Mostly because of music.
It’s almost spring (I say almost because the night time temps are still dipping below freezing). Today in park below City Hall (thus marking me as having gone a bit native to New York), there was a jazz trio. They were good, sax and bass viol and a simple drum kit (snare, petit bass, top had and a cymbal), but it reminded me of how I am convinced the Scots-Irish and Irish migrations almost certainly helped to create the style of music considered (by many) to the most specifically american of them.
When I listen to jazz I am reminded of how bagpipes and peurt a bul and ceilidh music is full of repetitive phrases, with the lead performer engaging in flights of variative fancy. A lot of it also works in either modal structures or a limited range (bagpipes have a range just barely greater than one octave, nine notes; with a limited amount of cross fingering for accidentals).
Which isn’t what I wanted to write about, but the mind goes where it will, and sometimes words force themselves out.
I’ve been taking voice lessons, because I’m hesitant about singing in front of people and my partners are active in a community where being offered the chance to sing happens on a regular basis. I used to sing in public; I did choir and musical theater in high school. But, between moving to a school which had no choir (hence the musical theater, which is how I got to acting), and the trials of a changing voice I lost the sense of comfort in my voice. Because choir has formal work, and musical theater is (as a class) about the solo singer… I was relegated to the chorus. I also know that I am not the best at being able to tell what pitch I am on.
It’s not that I am completely off (the last time I tried to take chorus I was chastised for being off tone, but when I took musical theory it seems what I did was lock onto the third of the melody… I don’t know if this is because I was an alto before my voice changed, and so was used to singing harmonies). I’ve been able to sing in a chorus since then (when I was at DLI I was in the post choir), so I know I am able to take a part (and it turns out I am a solid baritone, not a bari-tenor, as I thought).
There are (as with most) a few places I have trouble (middle C and I are not friends. I can hit a half tone to either side, dead bang, but middle C is not a place my throat likes to be), but all in all; once I managed to get past the basics of finding how my ear and my sense of my voice aren’t in prefect sympathy (which was hard; I am told that my teacher was coming close to despair at my lack of progress… then it clicked, and I was hitting notes at a pretty steady rate).
Tonight, after my lesson I was singing along with Pandora/iTunes, and a steady stream of dead musicians came on, which got me to thinking (which is how that set up happened). I wonder if mid-life crises aren’t driven by that chunk of one’s life being the one in which people whom one knew in the previous 15-20 years start to die.
Some, of course, die young (Warren Zevon, Stan Rogers, Harry Chapin, for the ones you will be able to google [if you don’t know them]) and a host of others whom my friends will place (e.g. Gary Louie). There are others who died in some fullness of years, even if sooner than one might hope (again, my friends will place Bruce Pelz, and Barry Workman). It is, however, undeniable. that as I come closer to my fifth decade, there are a lot of people I can turn a glass to recall, those friends whom I can no longer ring up, or share a meal and a bottle with. Who will no longer listen to my ramblings, as they regale me with the tales of the past.
Derek Bell, Liam Clancy, Tommy Makem, and Jerry Garcia will make no new music for me to hear. Sooner than I would like Pete Townsend, Ian Anderson, Gordon Lightfoot, Jimmy Buffet, el alia will pass from the stage.
I think I’ve come to terms with that (if I’d not done before I deployed, being in a combat zone will make one decidedly aware of one’s own mortality), but I wonder if that isn’t the shift of perception which brings about the “mid-life crisis” we see in books, films, and trite human interest pieces.