i usually can’t even remember a fraction of a refrain.
those first few notes are warming. and i think, “oh, yes. exactly. this is exactly it.” and the rest of the music is memory after memory as the progression folds out before me, as each modulation of the melody returns to me.
don’t let me pretend i really know anything about the history of music, but i’ve had a very long love affair with tchaikovsky’s first violin concerto in d. at sixteen i listened to the first movement every afternoon. after having come home from school, i watched the sun set in the west from my bedroom window and i listened to tchaikovsky.
even if you can only remember a few bars from swan lake, you know tchaikovsky can be dramatic. sentimental and sweet then suddenly tragic. this concerto swings back and forth, walking a fine line between each. the reach of the sweetest arpeggio suddenly turns into a minor chord, a saddest underscoring it all. petite violin solos puff and swell into the full-throated rejoinder of an orchestra.
maybe that’s why i liked it as a teenager: i liked how dramatic it was. i liked how the darker side of the melody could match my melancholy and then suddenly stand at odds with my mood all together. i liked that the loneliness i felt in that music, undertones of sadness despite the plucky phrases that supported the composition. i liked loosing myself in thought, sitting on a stool by the the window, the sun setting in line with my bedroom window. i liked thinking about myself listening to this music every afternoon; i liked building this image and ritual for myself.
now, this music functions on a different level for me. the concerto is precious to me. when i hear it again, not only does the long walk through the movement’s architecture map itself in front of me, but all these teenage emotions and memories compound themselves up, turrets and walls and great halls and hidden passages. i recognize the melodrama of the composition now. more mature, my relationship to the emotion of the movement has changed. i can take a step back from its swelling emotion, its bipolar shifts. i can think about it more objectively.
lovely, i can leave this for a while, then come back for its key, press play, and let the music construct again my memory.