With music through the night

THIS MORNING I WAS A CHAMPIONSHIP swimmer. A symphony violinist. Not performing/competing, actually, but enjoying the status associated with each.


I’M BEING TOLD OF THIS ORCHESTRA that performs without written music. For that matter, without rehearsal, either. Essentially, the musicians keep playing until they find the right key, and take off from there.


A LITTLE LATER, I’M OFF, driving somewhere – maybe cross country – and my unseen companion is the same one who had told me about the ensemble. As we’re talking, we become aware of some unearthly music coming from the car radio. Here we are, perhaps in Kansas when this happens. It starts out as an array of strumming and plucking – guitars, mandolins, and the like. Maybe Balkan instruments, or Indonesian, it doesn’t matter. There’s something shimmering to it, and unformed, as bowed strings enter every which way. Eventually we realize they’re trying to follow the conductor’s singing – here’s the melody, now develop it (a woman conductor; the effect is like Pauline Moon with the children’s choir at church). Suddenly, there’s an up-swell of cellos in unison as the magic takes hold.

The previous night, the jazz host played a large selection Joe Zawinul and the Weather Report, with their simultaneous solo improvisations, start to finish in each piece, which likely influenced the dream.


IN AN ARTS CIRCLE, TURNS OUT to be a rehearsal, and I’m given a part in an upcoming show. Maybe it’s my age, but I’m having trouble learning my part, especially the big solo, like a tenor, maybe. First performance, I get through it fine, lots of support from the rest of the cast, including some kids. Second performance, ditto. Third performance, though, I blank totally and finally look down to the conductor in the pit, who starts mouthing my lines. I more or less mumble my way through, like I’ve never seen or heard them before except that it suffices. (The maestro goes from being a Harry Becket English type to George Emlen.) I hunker down for the next night, step up and nail it, reveling in my high B-flat.

Could this be more a reflection of my worries as a writer than about anything musical?


AT A CONCERT OF LUSH, LATE Romantic orchestral score and then, maybe listening on the radio. At finale, applause begins slowly, weakly, and I’m perplexed, considering the level of playing and the power of the piece. But then it gains intensity, with bravos and other cheers – and three barking dogs.

Seeing-eye dogs, the radio announcer informs us, don’t bark when seeing another seeing-eye dog or hear barking.

Yes, applause, with barking dogs.

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