When it’s past time to work on arithmetic — from monthly bills to the figures for my taxes — there’s no use having a story on in the background. I know, I’ve tried.
Music is precious then, for tuning my brain and distracting the parts that want to go off and play with something else (even my cello).
I love the scene in “The Adventure of the Red-Headed League,” a Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, when Holmes tells Dr. Watson that there is a concert coming up:
” ‘Sarasate plays at the St. James’s Hall this afternoon,’ he remarked. ‘What do you think, Watson? Could your patients spare you for a few hours?’
” ‘I have nothing to do today. My practice is never very absorbing.’
“Then put on your hat and come. I am going through the City first, and we can have some lunch on the way. I observe that there is a good deal of German music on the programme, which is rather more to my taste than Italian or French. It is introspective, and I want to introspect.’ ”
Those more familiar with the great Granada TV version of this story may recall instead Jeremy Brett as Holmes, telling David Burke’s Watson that they were “off to violin-land.”
Cello-land, of course, is near there, and I find an escape there from reliance on words when I’ve been working with them too long. Sometimes, introspection (introspecting, Arthur?) goes beyond words. That’s when music is valuable.
Some of the deeper expressions in my life have come from music — whether of joy, grief, love, or horror, there’s music that helps me express and contain what is beyond ordinary words. Sometimes the remembered emotion gets attached to music; I’m adding several pieces to that collection these days.
I’ll be adding to the post about The Harvard Dictionary of Music, too — it’s too valuable to get just one post.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
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