music and memory . . .

by mulberryshoots

Last night, I downloaded songs from the ’40’s and ’50’s for my Uncle Tim in Beijing, making a CD that my brother, Dan, wanted to send to him. Our uncle is now 92 and likes to listen to romantic ballads sung by Andy Williams and Tony Bennett.

Tim learned English at an early age and served with the U.S. Army during World War II as a translator, stationed in Hawaii. My father joined up also. After the war, my father came to the States to get his PhD in geology at the University of Chicago. My Uncle Tim returned to China and the Cultural Revolution which would soon unfold thereafter. Luckily, Dan is still able to visit Tim and his wife Dora on frequent business trips to China.

During this nostalgic search down memory lane on behalf of Tim and Dan, I also found myself seeking out music that I hadn’t listened to in a very long time: piano jazz by George Shearing and Don Shirley. Each played introspective arrangements of songs like “It Could Happen To You” and “It Never Entered My Mind” interspersing song melodies with riffs from classical music. I remember how “neat” I thought that was when I was in college since I’m a classical pianist myself. I used to go to sleep with this music playing softly on my phonograph (that’s what they were back then.)

These piano sounds have had such a Proustian effect on me! Whole scenes of my life back then, from the very poignant to the mundane, flash in and out of my consciousness. You know how when you come upon a favorite pair of earrings that you wore a long time ago and love how they look when you put them on again? That’s how listening to this music makes me feel, uncovering that true self again…it’s still me.