Tuesday, March 17, 2015

song: taproot magazine

Nicholas is learning to improvise these days on his electric guitar.  Long ago, I was an instrumentalist and, thanks to a very talented jazz saxophone-playing brother, I learned to scat sing a bit just by being in the house while he practiced.  I can scat along with most anything, in my head.  But put me on a stage and, well, I wrote a bit about this here.  I don't play or sing as much as I used to, but I do find myself, every once in a while, humming along as Nicholas learns to move away from the written music, learns to play what he hears in his head instead of what is written on a page.  It is a big jump for any musician.

And, I realize, it is a similar jump for any parent to learn to follow their own tune or path.  I have been thinking about music within families, particularly within families with parents who are musicians, ever since Helen Peppe wrote this lovely piece for Grounded Magazine a few months ago.   I am trying to be conscious of how we are involved and not involved with how our children engage with music.  I offered to help Nicholas with his practicing yesterday and he said sure, and began playing the background chords for me.  I had been diddling about in my head with a few riffs as I listened to him.  But as soon as he began his chords, I froze.  And remembered something very important about myself.  I don't really enjoy soloing, even though I actually can.  Ah.  Yes.  Right.  And it has taken me until now, years later, to learn that this does not make me less of a musician, or mean I have less of a voice.  It just means I need to find the right places, the places that feel right, to sing.


Which is a long way of saying I have an essay in the SONG issue of Taproot Magazine.  I am so very happy about this, because being in these pages feels like a very good place for me.  There is a lot of wonderful content in this issue, including a conversation between Elizabeth Mitchell and Natalie Merchant about their homes in the Hudson River Valley and the music community there and how it intersects with the history and culture of that area and environmental and social activism.  I found myself drawn right into that piece, as Elizabeth's music has been such a part of our family's soundtrack here and that jazz saxaphone-playing brother of mine and his family have a home in the Hudson River Valley.

The theme SONG drew me in from the start.  Jonathan and I met through music, and our childhoods were full of music.  And our children's lives are full of music as well, each drawn to different aspects of it.  We all have our different tastes here, of course.  Steve Soule's essay, Singing the Moment, speaks beautifully about this, an honest reflection on how their family weaves music around their days and conversations.

And for me, sometimes the best music is not really music per se, but rather the noise of our home. It's likely because of my days of learning to listen in the woods of my childhood.  Learning that not all sounds, not all moments, can be reproduced.  But learning to hear them, notice them, listen to them and respond to them.  That is music as well.


Clearly, my tendency toward quiet observation has been a family trait for several generations now.  As I found when I opened a book on our family's camp shelf last summer.  A note, a message, a hope, from my great grandmother to my grandmother.


One I hope to pass on to our children here as well.


So please head on over to Taproot Magazine.  There is more about it here.

For now, I am off for an afternoon of lessons for all of our children.  It's another place I want to be.  Listening.  To the chatting on the car ride over.  To the way they learn to interact with their music teachers.  And to how they learn to improvise, to move off the page.  And play.

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