Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike on the Arduous and Beautiful Process of Learning Music

Photo via guardian.co.uk

Excerpt from "The Music School," published in 1966-

From all directions sounds-of pianos, oboes, clarinets- arrive like hints of another world, a world where angels fumble, pause, and begin again. Listening, I remember what learning music is like, how impossibly difficult and complex seem the first fingerings, the first deciphering of that unique language which freights each note with a double meaning of position and duration, a language as finicking as Latin, as laconic as Hebrew, as surprising to the eye as Persian or Chinese. How mysterious appears that calligraphy of parallel spaces, swirling clefs, superscribed ties, subscribed decrescendos, dots and sharps and flats! How great looms the gap between the first gropings of vision and the first stammerings of percussion! Vision, timidly, because percussion, percussion becomes music, music becomes emotion, emotion becomes-vision. Few of us have the heart to follow this circle to its end.
R.I.P., John Updike, and thank you for following your writerly circle - with a tempo and cadence all its own- through to its end .

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