Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Edith Piaf and Vivaldi: I am Waiting for Spring

I’m waiting for it to get warm, for it appears that it is still cold. I am waiting for the day that my hands stop bleeding from this perpetual cold and I can shove them into the earth that is my garden and they’ll come up warm and covered with dirt.

But for now the ground is frozen, the poor worms.
And all I can do to stay warm is to curl underneath quilts, drink red wine and listen to the sultry voice of Edith Piaf.

Once when I was in middle school I had to do a listening assignment for music class. We were told to listen to a piece of classical music and write what we heard. I wrote that while listening to Vivaldi I thought that it really did sound like spring. I wrote that I could almost hear the crocuses and tulips poking through the ground and I could see the birds flit from tree to tree.

I got a D on that paper.

Apparently my music teacher wanted us to write what INSTRUMENTS we heard, not the vivid imaginings of life that were evoked from the music.

I still think that Vivaldi chose a very good title for his piece called “Spring” and perhaps it was because of the discouragement of my middle school music teacher that to this day I continue to enjoy describing music in non-musical terms.

Perhaps it was what got me to the point of thinking that Edith Piaf’s Volume III on vinyl sounds like warmth –it sounds like a hot Paris basement bar, where the walls are made of sweating stone and everyone sitting at little tables seems to be drinking big pitchers of warm sangria, filled to the brim with sun kissed fruit.

Okay, it may be unfair of me to evoke that image, because I did actually hear an Edith Piaf record played in a hot Parisian basement bar where the walls were made of sweating stone and everyone sitting at little tables was drinking big pitchers of warm sangria filled to the brim with sun kissed fruit, but that most certainly was not the first time I heard Edith Piaf. When I did hear Edith for the first time it STILL evoked that image for me, so much so that when I finally was listening to her in Paris in that oven of a bar, I thought that the sangria had gone to my head, because the coming to life of my anti-music-class-listening-assignment-images was so synchronistic.

Sometimes I find it difficult to describe music in musical terms. Music can be complex, and an attempt at pigeon holing it into one genre or another, or even four overlapping genres can leave out crucial aspects to it. I could easily call Edith’s music a combination of gypsy-French-cabaret-pop, but that would exclude far too much. Edith’s music is like being at the top of a Ferris wheel at a carnival in the center of Moulin. Edith’s music is like a day you spend alone in the city, spending your money only on bouquets of flowers –for yourself. Edith’s music is like when everyone inside is wearing feather boas and sleeveless dresses and everyone outside is wearing wool overcoats and scarves. Edith makes me warm.

So until it gets warm I will listen to Edith, and as soon as it does I will swap in Vivaldi and while I shove my fingers into the earth he will be the perfect accompaniment to the wriggling of the worms and the budding of the trees.

Take that music teacher! (She was just a substitute anyway.)

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