Really, I tried to sleep in on my first day of vacation, but there is simply too much good all ’round, and most of it requires getting out of bed. It is like ripe fruit in the garden, and none of it forbidden, all of the wonder that is just here. It’s here and it is with you there, and it is the same thing, the same goodness that we share, and it is decidedly not “neither here nor there”; it is instead everywhere.
I did get some rest, and my dreams were thoroughly funky (I vaguely recall a few cardboard boxes and having to do something with them, not unpleasantly so, but that’s it), and I woke up and lay still for awhile listening. And I slowly stretched, and then I tried to close my eyes again and sleep a little more, you know, sleep past 4:13 a.m., but finally I sighed a “why bother”, and I got up. I got coffee, sat in Dad’s chair, mentally formed a kinda sorta framework for prayer, for writing, and for the day (the part that can be framed). I thought about exercising and getting something to eat, but it all can wait.
Now I am writing, and later I will wander around and find some free fruit.
I know that it is today, Monday, but I am still in Sunday for just a while longer because the smile that keeps returning to me this morning—the smile that I woke up with on today, Monday—is from Sunday. It is like a second serving of dessert, very slowly enjoyed, having tasted it once when hungry for it, and now savoring it this second time, letting it linger. And I am on vacation, so I can just sit here smiling, and let it linger as long as it lasts.
You should know too that I have a lot of crap in my life and there are major things I am dealing with, and this week, while on vacation, I have a list of three big items that must be checked off. But such is life, and we deal with it, right? And, the rest of it—which is most of it—is so, so good, that it’s actually easy. Yes, Lord, your burden is light.
Sundays help. That’s why I am still in Sunday for a bit, with my smile.
[I need to go do something really fast; I’ll be right back]
It wasn’t fast, but I am back. In Sunday and today now, I am in both of them, and it’s nice. I see such beauty on Sunday that it carries me for days. Indescribable beauty it is, really, so I shall not try here. Indescribable and inexplicable and at once earthy and unearthly, it is my soul’s comfort and joy. I have heard the silky smooth voice of an angel on a Sunday (once in a song), and I have seen the eyes of Jesus on a Sunday, and I have caught many glimpses of the glory of God on a Sunday.
And the Sunday of yesterday (although I am still in it) was no different. Yet it was different, as I knew that it likely would be, because of the ticket up there. It would either be different, somehow, or I’d die in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland, Oregon and all of this would still matter, as it does very much and ever shall, but it would be clear to me. You know, after “death” in a concert hall, I would see perfectly, and the indescribable and inexplicable would not be so any longer . . .
What a way to go too, in style: dying in practical ecstasy in ornate surroundings with a Grammy-nominated orchestra and three combined choruses on stage, and in the midst of a crowd of lovers of Music or music (or people with too much money on their hands) or even ignorant fools who scored comp tickets or those fortunate to have scored comp tickets but who are not fools, or people who are so pathetically bored with life that they seek distraction, or people who are simply with people who are any of the above, or I might even die there with someone who is one of the above, but is not in the concert hall, yet lives within the concert hall of life, or I could die there alone with only the Music. Any of those, and it would be a fine passing. So, either one of those would occur, or it would have to be different. And, you are reading this, so I have not passed into Clarity as of yet.
I have strong feelings about Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, feelings akin to those I have for Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos #2 and #3. It was early in high school, and more recently with an added and quite necessary and beautiful dimension of reverence that I appreciate Rachmaninoff, particularly the second movement of #2. Nothing at all has changed about that, except that it is deeper and more true, and it continues to fill me with delight.
With Daphnis et Chloé, it had come later. It was perhaps sometime in the mid 1970s when I first heard it, and that was high school, but then it became practically synonymous with a formative experience I wrote about in “From this day forward . . .“, written recently, but describing the experience that had occurred in the 1980s.
[If you just want to get through this post and move on, that is perfectly fine; I am just glad that you are here. But, if you actually want to understand the rest of what I am saying, you’d do well to click on that link up there, read “From this day forward . . .”, and then proceed].
