Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cats, sitars and the meaning of life

Listening to: "Arpan" from the Concert for George

I poured the coffee, walked down the stairs to the piles of chaos that I call an office, and rested my hands on the keyboard - stared at them wondering what I would write this morning. As I stared my hands reminded me of the pause before a pianist starts to explore the keyboard.

Before I could start to type - or perhaps a little afterward, because I did type the first sentence up to the word "and" - a cat demanded my attention by leaping into my lap. I spent the next five minutes or so giving him a little kitty massage, which he acknowledged with loud purring, thrashing about on my lap in delight, and finally by settling in with his front paws kneading my stomach and his back resting against the edge of the keyboard drawer. Instead of a musical instrument, my hands were playing the cat, and he responded with his contented purr - perhaps a cat is a musical instrument.

Music is on my mind because during my daily visit to Sunni and the Conspirators, I saw something on the sidebar I hadn't seen before - a box with two links, one to Shaun Sander's short story inspired by Cat Farmer's essay about "The Seven C's," the other to an article by Sunni Maravillosa that I hadn't encountered yet called "My First Drug." Funny that I never read it before, although it was written about five months before I entered the blogosphere.

I was introduced to this drug the same way Sunni was: through my parents. As time goes on, I've come to believe my parents' stuff was very, very good. In the hotel room the other day, we blundered across an obscure Red Skelton-Lucille Ball-Gene Kelly movie called "Du Barry Was A Lady" just before the Tommy Dorsey orchestra jumped into an equally obscure tune called "Katie Went to Haiti." I had to stop everything to watch the band, which included Ziggy Elman and Buddy Rich, do its magic.

I pity folks who "can't stand" a particular genre of music, because I've had mesmerizing moments listening to - and watching the musicians play - rock, folk, big band, bluegrass, classical, Indian ... I've never made it through an entire opera, but that is because I've never tried. And yes, I've even had an "oh!" moment listening to a rap composition or two, although I admit I can't listen to rap for an extended period of time.

When I found this post veering toward this topic, I pulled out my "Concert for George" disk and started listening to "Arpan," a one-of-a-kind 23-minute Ravi Shankar composition, conducted by his daughter Anoushka Shankar, that blends Indian musicians and singers with a European-style concert orchestra and an Eric Clapton guitar solo. It's one of the most breathtaking musical moments I've ever experienced - it gave (and still does give) me the rush Sunni describes in her essay and helped me finish reading with a contented, "Oh, yeah."

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