Music reconnects in exile

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:

5 thoughts on “Music reconnects in exile

  1. Lorenzo, this sounds like a great beginning to an exciting novel with the theme being “Spiritual Connection through Music.

    What a great evening! I can picture your ride in South Beach with Eloisa. It’s wonderful that you reconnected with your dear friend and neighbor from Antilla.

    I asked Bill about The “Flower Duet” and Goldberg Variations. We have the Goldberg Variations and listened to them at the cabin a couple of weeks ago. Bill loves Bach.

  2. Taking a cue from the hundreds of musicians I have listened to over the past four plus decades I would say music is for me, a highest form of spirituality. Our spirits are linked together by music. Everything is music. There is even the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco. The roots of Jazz can be found in the spirituals from the black churches. From monks chanting in Tibet to Thelonious Sphere Monk’s music from the near distant past the connection is from the spirit. Category and genre are subjective. Spirituality is as well. But music can raise our spirit, takes us outside of ourselves to the realm of the spiritual. While I submit this is not true with all sound that may be tagged as “music,” I will admit that there are and have been untold numbers of sound scientists that have contributed greatly to the language of music and their contributions, as composers and performers (and perhaps as listeners) have given ample fuel for our spirits to soar. For myself and Dee, going to Guelph, Ontario three weeks ago to hear Marshall Allen conduct and perform with the Sun Ra Arkestra (Sun Ra having passed away in 1993) was akin to our own trip to mecca, a spiritual journey that allowed us both to revisit part of our past together along with that past that existed prior to ever meeting. Sun Ra’s composition “Fate in a Pleasant Mood” is “our song” that we played (by way of cd) at our wedding. Music of the spirit is an important part of the force of nature that binds the two of us together! To quote a line from Sun Ra’s poetry: “Fate in a pleasant mood can change your destiny.”

    1. John, thanks for sharing your wonderful insights. No one could have expressed this better. I agree that music of the spirit is an important part of nature. The fact that it binds you and Dee together is so special. I agree that music can take us outside of ourselves but at the same time touch an inner core that reverberates in our spirit.

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