Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Oh music come and light my heart's dark places

When I was a kid I used to share a room with my younger brother (happy birthday, Robin). I had the top bunk on the bunkbed, which was against the wall. Directly on the other side of the wall, my mum's piano stood in the living room; I used to lie in bed at night listening to her play, the chords resonating through the wall. She often played my favourite piece of music, Beethoven's Sonata No. 8, Pathetique, 2nd Movement (here, and this is the best version on YouTube, played by wonderboy Freddy Kempf), and even now when I hear it I'm instantly transported back to what seems to be, for me, a rare moment of peace and tranquillity. My mum put together a series of photographs for my 40th birthday recently and looking at the earlier ones, I look so sad (there's one particularly piercing one which I clearly remember being taken: me and my sorry little face, standing with a group of people on the doorstep of our cottage, about to go to school, dreading it, my little plastic bag of belongings in my hand).

People ask me what it's like to be 40 and I tell them, without exaggeration, that the older I get, and even though there are lovely memories in there too (Beethoven through the wall), the further away I get from my childhood, the happier I am.


nmj said...

This is a lovely post. You describe Beethoven through the wall perfectly. Hope you had a happy 40th birthday.

LottieP said...

Thank you, NMJ, and very nice to see you here. Re-reading this post, it sounds a bit bleak, not to say melodramatic. But then listen to the music...

Claire said...

Blimey, it wasn't that bad was it? And even if it was, it's given you a rich seam of anecdotes to mine. Given the choice, what kind of childhood would you have preferred? Or is it childhood in itself that's traumatic?

gweipo said...

That's sad. Don't you feel you become more understanding and accepting as you get older?

LottieP said...

Of coure, as you point out Claire, it wasn't that bad (and you were there too, so you know). Compared to many children's lives I had absolutely nothing to complain about. But I was generally unhappy as a child, especially at school, and felt I didn't fit in. I longed to grow up. Feeling sad about the past is partly, for me, about wishing I could reach into the photographs and tell my younger self that there was nothing to worry about. I wasted a lot of time being miserable.

Thanks for the comment, Gweipo. You definitely do get more understanding as you get older. And you realise that the things that make you feel like a freak when you're a child (our parents, our accents, all the rest) are the things that differentiate you as having an interesting past in later life. I didn't know that at the time, though. Nor that I would be shamelessly exploiting my past for my blog, either.

gweipo said...

The problem with longing to grow up, or longing to be thinner, or have longer hair or more money or live somewhere else or whatever is that it prevents you from enjoying where you are at that moment.
Its taken me 43 years to realise that. I look at my younger thinner unwrinkled self in photos and I wonder what on earth I was so dissatisfied with at the time!

Claire said...

It's interesting that you suffered a lot as a child whereas I, despite the bullying and so on, lived in some sort of innocent little dream world. I don't remember ever wishing to grow up, even when I felt I didn't fit in. It has only been in my adult life that I've experienced real, crippling unhappiness.

Anna MR said...

Hei Lottie, that is sad and lovely (both your post and the music) - which in my books is often/usually better, truer, than happy and lovely. I, too, have discovered a safety in getting less and less young, an acceptance of one's own pain, sadness, not fitting in, not being loved enough, whatever it is, that just makes it a whole heap easier to carry.

Music helps, of course, too.

Belated happy birthday, obviously.


Magicman said...

It seems to me that you do very well on the friend front now, Lottie P.
So that's good, right?

LottieP said...

Thank you, Anna. Growing older seems to work for me too.

Magicman! I'm not suggesting I'm unhappy now. Not at all. I was just indulging in that particular melancholy of memory. And yes, I have great friends now - including at least one whom I've known for 25 years.

Anonymous said...

the further away from childhood you get, the happier...

i will grasp that sentiment like a drowning victim holds dear to their life jacket. 41 is freaking me the fuck out...

LottieP said...

The title of this post comes from an English translation of the Schubert song, An die Musik. I can't find any other references on the internet, but that's the version I learnt at school.

I can't remember much more of it, unfortunately: "Awake in me such love no time effaces"...

Anna MR said...

Hei Lottie, how are you doing? Thank you for satisfying my thirst for knowledge with the "Oh music come" quote. Thank you also for "Littlest Birds", which I really like.

Obviously, I'm blushing at how late these thank-yous arrive at your inbox doorstep. But still. Hope things are fine and lovely in the H of K.


LottieP said...

Hi Anna

Lovely to see you here. I check your blog from time to time but you haven't posted in a while.

How I love this piece of music...

LottieP said...

As a lovely postscript, today I received an email from someone who found this post by looking for "O music come..."


Dear lotti P
I was looking for the words to the above and found what you had written. Through your inspiration I managed to put together the words I learnt as a child which were obviously the same ones as yours. I thought you might like to have the gaps filled in as they are very beautiful. :-

Oh music come and light my heart's dark places
Arouse to life my spirit's inmost ear
Awake in me such love no time effaces
Ah voice divine speak on and I shall hear.

Oh music make me strong to conquer sorrow.
My soul with love of noble things fulfil.
Then fear I not the silence of Death's morrow
For Death Himself my music shall not still
Not Death Himself my music still.

I don't know how relevant it is to anything but I am now 71 and am also much happier than I ever was as a child or young woman!


LottieP said...

If you're looking for the original, it's by Schubert - "An die Musik":

Du holde Kunst, in wieviel grauen Stunden,
Wo mich des Lebens wilder Kreis umstrickt,
Hast du mein Herz zu warmer Lieb’ entzunden,
Hast mich in eine beßre Welt entrückt,
In eine beßre Welt entrückt!

Oft hat ein Seufzer, deiner Harf’ entflossen,
Ein süßer, heiliger Akkord von dir
Den Himmel beßrer Zeiten mir erschlossen,
Du holde Kunst, ich danke dir dafür!
Du holde Kunst, ich danke dir!