When I was a little girl, my parents both went back to college to get additional degrees. My mom studied music. And just as I would be years later as a college student, each semester she was required to attend a certain number of culturally enlightening events. Understandably, perhaps, she chose events featuring music. Sometimes we loved it and other times we did not, but regardless, her children were dragged along. We saw choral performances, musicals (Fiddler on the Roof,) symphonies, and concert pianists. Sometimes we were enthralled. At others we whined and ultimately slept. Most of the time those pianists were of the traditional brand, playing pieces we'd heard our mother's record albums repeat for us again and again. Sometimes, however, we were in for a surprise.
We haven't discussed it in years and so I don't know how my adult mind would interpret the style of music that most surprised me. What I remember is that one day Mom said we were going to hear a pianist perform. But this wasn't any old usual pianist. His music, she told us, was different because of what he did to the piano before he played. She used the word "prepared," as in "he prepares the strings" before playing. By attaching lots of found objects: rubber bands on some of the strings, and inserting credit cards in a back and forth manner that held the card taut between the strings and - as we discovered later that week - completely distorted the sound. She also laughingly told us that we were absolutely, positively never to "tamper" with her piano or we would be in severe trouble. I could be wrong but I think she was looking at my brother as she uttered the words. For a little extra emphasis. (He was the most musical of the three of us, and perhaps also most likely to want to see what would happen if he tried something new with the piano.)
I thought of this long-forgotten artist last night as I heard Bela Fleck and The Flecktones play. The sound is not the same. But their mastery of their instruments - banjo, bass, percussion instruments galore, and the saxaphones (two at once, in one piece, thank you very much,) and a flute triggered the early memories.
My mother taught us to appreciate music. To love music. It played always in our home, as it does in my own now. She studied sacred music and choral and classical music, (which I later learned was a somewhat misleading term that many of us use when we mean all sorts of periods in the development of the history of music, including baroque and romantic.) Not so much pop and rock and jazz and folk and the blues. Which is why I'm trying to decide if I think she would have enjoyed last night's performance.
I think she might have, in some parts. I'm convinced she would have APPRECIATED it, as a trained professional respects the training of other masters. But I'm not sure she would want to own their albums, or play them in her home. And that's okay. I finally learned, somewhere along the way, that everybody doesn't like the same things. But appreciating and honoring the craft of others dedicated to their art, well that's another thing. I thank both my parents for this quality. Mom usually gets credit for "all things related to music" in our family, but really they both taught us by example, a certain sense of this honoring others for the hard work put into mastering a field.
I'm gonna' make her listen to them sometime, though. Who knows? The Flecktones might just have a new fan!