Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Magic of Music

I was listening today to a podcast by a favorite talk radio host who is a genius at weaving history, personal experience, and current political issues into a masterpiece of creative, inimitable style of improvised storytelling. His erudition often diverges from the topic of our existential crisis in the U.S. into unexpected fields such as music. When he is mostly in despair over the real or perceived loss of our country and our freedoms, he plays classical music, particularly Mozart and Beethoven.

It was significant today because I remembered my World Literature teacher from high school, a very passionate and talented older gentleman who played the violin to perfection. He always brought his instrument to class. It was not a Stradivarius but it might as well have been, he was such an accomplished violinist.

When we studied certain pieces that evoked the winter of life or the follies of youth, he would play Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." When a character succeeded against all odds, Mr. Florian would play Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." The loss of a loved one prompted a somber piece, Mozart's "Requiem for the Dead."

He introduced us to so much classical music during the entire school year, we did not just study literature, we studied the mellifluous connection to the characters springing from the pages of the manuscript.

He was so passionate, tears would stream down his face. We were young, naive, and idealistic, we did not understand fully the struggle this man had in his soul between the harsh reality of daily communist life and that of living precariously through the dreams of the literature he was allowed to teach us. We did not understand his tears. Most students chuckled and considered him an insane old man. I thought him to be a genius - we were too young and naive to understand life with its cruel twists and turns.

He always prefaced his pieces with the advice to let our souls wonder freely in another time and another place, a subtle way of saying that there were better countries to live in, better ways to experience and appreciate good writing and good music.

He enriched our souls in so many ways, he was a master teacher, who in the twilight of his life and teaching career, dared to introduce to poor communist pupils a twinkle of hope through literature and music.

Mr. Florian retired at the end of the year, he was one of the few who defied the communist indoctrination, he followed his heart and his own lesson plans, at great peril to himself. I was sad that other generations of students missed this man's passion, courage, and genius.

I shudder to think that eventually we might be ruled by communists or worse, Shariah Law. What would happen to our writings, poetry, art, music, architecture, and films that enrich our lives in so many ways when coming in conflict with sixth century rules of behavior?

Would our art, music, and culture be destroyed like the Buddha statues in Afghanistan, blown up by the Taliban?