing meant to me.
In the last few weeks your playing has started to reflect the obvious stress you are going through. I feel the struggle you go through as the very violin you love fights you.
I just wanted you to know that it will pass, you will move beyond this small space in time and your music will return. And I will be there to listen. I think that whoever you are, you are a beautiful person because only a beautiful person can play so beautifully. Please continue, for the both of us.
I will be waiting, and listening and appreciating the magic thing that you do.
Your audience of one.
I snuck out the same way I came and went to class, went to dinner and then to my appointed place. The window was closed but I waited anyway. And waited and waited. Was today the day of an exam? Were they out studying? 8 PM and I knew that it passed the time for a concert but then the window slowly opened. I only briefly saw the hand that I always saw but I could never deduce male or female, big, small. And them Brahms, beautiful, beautiful Brahms. And I felt the tears well up. And the raw emotion poured out from the strings and bow. It was powerful and subtle and soulful and forceful. It was everything.
And when it was over I lamented that this or the next concert would be the last. May was upon us, exams were almost over.
There were 2 more concerts after that and then I never heard that violin again. I never found out who was playing and they never looked out the window to see who was listening. And perhaps it was better that way, the expectations were set very high.
But whoever that was saved me. And I hope that in some small way I saved them. And in the end, it was the music that saved us all.