I have to believe a Beethoven
string quartet is not unlike
the elliptical music of gossip:
one violin excited
to pass its small story along
to the next violin and the next
until, finally, come full circle,
the whole conversation is changed.
And I have to believe such music
is at work at the deep heart of things,
that under the protons and electrons,
behind the bosons and quarks,
with their bonds and strange attractors,
these strings, these tiny vibrations,
abuzz with their big ideas,
are filling the universe with gossip,
the unsung art of small talk
that, not unlike busybody Beethoven,
keeps us forever together, even
when everything’s flying apart.
~ Ronald Wallace
In light of the recent tragedy in France, not to mention the events of this past week here in the States and around the world, I remembered this poem that I had read a few weeks ago. It seemed especially poignant tonight, walking home in the cool night air, moon and stars overhead lighting the distant mountains. I had just been at a concert of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 – a beautiful work, reminiscent of lush pastures, celebrations of the harvest, and painted landscapes that matched the idyllic quality of the venue itself, placed peacefully within the Rocky Mountains. It seemed that nothing could touch us in this space of simply enjoying the music and living each sleepy, sun-drenched day at a time. I’m so happy here, and I’m reminded every day how incredibly fortunate I am to be in this place that doesn’t really feel like part of this world in crisis that we live in right now.
When I check the news, the world has increasingly become a place that I fail to recognize. I cannot believe, sometimes, the headlines in front of me, the heart-wrenching details that are both far removed and somehow also completely within my sphere of thought. I imagine these scenarios happening to me, to my family, to my friends – and my heart aches because the details that seem so far removed have the direct potential to become, in the shortest, most unexpected span of time, my reality, my friend’s reality, my family’s. And what to do then? How do we live with this knowledge? In what way can we thoughtfully empathize and yet acknowledge our own fear of the unknown, the unexpected?
I don’t have an answer for this. I don’t know what to say, except that I am trying to understand, even while knowing that I cannot fully grasp the same grief, the same hurt, and the same fear that the people affected in these tragedies must be experiencing. But my heart goes out to all of those in pain. In the moments while playing music here at this orchestra festival, I am thinking of you and praying for healing, hoping that somehow the work that I am doing will bring someone, somewhere, joy and relief. Such music has to be at work at the deep heart of things. There is beauty and joy in creating and sharing music together – it must be a way to keep us together, even when everything is falling apart.