Over the years (yea verily it doth seem to be both a long time and no time) I have listened to this music many times, and I “own” more than a dozen versions of it. I have never heard it live, however, until last night. On a Sunday.
The music is a sweeping, epic tale, a ballet, that needs no dancing. Ravel evokes it all as a unity of one flow, and as I have said more that once, “the music stands complete” on its own (without dancers). It is often performed in suites, most often the suite #2, because the complete ballet is nearly an hour long, depending upon tempo. I heard it in its entirety last night, and there are two versions below of the complete ballet as well.
The first is with the venerable Bernard Haitink and the students!!! of the Royal College of Music. I like several things about it: 1) they are students 2) Haitink is their teacher 3) the sound is very fine 4) it is an aural miracle that so much music can come from such a small stage 5) because of 1-4, and now with lights, crowded, after having practiced, and with mixed genders, and the challenge of Ravel’s score, and the adrenaline being produced by the weariness of that long practice and then the performance itself, you can hear a celebration of passion, hard work, bonds of friendship, secret romances and stolen kisses in secluded practice rooms in the back hallways, and then the music itself. Dear God, the music just flows from these students as a poem of love to one another and to the audience and to their master Haitink and to all the world. I know this; I have been there under similar circumstances, and that is how it is. Right now.
The second (audio only) remains my favorite recording of this work, among all that I own. I actually have it on vinyl, somewhere on cassette, on two CDs (one my original, one new), and a digital copy, downloaded at a high sampling rate. It is Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. When you click on the link below, then click on “Watch on YouTube”, you will be redirected to the video which begins with a brief ad. And what a small price to pay, what an amazing world, full of ripe fruit, not forbidden and free to pick, that we can click twice and be transported into the wonder of the music of this world and beyond. It just freakin’ stuns me sometimes, you know?
[I am sitting here now, not in Dad’s chair and not in that coffee shop. I am on a college campus, surrounded by quiet and thoughtful students, on the second floor of the student union overlooking a park. One entire side of this floor is windows, and I am looking down on five teachers and eleven (I think) three-year-olds who do indeed understand the finer points of free fruit. I wondered about using the word “freakin'” up there, but when I think more about clicking twice to be transported, and three-year olds, who, like us, may believe that they are running amok, but are always under watchful, deeply caring eyes, and I think how good it all is, I do weep and want to shout it to the world. In this quiet place up here, where even that cough from that girl just now seems almost obtrusive, I want to proclaim this wonder and glory, and I just cannot help but freakin’ weep. I thank God, the all-benevolent One, who gives all gifts and gives them graciously, and there is so much joy and so much wonder, and why—why in the hell—are there some who would take it from us? Why? As if by trying to take it, they could somehow possess it? It is theirs already! Poor, miserable souls, and I wish them well—I do—but they simply may not have it, may not rob me of any of it, because it is free, and I give mine freely. And I give it to you.]
Well, that was an excursus, so pardon me if you must, but I am not asking. If tiny tots and two clicks can move me, you now know why I might have died last night in Schnitzer Hall. Daphnis et Chloé evokes almost everything within me, and that has included, well, almost everything. But it has certainly included a deep, soul-deep longing, a mournful melancholy, a wistfulness, a practically plaintive plea. And circumstances are such that I know this about myself, and I particularly knew it last night, and I knew it months ago when I bought the tickets and weeks ago as this time approached and days ago when I knew it would soon be the day.
And so, days ago, I asked a friend of mine, a true friend, if he would pray for me going into this. It’s happened before, that longing has turned into gratitude, has been turned into gratitude by the Giver. I could have named one of my mail routes “Run Off the Road into a Ditch and Die, Lost in your Longing” or by God’s grace a specific day would come (yes it came all in a few minutes one day), when I could name it “Gratitude.” It is named “Gratitude” and that is what I asked my friend to pray. And he is the kind of friend who would say yes, and then do it. And he did pray it, and I am not slumped over in that seat in the lower balcony, yet to be discovered by a docent, especially that one older gentleman who has the wry smile and that certain look in his eye that lets you know he has already experienced many times what you are about to see, as you go into the hall to find your seat. He has already seen and heard even the finale, as he hands you the program with a kind, firm hand, and sends you on your way. No, he did not find me there, and I am grateful for that.
