Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chanel N°19

It's not even 6PM and it's dark dark dark.

This only surprises me because somehow I completely missed summer.

I'm taking a short break from work right now and listening to my favorite movement from my favorite symphony: Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, the Largo movement.

I remember the first time I heard it - at music school. My string-instrument friends all played in the orchestra so I went to a performance. Students, you say? You are probably imagining something awful. It wasn't professional, certainly, but re-tune what you are no doubt hearing in your mind's ear. Their performance was surprisingly good. So much so, that I remember "forgetting" where I was. Instead of sitting on the edge of my seat out of nervousness for my friends on stage, I sat back and closed my eyes.

If you've never listened to it, do.

It's beautiful. It's complex overall, simple in parts, and sweet and triumphant and sad and wistful and happy. I listen to it frequently, but most especially in the winter. Maybe because it was winter when I first heard it.

I have this belief that innocence has a surprising ability to remain untouched. (Of course, I'm precluding all manner of dark innocence robbers from this statement). For example, you can tell a dirty joke - if it's understood, then you were hardly the one to mar that particular innocence. If it's not, well then, it's not, and innocence remains.

I was always a voracious reader. I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on. Which meant that as a small child I was reading books that would be considered shocking for adults. (Let's ignore the fact that my parents' library contained such variety). But what didn't make sense to me, simply didn't. And it was only upon rereading those same books when I was much older that I thought to myself "WTF?!?"

But this piece was different for me. And I'm not relying on memory here. I read it in one of my old journals the last time I was visiting my parents. When I first heard it, I was 14 years old. And I wrote, later that evening, that listening to it made me "feel... grown up, as if I had been in love - not just having crushes. And that being in love hadn't always gone well. And although I was sometimes sad, everything was still... ok."

Yes, laughable. Nothing is quite so pretentious as a young teenager.

But the thing that struck me as I was rereading that journal, was that I WAS struck. Not just because the music was "pretty" or "sad." It made me think outside myself and my experiences to date. Which I suppose all art is intended to do. So maybe it's just me, and that during a certain period of young adulthood, I had a surprising ability to remain unmoved, untouched by what happened around me. Except for the first time I listened to this piece of music.

Oddly, I'm now thinking of Chanel N°19. It had me at the first whiff. But I've never worn it because I decided that I wasn't yet complex and interesting enough to do so.

But maybe one day, I'll wear it and go to the symphony and see if listening to a world-class orchestra performing this piece makes me think of being absurdly young, as if life were just about having crushes and playing my piano and reading books I don't understand.

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