Music is the language I learned to speak at home placing my pudgy toddler hands over my mother’s on the piano. It is the songs we sang when we didn’t know it was embarrassing not to be able to carry a tune. It is hard for me to listen to music and do… well, anything else, really, because I must pause, and tilt my head and prick up my ears like my dog does when I say the word “walk”. It breaks through the murmur of life, punctuating it with a language my soul knows from the roots of my feet in the ground to the furthest electrical ends of my frizzy hair.
Even so, music usually skitters along the surface of the mundane, the soundtrack to my thoughts for the day. Tonight, though, I was transported listening to a bass duo at a house concert. That is live music at its best—when the audience is small enough that the musicians can interact with each of us, and no one worries about making an impression. Chamber music with all of the intimacy that the word “chamber” hints at. Rollicking sound filling a large house with no artificial amplification—the wood frame of the house resonating the sound of the duo like a third instrument. We bob our heads, clap our hands, and sing along to tunes in languages few of us speak. Yiddish, Turkish, Russian… The singer/violinist admits she doesn’t know the languages she’s singing, but she has learned them through the song, the words as clear and meaningful as the voice of the violin itself.
And then… it is over. We glance at one another awkwardly afterward, flushed and embarrassed lovers, wanting to talk about what just happened but unable to articulate it. What did just happen, anyway? It’s hard to say because I’m not even sure where or who I was when it did. Our tongues still thick with the honey of centuries-old gypsy lyrics, we nod to each other and blurt, “That was good.” “Yes, so good.”