Is music a form of spirituality?
With the top of the convertible down, the “Flower Duet” from Lakme poured out from the car into the cool breeze of the South Beach evening. The soprano producing such vocal gymnastics was Joan Sutherland. The mezzo, Huguette Tourangeau. The duet reached a melodic height so luscious and liquid, I could feel it splashing over me like water.
People out ignored our traveling concert. Opera did not interest them. Their ears were attuned to a different kind of music: their own animated chat, and the clinking of glasses at sidewalk cafés that sparkled under a moonlit skyline in this “with-it” neighborhood. It was the start of the weekend, and having fun preoccupied their minds.
I was in Miami for a reunion of a Facebook group that had brought together several generations of people who have lived in my hometown, Antilla, a little jewel on the northeastern coast of Cuba.
Driving the convertible was my former neighbor. Ichi, we call her, although her real name is the more stately Eloisa. She used to live right across the street from me, and I had not seen her for fifty years, until the previous year when l spent a few precious moments reconnecting with her and her sister.
This time, as just the two of us drove through South Beach listening to Sutherland, then Glenn Gould in a masterful interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations—he has been my favorite Bach interpreter of all times—I felt a spiritual connection with her that even the closest of friends might never experience. She was like the long-lost sister who after years of separation has come back into your life.
We talked at length about the most intimidate details of our lives: I elaborating further about incidents that appeared in my memoir, CUBA, ADIÓS, which she was reading. She about her divorce, her two talented sons, her lessons studying classical guitar, her career as a social worker.
I reminded her that when she was three or four, I taught her to play Chopsticks, using just two fingers, on a little toy piano she had received as a present. She was so quick at catching up that I predicted she’d be a musician. Ichi did not turn that gift into a career, but imparted her passion for music to her sons. Based on our perfectly aligned taste in music, no one would believe she had not been one my students, who, after years of exposure to my teaching, had learned what compositions would delight me. Every piece on her car’s Playlist seemed skillfully chosen for my enjoyment.
We could have spent all night chatting, but I had to get some sleep to be in shape for my reunion the next morning. Back at the hotel I still felt the magic of our time together. What had made it those few hours so special, so spiritual? The two people catching up on lost time, or the music that had so seamlessly connected past and present into a joyful now?
Then I realized it was the music and remembered something singer Willie Nelson had said: “Oh, it’s definitely spiritual. All music is. I think it’s maybe one of the highest form of spirituality.”
The “Flower Duet” and Goldberg Variations had provided me with a spiritual connection to Ichi and my past. What about you? Do you have a particular piece of music that spiritually connects you to someone else? A spouse? Significant other? Friend?
To listen to The Flower duet, click on the following link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1xuzkPjhNAo