Before I left São João del Rei I went for another little walk and came to a church where a wedding was taking place. The church was full and outside people like me were rubbernecking and taking photos of the service. The bride and groom were at the alter standing stiffly as the priest said those priestly things. Suddenly everybody stood and I thought it best to walk away so I went outside into the bright sunlight and walked around the side into the shade. A door was open and I walked in. Music started to play, I think it was a quartet but I couldn’t see but what they were playing unexpectedly me cry because it was Clair De Lune a piece my mother frequently played when she could still play. It made me cry because of how she is now, because when I speak to her on the phone she frequently does not understand words and yet she used to understand the abstract notation of music and translated it into something beautiful. It made me cry because the one short musical phrase with which it begins is indelibly associated with her and her alone.
I am not keen on music the way many of the people I know are. I don’t put it on in the background or play it when I am working. I much prefer the spoken word when I am doing something, even if I pay it no mind at all. I find the sound of voices comforting. Music is always attached to things or actions; when i cycle, I wear headphones, when I am on the train I wear them to stare out of the window and build landscapes with. I listen more intently and can be moved by passages which I will repeat and repeat and then repeat some more. I can glean absolutely no thread of understanding or theme as I am happy to listen one moment to a Chopin prelude and the next a Fuck Buttons uber racket. No sense to it at all except that each piece is of its self and brings things into my mind that I like to savor. I don’t want a wash of Massive Attack, I want Protection about 15 times, Sweet Horsing Around needs to be played from Charlbury to Oxford.
Still that particular piece of music is my proustian cupcake when it comes to my mother. She really did play the piano well, you would have been impressed.