Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dancing with Words

One of my beautiful daughters is a dancer. Her grace and emotion on stage have stunned professionals; they have made her father weep for the beauty of it all. Years ago I wrote a poem about her, attempting to put in word and rhythm that which I felt as I watched her. The result was "Dancing on the Edge", the lines of which appear on the left sidebar of this website. A few days after having written the poem, I had the opportunity to show my little piece to one of my graduate students at UCLA. At her request I gave her a copy. That evening I received a phone call from her. She was excited. "I want you to hear something!" She put her phone on top of her grand piano and began playing the first movement to Maurice Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin". After a minute or two she picked up the phone again and asked "What does that remind you of, other than Ravel's exquisite compositions?"

"It is my poem," I whispered.

"Yes, it is! Now, listen to this!" She then began to play parts of the subsequent movements of Ravel's masterpiece. "Anything there move you to wordsmithery?" I am afraid the whole forge was on fire.

I spent the better part of the Christmas vacation that year penning poems to match the all of the movements of "Le Tombeau de Couperin" as follows:

Prelude -- Dancing on the Edge (1 December 1992)
Fugue -- First Kiss (15 December 1992)
Forlane -- Song of the Drunken Dwarf (6 December 1992)
Rigaudon -- Nen Lalaith (15 December 1992)
Minuet -- Consenting Eclipses (9 December 1992)
Toccata -- A Touching (16 December 1992)

When Renae finished her course of study at UCLA, her Master's Recital included "Le Tombeau de Couperin". The six poems were included in the printed program, and the corresponding piece was read before each movement was played.

Needless to say, I cannot now read any of the six poems without being overpowered by my memories of my daughter, my association with Renae, and my love for Ravel's works. It constitutes a synthesis, a melding of separate parts of my life into one thing, a unity of soul which no doubt is inexplicable to anyone else, save they have experienced the same. A cynical detractor might suggest that my daughter is a clumsy oaf, that my sentiments about her dancing have been artificially generated simply because I am her father. Such critics, of course, have never seen her dance. Another ignoramus might suggest that there are better schools of music then that at UCLA. Undoubtedly there are, but that observation does not directly impact my memories of a gifted concert pianist who helped me create a body of work which brings joy to my heart and mind every time I look at them. Someone might rightly say, "Well, I am not a fan of the Impressionist movement in music composition." So be it, but that does not change the fact that "Le Tombeau de Couperin" has affected me deeply as it became associated with other parts of my life's experience. Finally, a churlish person might say, "I don't get your poems". More's the pity, because understanding my little poems would help him to understand me, not altogether a bad thing given the divisive, rancorous world that we live in.

So what is the significance of this little posting? It is that no one of the parts of any man's life completely explains the whole of it. It is not the separate members of our families, our diverse friendships, our quixotic preferences, our vacillating opinions, or our word-usage that define us. We believe and feel the way we do because we have made irreversible connections between epiphanous moments in our lives, creating an indestructible core of truth that defines us as worthwhile human beings. No one can effectively assail us at our core without destroying who we are.

Likewise, why we believe the way we do about God, or about Heaven, or about morality cannot be explained in bits and pieces.


Trillium said...

One day I was marveling at something which was so stunning, so startling, so awe-inspiring to my soul, that I dubbed it a "Wow Moment." I shared this "Wow Moment" with The Knight (Zaphod), and asked him to share a similar "Wow Moment" in his experience. He responded with several, one of which was watching "M" dance. (The others included stunning epiphanies about each of our children.)

Anonymous said...

Wow moments. I have had a few of those, although perhaps because I am so young and inexperienced, they don't seem to come often. But, wow moments are so great that perhaps you don't need so many...? So...I can't help it...what epiphanies have you had about, oh,