A Midsummer's Night's Drive

I often am struck by the transformative power of literature, but I always secretly wanted to be a musician. I spent five years playing the clarinet until I decided it was no longer cool to be in band in the 10th grade (coupled with a tumultuous relationship with my band teacher, who although I realize now [and somewhat then] was trying to challenge me [he even got me to pick up the baritone sax and invited me to join his outside-of-school jazz ensemble], I was an introverted, sensitive, confused girl who needed more codding than a middle-aged drill sergeant who called me "Michalski" and everyone else by their first names could give). I also bought a bass guitar a few years back and hope to return to it if I ever experience downtime again. When I was interviewed years back by Joe Young for Word Riot, I let it slip that I daydreamed more about being a rock star than a famous author. Often I write more with a sense of musicality than plot.

Unfortunately, I don't have the math skills or the ear to ever become more than an enthusiastic supporter of music, but my experience of music is quite other-wordly. Like last night, when riding home from Northern Virginia and hearing on the radio Andreas Schmidt perform Mahler's "Kindertotenlieder" (accompanied by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra), followed by Lorraine Hunt sing, along with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Berlioz's "Les Nuits d'Ete." Listening to the juxtaposition of Schmidt's bass followed by Hunt's soprano, I became something outside myself, a molecule floating through the moonlit night, the sound of crickets, the wind whistling through trees and blades of grass, the cool blue velvet breeze. I was not Jen for those 40 minutes but an electron interacting with the universe, no longer in the car but a thought, a quiet, a moment that breathed united with millions of other molecules. The thing I have been trying to achieve with yoga without success but can slip into so seamlessly with music when I hear the words "Un air maladivement tendre,/À la fois charmant et fatal,/Qui vous fait mal,/Et qu'on voudrait toujours entendre;/Un air, comme en soupire aux cieux/ L'ange amoureux. ("An air sickly tender,/At the same time charming and ominous,/Which makes you feel agony/Yet which you wish to hear always;/An air like a sigh from the heavens/of a love-lorn angel").

And I think of the legions of people who have created this moment (the poet, Theophile Gautier, the composer, Hector Berlioz, the conductor, Nicholas McGegan,the musicians in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the audience at the Music Hall in Cincinnati, and the first audience to hear it in the 19th century), and there is a true timelessness to it, time travel, a piece that lives almost simultaneously over hundreds of years. It's a mystical experience, just as surely as reading the works of Shakespeare, or even the Bible. And although I am aware of this synchronicity when I am reading, I don't experience it in quite the same transcendental way as I do music. I guess I should have stuck with the clarinet, after all.