Anna and music are like fire and water. Music is fire, Anna puts it out. Or turns it down on the stereo. Silence is music to her ears.
This, I promise, is a story about Kevin. Yet it begins decades before I met him. My parents, while greatly fond of music, opted professionally for more pragmatic choices. I was their first child and, I am sure, a huge adjustment. By the time my brother and sister arrived, however, they had the parenthood gig off pat, and suddenly they remembered: music!
We are not talking popular music here. That never really entered into the equation. We are talking Aida, string quartets, Lutosławski. When I was in my teens, my sister was a serious violinist, and my brother played the piano with equal seriousness. The afternoons in our tiny 3-room flat went like this: violin practice in the room on the right; piano practice in the room on the left; my head exploding from the noise in the room between the two.
As soon as it became practicable, I moved out. Both of my siblings went on to become professional musicians, excellent at their craft. My parents are endlessly proud, and so am I. But I love silence much more than any sound. I am the person that, upon entering a restaurant, asks the waiter to turn the music down before even opening the menu. The stereo in my car? I do not know even know to switch it on.
When I first visited Joanna and Kevin in their house in Headington, they were wonderfully welcoming hosts, so much so that Kevin gave up his music room to serve as a guestroom. As I was settling in for the night, it hit me: Kevin has a music room. Given a room of his own, he chose to fill it with a huge collection of music, a stereo, and a sofa. When he wants a moment to himself, or just a moment of tranquility – I imagined – he lets the music play.
To me, music is noise. I know, in an abstract sense, that music can brings peace, or that it can cheer people up, or help them through a rough patch. Yet in Kevin’s music room, that idea became tangible to me. It became something that I truly could grasp.
I’ll never share Kevin’s excitement about a new CD, or a fantastic concert. But I did learn something important from him about having music in one’s life. Kevin’s music room was a powerful illustration of the importance of music when it is used to enrich life, not dominate it. A part of life lovingly treasured, cherished enough to be given its own room. I like that.
(And the stereo in my car? When I loan the car to Kevin and Joanna and Jan, they put it to good use. I am sure the stereo loves them with all its electronic heart, to the tune of AC/DC!)