Thursday, June 12, 2008

Early Music Snapshots

Until I learned to use my grandfather's "Brownie" Camera, which my mother kept in a drawer below the china cabinet, nobody ever took photos in our family, and the photos were almost never of me. I'm not quite sure, except for the yearly class pictures taken at school, what I looked like for much of my childhood. Since I don't have any photos for reference, I have "snapshots" in my mind of key moments. Most of them involve music.

My first musical memory was when I was sick in bed and had to miss kindergarten. I was not sick very often, but when I was it was kind of fun, because my mother would bring me things to play with during the course of the day. Our doctor would also come to the house, and he would give me a huge "Charms" lollypop to suck on, which would always make my sore throat feel better. On this particular day, my mother brought me the Hohner recorder that we ordered from an S&H Green Stamp book (I still remember the taste of those stamps). The recorder came with a book, so I taught myself to read music that day. It wasn't a big deal. I do remember digging my teeth into the wood of the recorder, which kind of ruined the instrument, such as it was.

My next "snapshot" comes from first or second grade. We had a half-sized violin in the house that my older brother must have started on. I really wanted to play the violin. I wanted to play the violin so badly that I used to measure my arm on that half-sized violin every week, and I would try to stretch my arm out so that my fingers would be able to reach over the scroll, but they just wouldn't reach. I knew that I couldn't play the violin until I was big enough.

When I was finally big enough my father gave me an "A Tune A Day" book, and I set off to teach myself to play the violin. The notes and fingers made sense at first. The note "B" was played the same way on the violin as it was on the recorder: one finger against the thumb. There is a mixture of elements in this "snapshot." There was the room in the house that we rented in Lenox every summer that had toy soldiers on the wallpaper where I propped up my "A Tune A Day" book on the desk. There was also my grandmother, who must have been visiting at the time, and the card game "Pisha Peysha" that we used to play.

My next "snapshot" is in the post I wrote about playing the Euphonium, after which the snapshots become more blurred and more complicated with the onset of particular circumstances of childhood. I chronicled some highlights of my early adolescence with my grandfather's Argus camera, which inhabited the same china cabinet as the Brownie (it is uncanny that pictures of these intimate instruments can be found on line), but it was stolen when I was around 15, and I lost all interest in photography after that.


Michael Leddy said...

Elaine, this is a great (and highly Proustian) post.

j said...

Hi Elaine:

Found you through your husband's blog. I remember Green Stamps, too. And I had an old brownie camera from my mother. Now I have a little pocket digital that I can take along with me- if I remember. Just snap whatever. When you look back at the photos, you're often surprised; so many things you forget. Proust notwithstanding. ;)

I love the "snapshot" from first or second grade.