Sunday, January 11, 2009

Into the unknown

I am obsessed with music so I started this blog. On my other blog I love to joke around and report on how my book on Leonard Pennario is going. And it seems there are some people who read that blog who are into music, and I thought this blog would give us a place where we could kick things around and trade opinions. Plus, I could write highly personal and self-indulgent stuff that would not fit into either the Pennario blog or Artsbeat, where I blog at The Buffalo News.

You would think two blogs would be enough for anyone. But no! For me it is not!

A few minutes ago I was sitting here thinking how I should start this, because starting something new is always daunting. And I started remembering what it was like when I went to California to see Pennario. I was starting something new, and I was -- well, there was one ten-minute stretch when I was scared. That was the day before my flight to California, when I was leaving the office.

I thought, what am I doing??

There were fewer than 30 full-time music critics in the country and here I was one of them and look, I was giving up this job that I loved -- and this paycheck that I loved -- for three months so I could fly to California to write a book, which I had never done before, about a man who, two weeks before, had been only a name to me. What if he changed his mind? What if my job was not there for me when I got back? What was I, crazy?

Up until then I had been fine. Now, all of a sudden, I was panicked. I got into the car and sat there. Then I saw this CD on the seat and it was Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Schubert's "Die Schoene Muellerin." I love Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. I had a crush on him when I was a teenager and he was nice to me and sent me a couple of pictures of himself. I still think he was the greatest singer who ever lived and looking back I congratulate myself on my good taste. That is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau up above, laughing with violinist Isaac Stern. Isn't that a wonderful picture? I found it on the Life magazine photo archive.

Back to my panicked night. I put the CD into the player and started the engine. And I heard that first song, "Das Wandern." I do not have to translate that because you can tell what it means. This is the song where the hero of the song cycle, the young miller's apprentice, makes the decision that he is going to take off into the unknown and see where life leads him. If you know the rest of the song cycle you will know that his story ends in sorrow. But you have to take a chance!

Let me tell you, that song gave me courage the way no pep talk would ever have been able to. As soon as I heard the first notes, I was smiling. I pulled myself together and I told myself well, whatever is ahead, it will be an adventure and I am going to get on this bus and see where it goes.

So here is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing "Das Wandern" and that seems as good a way as any to start our Music Blog. Isn't it great, the stuff you find on You Tube?

And here is a nifty version of the song with guitar. The singer here is the great tenor Peter Schreier. The tempo is a little slow for me but I love the guitar. It makes the piece sound like a folk song.

Oh, look! There is a real folkie version of the song on You Tube too. Check it out.

Perhaps that should bother me but it does not. They consider "Das Wandern" a kind of folk song in Germany and Austria. It has entered the folk song realm. And I like the montage that goes with this performance, the paths and rivers leading this way and that. That is the feeling the song has, that you have to go where life leads you. That is what picked me up on that October night when I was panicked.

It is great when you can use music to self-medicate. I do that quite a bit.

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