Sunday, January 23, 2011

Essay: Mama Mia Mozart! (From my PNW Author blog)

Mamma Mia! Mozart and other Goodies
A Musician Rediscovers Classical Music

“I played all types of music for all three of you when you were children,” boasts my mother, “even the highbrow music.” And it’s true, up until about the age of 10, when I rebelled and would listen to nothing but rock and pop, I had heard jazz, Latin music, classical music, Broadway show tunes and children’s songs. At school, though our district had little funds, we still experienced a solid music program. And I took pride in naming instruments correctly when the teacher would play samples from each of them. I relished the idea of orchestras filled with so many unique voices and how they all fit together.

But by the time I was in high school I had forgotten all about classical music in the favor of rock music. I was familiar with Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin and all the big name composers, but I knew so little about them. I didn’t realize then, that they weren’t just historical figures placed on a pedestal for society to drool on, but were real human beings who felt the same things that I felt as a teenager and of course, now.

By the time I was preparing to attend university, I told my mom and a friend of her’s that I couldn’t stand listening to classical music, that I had no room in my life for it. Then I took two classes at college featuring classical music. One day on a break, I shuffled through my mother’s classical records (yes, we had records back then), and I placed Claude Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun” on the turntable. I nearly fainted. The music felt so familiar to me and it swept over me leaving me in that timeless place of enchantment. “Wow, so this is classical music?”

Then I played Felix Mendelssohn’s music for “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and then Peter Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” which incidentally was the same music that played on my mother’s musical jewelry box. I realized that classical music was familiar to my ears, mainly because it played in the background of many cartoons that I watched and had watched in the past. I didn’t know my mother played this music for me when I was in the womb or as an infant.

What I didn’t know then was that by the time I reached my late 30s, I would walk away from rock and pop music, embracing the world of classical music (not just European), to heal myself. And I found plenty of evidence both in the metaphysical and scientific fields boasting the healing power of classical and other types of music. Nor did I know that I would become fascinated with musical composers of the past and how they viewed the world and how others of their time perceived them.

Patricia Herlevi, 1986 photo by D. Cuizon
Last night I woke up with a sore throat, which I had fought on and off throughout the day. I made myself a cup of slippery elm tea and listened to “Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto K622 in A major” through my head phones. I visualized Mozart’s face while I listened to the music and I felt my body’s vibration rise–I felt loved by the music.

Now, I wonder if musical composers such as Mozart who was Masonic played around with metaphysical ideas. Did he know that by combining certain instruments, composing in specific keys (he favored A major) and building musical architecture would result in healing music? Did he know about quantum physics before the rest of us or that musical vibration is energy that can either heal the body through harmony or cause illness through chaos or dissonance?

And what did Bach, Beethoven or Debussy (who was known to dabble in the magical side of life) know about the power of music? I’ve read enough scholarly biographies on the composers that mainly delve into the personal lives of the composers and then toss music theory at me, as if that means anything to me. But what I want to know is what these composers were thinking at the time or even feeling at the time when they composed the music that we now find healing.

Most composers suffered from serious illnesses. Could they have been composing music as a balm for themselves? What about Debussy when he was fighting a battle with cancer or Mozart who died of TB and who knows what else at the age of 33? And perhaps Beethoven composed with such extreme dynamics because he was losing his hearing and he felt angry, helpless, but still hopeful about his situation. So through the compensations these composers made, they ended up creating something that would heal others down the line.

And should we discern when we listen to classical music? Is all of it healing or just the music that had healing thoughts behind it? Is the music of Wagner healing? Some experts say yes, but I have my doubts. How can music composed by an arrogant, even meglomaniac act as a healing balm? Or was there a side of Wagner that has been kept hidden from us, a more vulnerable side in need of deep healing and his music could have provided that for him?

But getting back to my mother who was ahead of her own time and instinctively knew that playing music for her unborn children as well as, for their developing brains would prepare them for life. Perhaps this caused an addiction for music in me or just led me on this wonderful path of discovery. But I would not have survived this long without music. And I have returned to my origins in a way, and now classical music comforts me in the middle of the night and sings me back to sleep.

Mamma mia! My mother was right. Mozart and the others can bring healing and we as a planet, can certainly benefit from that now.

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