A talented celloist friend told me something intriguing: the joy of music [as discovered by legitimate, scientific researchers] is often found in the act of recognition.
That is, the more familiar it becomes, the fonder you get.
I think it’s true. Otherwise I wouldn’t be so excited about going to my little brothers’ concerts every chance I get.
Francesco, 15, is a musician. He goes to music school every day after his regular school. It’s intense, as was his school’s spring concert: it was held in a spacious venue along the outskirts of Florence, was backed by a major bank, and was unexpectedly avant-garde with highly contemporary compositions. Best part: spotting him.
Several weeks later, Giovanni asked if I could come to his school spettacolo next Monday. Was he kidding? Of course I could!
This time, several elementary schools gathered for an orchestra and choir recital. All the songs were centered around Italian spirit and national unification. I got a kick out of some great traditional folk songs (“Ma come balli bene bimba, bella bimba, bella bimba…!”), but seeing my littlest brother waving flags and inadvertently bobbing his head was the highlight.
In these cases, maybe I’m stretching the principle. My connection to the players is what pulled me to the productions. But it puts weight behind the beautiful idea that things we know and love and are used to are still exciting in their own right. Sometimes I think we become too easily convinced that “new” people, “new” places, “new” whatever, are the only noteworthy sources of gratification. But we betray ourselves when we enthusiastically spot a familiar face in the crowd or identify that song on the radio. We do love what we already know.
That wise-worded friend’s name is Melanie, and I was the luckiest girl in the world to get to sit between her and our friend Caro for the opera production of “Aida.” They both know the language of music.
I actually love watching them listen to music (especially the “difficult” kinds), because I know they’re actually understanding it. (How creepy am I. Hehehe.) But hearing the two of them translate the score into words like “musical motif” and “dark vowels” was as wonderful as the show itself. They grabbed musical techniques out of the air as they recognized them.
Similarly, when recognizing an Italian worship song at church, when understanding everything in a foreign conversation, when knowing side streets like the back of your hand…
Familiarity is a fabulous thing. It’s easy to take for granted, but I think we love it more than we give ourselves credit for.