Monday, December 21, 2009

A wish for the New Year: Orientation

I suspect it is the legacy of the geography teachers in my family (my mother and my grandfather) that always makes me want to know where I am on the map. This is especially true for new locations. 

When I moved to Maplewood this summer, I automatically assumed that New York City was in the same direction as the train station 2 miles from here. Then, I started to take the bus, because it is just two blocks from where I live. It seemed to go in the opposite direction than the train, and  the twists and turns that it takes on the way to the city got me really confused. After 6 months, I still hadn’t figured it out.

NJT Bus 107, South Orange - NYC Port Authority

Maplewood Train Station, waiting for the "Midtown Direct" to Penn Station NYC  

When I got home yesterday afternoon, the sun catchers in the windows of the music room were sparkling in the light of the setting sun. The windows face in the direction of the train station. Suddenly, I had a revelation. 
The sunset illuminates the music room, and the sunrise illuminates the kitchen - something must be wrong with the map in my mind. 

The house on Peachtree Road - the upstairs windows belong to the music room

This morning I was sitting at the breakfast table in the kitchen, drawing a map of the world as I see it, and finally things started to fall into place.  

View from the Kitchen window at sunrise

Figuring it out by yourself is so much more fun than looking at a real map. In fact, I had looked at a “real map” before, but I could never get it to match the image I had in my mind.

It occurred to me that I figure out pieces of music in a similar way. Of course, I can “scan” the piece through and find the parts that constitute a form “rationally” - exposition, 1st and 2nd subject, development, recapitulation. But it is not the same kind of revelation as playing different sections of the piece back to back - a way of practicing that I recommend often - and suddenly realizing through the sound, by way of my senses “Oh yes, this IS the second subject,”. 

Not knowing where you are is worse than knowing you’re in the wrong place, they say. So, my New Year’s wish for everybody including myself is that we will always know where we are, and if we find ourselves in the wrong place, we’ll use that knowledge in order to get moving in a more promising direction.


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