The music room

Anka KoniecznaAnna 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!)

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