When my husband (with whom I'd played music literally from the moment we met at a jam) left a few years ago, I entered a deep and extreme darkness that I was sure would never lift. I thought I'd never play again, and the longer I didn't play, the harder it was to find any way back into music at all. I couldn't even listen to it. It reminded me of him, of us, of failing.
Then--I don't know exactly when or how--I remembered classical music. I found I could listen to it and even take true comfort in it. It reminded me of my family, who, after all, never did desert me in all my jags and swings and changes. I thought of my father trying, through some form of strange psychic surgery, to implant his own love of music into us. I thought of years of weird piano lessons and thousands of hours of enforced practicing and of Beethoven and Rachmaninoff and Bach and Puccini all being played at ribcage rattling volume till ten at night when my mom would yell at my dad that the neighbors were going to complain, or sue, or kill us. I remembered all this--and then, I sat down at the piano and started to write again.
It turns out that, like my family, music had never left me, even though I tried every way I could to run from it, forget it, rebel against it, hate it. Thirty-plus years later, I can give myself a good chill thinking, "What if they hadn't made me do it?" Whether they know it or not, the plan worked. When they're gone, they will have left me something I couldn't get rid of if I tried. And I have tried.
I wasn't a prodigy and I didn't grow up to be a virtuoso or even a great pianist. So maybe my dad's philosophy about the Easter Bunny still holds for him. Maybe if you thought he was supposed to be a sane, happy little guy, joyfully living out his destiny hiding candy and hard-boiled eggs (?!) for kids to find on Easter, you'd be disappointed with a six-foot, neurotic rodent with a warren of kids to feed and a job to do. Keep visiting him, though, and you might see the appeal in his steady crustiness. Always there, doing his job. Maybe it would even be a relief to find out that, after all, there was no such animal other than your mom or dad, still doing their job, day in and out.
Turns out, I love music like you love the people who made a commitment to you a long time ago, say forty years. They have never left you even though you've pushed them away, fought with them, wished they were someone else, and left your dirty laundry around for them to deal with. They make you crazy, but you're relieved that they've stayed by you and surprised by your own joy in simply having their company.
[Judith Edelman first appeared in the pages of Puremusic when we reviewed her CD Drama Queen. If you haven't yet had the pleasure of hearing her music, check out a couple of clips from that record on Listen page 2, plus a clip on Listen 22 of her great vocal performance on "No One to Love" (from the highly-acclaimed Stephen Foster tribute album Beautiful Dreamer). Judith has lately been contributing record reviews to Puremusic--in the current issue, she covers recent releases by Red Rooster and Nick Drake.]