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A Listener Responds/Gratitude

Dear Listeners,

In my last post, I invited folks to respond to ideas around food and music. Shortly thereafter I received an amazing email from Mr. Loren Spain, which I have his permission to now share with you. I am so grateful for the heartfelt words sent to me, and I am grateful that people take time to write to me. I am also grateful for warm smiles, kind words spoken, and support felt in so many ways. Thank you. 

Here is Mr. Spain's email:

Dear Ms. Yanover...

Last Saturday night, me, my brother and his girlfriend attended the "Wolfgang at the Gates" concert at the Rialto Theater. My brother is the one person who is most responsible for whatever degree of interest I’ve developed in classical music, so, naturally, he was thrilled, as was his girlfriend, by the Northwest Sinfonietta’s performances that evening, especially Mozart's symphony. Samuel Jones' concerto really commanded my attention, and all three of us were delighted by what I would call the “narrative excitement” of Gregory Youtz’ “Wolfgang at the Gates”, which we all felt would provide a fine dramatic accompaniment to a short film on its subject. Again, for all of us, one of the most remarkable things about the Gluck  performance was the energy and enthusiasm that seemed nearly to burst out of your conductor, Mr. Chagnard! “Goodness gracious!” as my mother used to say. The sheer pleasure he communicated through his spirited conducting would have been ju
 st as apparent to us even if he had conducted the orchestra in total darkness.

After such an invigorating evening at the concert hall, I could not wait to get home and read the evening’s program book more closely. Since I vibrate very strongly on the “jazz” wavelength, we certainly plan to be present at the “Havana Heat & Harlem Beats” concert in March. All of the musician’s biographies that were placed throughout the program were quite interesting, and in ways that were variously humorous (Todd Larsen’s confession about hating to practice), surprising, or simply intense (Steven Creswell’s near-ecstatic insights into the structure of Beethoven’s music).

However, your bio in particular drew me in because of your casual, but nonetheless pointed and inspiring recollection of the encouragement you received at the commencement of your musical studies by “noticing a girl who had the same color skin as me…” Been there, done that! I can relate also to the sadness you expressed over the fact that “…there is not always an acknowledgment of mutual ‘Brown-ness’ in Seattle anymore…” I worked in Seattle from 2005 to 2008 and noticed the same thing. That, and the words you chose to describe the experience of performing with pianist Joel Fan got me hooked: “mesmerized…soul-cleansing…energizing.” Wow! Those words speak of transformation. I thought, if that’s what you’re capable of feeling when you’re performing, then what might another person feel during, and/or after listening to any of your performances? So, off to your website I went, in search of inspiration…

…and found it right way – well, almost right away, because I got side-tracked by an entry in your web-blog titled “Cello Virtuosity/Gourmet Cuisine”. Any mention of food has a tendency to render invisible, or nearly invisible, any other subject that was unfortunate enough to have been placed above, below, or alongside of it. That being said, I agree with your interpretation of Mr. Jones’ concerto as being “complex and lush”. Somewhere I read a quotation that said, “Music is what feelings sound like,” which I thought was a pretty cool and definitive statement. So, by association, a “complex” and “lush”-sounding musical work such as Mr. Jones’ concerto would reflect the composer’s skill in conjuring-up, assembling, and then putting into various forms of musical motion, streams, or maybe rivers, even, of feelings…and that leads me to your composition titled, “Turnaround”.

In the same web-post, you wondered aloud about “what food is like my music?” Well, to my ears and heart, the experience of listening to “Turnaround” was like preparing a roux for a pot of gumbo. As you may already know, a roux is nothing but oil and flour heated in a skillet and cooked slowly over a length of time until it darkens to the color you desire, after which the remaining ingredients – water, or broth, vegetables, seafood, and meats are added. You must stir it, and stir it, and stir it continuously, without interruption, to prevent it from burning. You are advised not to turn your back on your roux, not to cut your fingernails, not to fix broken window blinds, not to take clothes out of the dryer, not to run to the store, or attempt to do anything else that could distract you from cooking that roux, or else it will most surely burn. The process could take up to an hour, or more, depending on how high the heat is and how much control that you feel you have o
 ver it. Theoretically, you could cook a roux until it turns as black as tar, but as long as it doesn’t burn, it can add such a sublime flavor to the gumbo that only by sampling the finished product could anyone ever believe that something that dark could taste so good.

Time, patience and commitment, in cooking as in music, yields something greater than the sum of their ingredients. The un-hurried, yet forward-moving tempo of “Turnaround” gives it a “journeying”, yearning feel, and to such a degree that at first I was tempted to describe its movement within me as contemplative, meditative, or inner-directed, but that just wasn’t accurate enough. And then, I thought, “Wait one cotton-pickin’minute, here! This is a music video, dum-dum! Don’t use just your ears. Use your eyes, too!” Where the song was taking me was right in front of me. All I had to do was to acknowledge, and embrace the setting. It’s outdoors, alongside a coursing river, amongst generations of families of trees, at the foot of hills that are the shoulders of mountains, under a sky that yields to something even more vast and infinite the higher you go above it and beyond. So, as the title, “Turnaround”, implied, I realized that your song was actually ˜turning me around”, leading me outward and away from my narrowly-proscribed, little self and toward “the big picture”; Creation, Nature, God, the Universe, or however anyone else would name the maker of all that beauty.

What I believe I heard your cello say was something like this: “Loren? Hey, Loren! Listen up, brother! Slow down. Slow, it, down! Come outside. Talk with this river. Listen to those trees over there recite their lineage. Let those mountains tell you how long they’ve been here, and what they’ve seen. Listen!”

Ms. Yanover, thank you for sharing your musical gifts and your thoughts – and also for allowing me to interact with you -- on your very warm and very welcoming website!

Sincerely,

LOREN

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