Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lost and found, found and lost: the miracle of the Tube

This is one of those pieces I inadvertently tracked down through wonderful YouTube. I've been immersed in music lately, discovering those playlists of 148 complete symphonies end-to-end, many of them live performances with superb sound. I guess I didn't indulge before because I had a hard-and-fast rule: NO MUSIC while I was writing. Too distracting! My mind can't do two things at once.

But this writing doesn't matter so much (except to me): I write about whatever is at the top of my head (or over it!), and don't need to worry about some pecksniff of an editor picking it to pieces. It's wild and free. So maybe I CAN have music on while I write, because it isn't really writing, not like those miserable little 500-word blocks of text I had to turn out every week for newspapers.

This piece by Khatchaturian (an Armenian whose music straddles conventional romanticism and sexual/edgy/spicy/fierce/exotic Armenianism, with a dose of early-20th-century dissonance on the side) is one that I heard in my childhood, which whether I liked it or not was drenched with classical music. I was expected to be a musician, a violinist specifically, though I had little talent and no inclination. The fact that I went back in my 40s and took nine years of violin instruction is another story. 

My siblings were all vastly older than me, and always seemed to be coming home from university and Europe and stuff, and often they came bearing records. (And sometimes pot, but that's another story.) These were New Discoveries, things we hadn't heard before, outside the box of Bach and Brahms. Thinking back, there was nothing too spectacular about these things. Khatchaturian isn't exactly a secret, not with the Sabre Dance appearing on Ed Sullivan every week while Armenians juggled flaming torches. But this waltz, well. 

My brother called it Dark Waltz, and it would be right at home in today's climate of sexy vampires, Dark Shadows Redux, Beauty and the Beast gasping back to cheesy life, and Twilight. I searched and searched for the right version, played at the right tempo, as many of them are just too fast and miss the point: this is Armenia via Vienna, almost a wink or a trick or a parody of Strauss, with its lurking corners, sneaky dissonance and falling cadences. As a matter of fact, I have that queer feeling (did you know I'm queer? Neither did I, until this moment) that it is the SAME recording I listened to in my childhood. It's quite possible. Strange are the ways of YouTube, which to my mind gets better and better, so long as you ignore the Cretan-ish crap in the comments section. 

Things are within reach now. As far as I am concerned, I will never buy a CD again. I keep making discoveries, every day, and things from the past pop up and say, "HI!", with an idiotic look on their face. So I WASN'T hallucinating Clutch Cargo and his Pals Spinner and Paddlefoot, or Spunky and Tadpole, or I Married Joan (do-wah, do-wah!). It's all there, though I have no idea where people get these things, along with ancient Anacin commercials and even (selah, my Saviour) a rare clip of Milky the Clown bothering Little Nancy, the crippled poster child for the Whatever-it-is Pity Society in Detroit.

I mean, people must have vaults of this stuff in their basement. Hundreds, thousands of things, old TV themes like T. H. E. Cat (gifinated by me a few posts ago - what an amazing, elegant piece of animation!). Just stored? Do they come from musty old TV vaults? Or what? The mysterious provenance of them just makes it all better, I think. They seem to waft up from the past. Here I am again, only this time everything is different, and how. I'm not this bewildered little kid any more, but a bewildered adult with many of the same compulsions and dilemmas, with the same confusion as to why I am alive. 

I was assigned this, my life; I did not choose it. I guess no one does. But it does seem a heavy burden, and a long one, a long trudge through unknown territory. I savour all the discoveries I make, no matter how tiny.