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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Music, Mysteries and Madness

 I just finished Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia.

Fifteen years ago, a murder-suicide in room 712 rocked the grand old Bellweather Hotel and the young bridesmaid who witnessed it, Minnie Graves. Now hundreds of high school musicians have gathered at the Bellweather for the annual Statewide festival; Minnie has returned to face her demons; and a blizzard is threatening to trap them all inside. When a young prodigy disappears from infamous room 712… (source)
Sure, it sounds like your standard murder mystery. It’s got adults with issues and secrets, self-discovering youth with secrets and a fraying, aged hotel with secrets and a hard past.

Intriguing but best of all, the story has music. Ya see, the festival is a New York State high school gathering of the most excellent teen talents from the New York public school system—violinists, flautists, tenors, altos, trumpeters all coming together to be excellent as one.

Possibly that comes off as a snoozer but, the way Racculia writes about  the experience, the overwhelming, mind blowing, full body/mind experience of playing an instrument or singing, is absolute perfection. It’s as though she crawled into my brain while I practiced my scales and orchestral pieces. Maybe she snuck in when I was breathing in Copeland, Stravinsky, Led Zeppelin, Paul Simon, Miles Davis, Mike Garson (especially on Aladdin Sane) or, hell, just the sound of gentle waves or wind rustling the late autumn leaves.

Serious and true, the author NAILS what music is…was to me. It was life itself.
This is why. This is _why_. This is why he plays, why he loves, why he listens. It isn't even a high—a high is too low—it is synchronicity with the universe. Physical proof of the three-part harmony between body and soul and song, all three living, dying, resonating.
What you felt, the beast that swallowed you all and spat you back out, that is the great big bloody point of all this. If you learn nothing else from this bizarre and awkward experience—this gathering of strangers to blow into horns and pluck catgut—remember that you have the power to feel that. The power to create that. With your hands. Your breath. You are gods, children, and you can make war. (This said to the orchestra after they’d spectacularly performed Holst’s Mars, from the Planets Suite. It was as though the entire orchestra, conductor included, happily, deliriously, idyllically lost their virginity, all at once)
She remembers how it feels to play. To play with your whole body, your fingers, your wrists, your forearms and elbows and shoulders, your neck and your head, your legs, your feet. You are an orchestra entire. Your fingers are each a single instrument, your hands a section; point and counterpoint, melody and countermelody, concord and dissonance are born, sustained, resolved in your body. In your head and your heart.
I used to enjoy the hell out of playing scales. It was meditative, soothing, like entering a world where the only thing that mattered was nailing the pitch and forming the perfect circle of sound for each note. Being a part of an orchestra wasn’t the apex, the orgasm of music for me—alone in the practice room, wrapping my being around each element of a piece, THAT was heaven. Of course, so was being in a concert hall or club taking in the beauty, energy and aural LSD of the BSO, Morphine, Concussion Ensemble, funk bands with killer horn sections. That was the closest I’ll ever get to space travel.

Due to nerve damage from one of my seven brain surgeries (seven so far), my embouchure is horribly charcoaled toast. I can’t form even one note let alone a song. Also, apparently, I’m deaf. Heaven’s gate is locked—has been for 18 years now and I’m pissed about that.

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