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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: November 12, 2006 Archive

Short Ride in a Fast Machine

Posted at 10:32 AM on November 12, 2006 by Valerie Kahler

I was in a bit of an accident last week. After my truck was hit, I sat in the intersection for quite a while, doing nothing. Though many feelings shortly came rushing in, for a few moments I wasn't startled or scared or worried. I was just...still. It wasn't so much that I didn't know how to proceed, but that proceeding didn't even occur to me. It was, in retrospect, a curious sensation. It seemed like the part of my brain that processed/created/used words and sounds had closed up shop for a bit and all the information I received was pictures-only. Except for this.

That's what happened to be playing on the radio...and it's the one sound I remember clearly. Not the sound of screeching brakes or crunching metal - which is a good thing.

I remember almost nothing about the last car accident I had, more than 20 years ago...except that Billy Joel's Uptown Girl was playing. Even now, every time I hear Uptown Girl, a little snapshot of that first icy wreck pops into my head. I suppose Someday We'll Be Together will suffer the same fate.

I've been musing about this all week - how music provides such a strong anchor for memories both good and bad. Hearing Mahler's 4th Symphony will always transport me to the stage of Ardrey Auditorium in Flagstaff, Arizona, where I fell in love with Mahler. Whenever the American Adagios CD (Telarc 80503) shows up on my playlist, it's bittersweet because Mom listened to it over and over and over again when she was sick. Gabriel's Oboe/Vita Nostra (from The Mission soundtrack by Morricone), Pifa from Handel's Messiah, Marvin Gaye singing What's Goin' On, the Russian Orthodox chorale that introduces Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. For me, these pieces are eternally wedded to specific times, places, individuals - none I'll see again in this life.

Except when I hear the music.