Emily Sue Harvey: Mystical melodies

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Emily Sue author photo“Would you consider taking the position of club music reporter this year?” asked the president of the exclusive Blue Flower literary club to which I belong.

“Uh—let me think about it,” I said, more than a little spooked facing this new frontier because tastes in music cover an infinite eclectic range, right?

I much preferred something more familiar and safe, like doing literary reports, but that position was already filled by a very qualified member. So, determined to be a conscientious, contributing associate I agreed.

But where would I begin? I stewed over it for days, because thrown into my complex hard wiring is a tangled strain of perfectionism. I say tangled because it is so difficult to unravel and allow me to just—flow. To narrow my choices down to two reports a month would take—for me— some real thinking and planning. I knew right away that along with reading background on both composer and inspiration behind compositions, I wanted to play my CD selections for enjoyment.

Music listeners emit sentiments that run the gamut from Kin Hubbard’s “classical music is the kind we keep thinking will turn into a tune,” and Jimmy Durante’s, “I hate music. Especially when it’s played” to George Elliot’s eloquent “I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.”

And I definitely fall into the latter category.

I was raised in a music-filled home while my husband was not. I rhapsodize over Ebb Tide, actually inhaling the salty air and hearing the ocean’s roar, while his eyes glaze over and his mind wanders to bank statements or what’s in the fridge. Now, I have to say that Wake Up Little Susie does perk him up, as does anything with a heavy beat snappy enough to twang his senses.

So it was with bated breath that I decided to begin my series of reports with my favorite classical masterpiece, Debussy’s Claire de Lune. At the meeting, I briefly shared highlights from Debussy’s life, the inspiration behind the composition, and then played a beautiful full orchestral arrangement on my newly purchased CD player. When the responses were enthusiastic and dreamy-eyed, I was emboldened to simply let go and enjoy my new assignment.

Wow.

Music is magic. It takes me places. Yes, it does. And the places and times vary as widely as dream-travels. It moves me beyond what words can express. When I write novels, inserting familiar songs is essential to move moments and take readers there.

Sentimental Journey takes me to my grandparents’ tiny mill hill house when my daddy was off fighting in WWII. As a toddler I would sprawl on the floor and press my ear to the cabinet radio’s hidden speaker, listening to the mellow blend of instruments that, even then, moved me in mystifying ways. It conjures up memories of my lovely mother’s tears and later, the joy of Daddy’s homecoming.

Claire de Lune, my aforementioned favorite, transports me to early years when a young mother (me) floated through otherwise mundane housework, experiencing the magic of moonlit European sites. At other times and moods, I was certain that Heaven’s portals held this very music for the engagement of the angels.

Ahh, and the Cole Porter creations push infinite buttons in me, taking me back to childhood and strawberry teen years, when Dancing in the Dark had me spotlight dancing with Fred Astaire and Night and Day ushered in my first real-life romance. Never mind that Cole Porter once said that his sole inspiration was a telephone call from a producer. That revelation didn’t dull my adulation in the least. The source of inspiration is inconsequential as long as one embraces it. Porter’s musical genius remains, to me, solid and unchallenged.

Gershwin’s music never fails to enchant, bedazzle, and rescue me from any moment’s angst. And not only his, but a host of others because you see, I’m a hopeless, captive, music lover. I love anything—from church hymns to marching tunes to be bop—as long as each is done well. Al Jareau’s ‘Mornin’ moves me to ecstasy and Gladys Knight’s You’re the Best Thing That’s Ever Happened to Me reduces me to tears. Yeah, I’m incurable.

By the way, my last club music report featured the late John Barry, who composed so many movie musical scores I didn’t have time to address them all. I learned that because his father owned a couple of movie theaters in England, the boy grew up listening to and dreaming of writing movie scores. His dream came true when he composed scores for such movies as the James Bond series, Somewhere in Time (which was my CD club selection of the day), Out of Africa, Midnight Cowboy, and many, many more.

“I’ve watched the movie, Dances with Wolves many times. I never tire of it,” I told my club group. “The reason? John Barry’s music. It takes me there.”

And it does.

Thomas Carlyle went so far as to say, “Music is well said to be the speech of Angels.”

Consider Woody Allen’s sentiments, “I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.”

When I stopped laughing, the truth of it whacked me anew.

Music does move us beyond ourselves

That’s its wonderful magic.

Emilly Sue Harvey is the author of the recent Story Plant title Cocoon, as well as five other Story Plant books. You can read more about her here.

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On November 6, 2012
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