So, in addition to eliciting the aid of a friend, I steeled myself in my own way, for Daphnis et Chloé. After that percussion concerto, and then after intermission (and yes, actually I did pray in the crowded restroom—oohlala it is a “Men’s Lounge”), I took my seat again and the lights dimmed and the music began.
Daphnis et Chloé.
I eased back into my seat and closed my eyes . . .
[Crap, I thought this was going to be easy to write! I mean, I am on the home stretch of this post and was cruising along and you are still with me, and you already know that last night was just fine and so do I, but just reliving it briefly in order to write it down, ugh, it’s fully Monday now but I am back in Sunday again, except this time—Monday’s Sunday—I am weeping, crying actually, thinking about it.]
It . . . was . . . is . . . glorious. I opened my eyes and listened with them as well as my ears. The sound was beauty itself, of the same kind as the beauty of Sundays, the beauty that I see when a box is quietly carried or a table cloth is neatly folded, or care is shown one for another, or a very old person struggles forward to take communion, or the beauty of silent restraint when a shout is desired, or the beauty of a tear shed quietly in thankfulness or in that same longing, or even in sadness such tears can be beauty. The sound was of that same lineage, of the creator himself, from that Father who loves us as we yearn! to be loved and to love so freely,
I began to hear things in this music that I have never heard before, subtleties that I had missed on any recording, even if all of my dozens were combined. And you should know that tucked away in storage I have a fine system for playing recordings: Magnepan speakers, a Thorens turntable with an Ortofon cartridge, an Adcom amp, an NAD pre-amp/tuner, an NAD CD player, all connected by Audioquest cables. I have heard most of anything that can be captured by a recording, and in Schnitzer Hall I was hearing more. It was joyful to a degree that I just surrendered to it. To the music. To Music as a gift, and to her composer as the giver of gifts.
There is a point in Daphnis et Chloé where the music ascends in tone and emotion and it is the very place in the score that the Light was revealed to me (if you have read “From this day forward . . .” then you understand) and I knew that the moment was coming and I have never once heard it without some tears and I had not yet actually shed any tears. It was all just joyful, and I was smiling. For forty minutes I had been smiling that same smile, the one that continued into my sleep and the same smile I awoke in this morning and that has now returned throughout this Monday with its Sunday. But I knew that we together, all of us, were almost there in the Music and in Daphnis et Chloé as well, and that I would be what I am and feel what I feel and do what I do with the music, and that I might weep, probably pensively and maybe miserably.
And then it began: that slow ascending crescendo, wonderfully slow. Thank you Carlos for stretching it just a bit and drawing out the anticipation . . . . . . as the chords begin to rise in fifths. Once . . . and then again . . . and again and again and again and again and again and again . . . to an ecstatic resolution . . . and then . . . the fade into calm.
And I wept, with buoyant joy, and as I told my praying friend later, with nary a trace of all the other.
I knew last night (Sunday is still here, even though Monday is almost over), that Daphnis et Chloé has finally changed for me, and I know how. It is the same as it was for Christmas, and then for Easter, and now for this music. These things have been with me for all of my caring, thoughtful years, but they have meaning for me. They have a depth that I have indeed been seeking and for which I have yearned, and that depth has brought with it a richness and a kind of maturity in grasp, while retaining a childlike wonder and acceptance (I hope and believe) that has become a gift within a gift. Complex gifts they are, and yet so simple, sweet, and tender.
And they are like this music: grand, epic, sweeping, majestic, sensual, victorious, so lovely, evocative, ecstatic, and calm . . .
Listen to it all, if you can, or start at around 46:05, just before the ascension, if you must.
Or here @ 43:50:
You may or may not close your eyes, but please don’t die.