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that’s entertainment?

June 10, 2011

My last few days have overflowed with music.

On Wednesday night, we heard our beloved Mumford and Sons play at the Raleigh Amphitheater, a show that was highlighted by both the intensely jubilant crowd and a surprise appearance of the Avett Brothers’ Joe Kwon during the encore.  If you have the opportunity, go see Mumford and Sons live.  Please.

My days have been spent absorbed in the National Conference on Restorative Justice, which began on Wednesday.  If last weekend’s cultural immersion program was entitled Comic Books 101, this week’s has been called Transformational Learning 101.  While I’ve only dipped my toe in the well of this enormous topic, I’m acutely aware that I will never be able to look at our country’s justice system in quite the same way again. 

[Are you familiar with restorative justice?  If not, in an overly simplified nutshell it is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior.  It aims to bring together all stakeholders in a cooperative process to respond to the effects of crime]. 

At this week’s conference, I’ve absorbed the collective wisdom, compassion, and labor of academics, practitioners, and victim-survivors of violent crimes.  I’ve learned about innovative programs (like Chicago’s Project Nia, whose Rogers Park Transformative Justice Center offers wellness programs — like acupuncture and stress management — to its community members), met courageous people (like Jessalyn Nash, a longtime restorative justice facilitator whose own son was killed less than two years ago), and witnessed devastation translated into action.

In the midst of all of this, I’ve listened to some beautiful music.

The emcee of this week’s conference is songwriter and peace activist David LaMotte.  His original music, storytelling, and humor have sewn the conference days together with a shiny gold thread.  Check out his music here.

Then yesterday’s plenary speaker, Harley Eagle (a Native American restorative justice practitioner and activist) began his talk by playing a traditional native song on his flute.  He introduced this performance with the statement, “I don’t intend to entertain you.”  Rather, he said, the song was a centering exercise, designed to transition the group into a day of learning.  It was a beautiful song and I felt centered afterward, so I guess it had its intended effect.

At 5:30 p.m. yesterday, finishing up the last workshop of the day, I suddenly realized that I was completely diminished.  The absolute opposite of “centered,” I was psychically exhausted from an intense day, and I was ready to go home to my family.  I was also critically aware that my mindset could use an adjustment before entering the next phase of my evening (dinner-making, bedtime-routining, story-reading, toddler-wrangling).  I thought of Harley Eagle’s centering exercise from earlier in the day, and, while I didn’t have any Native American flute music at my fingertips, I thought I might embrace his concept.

“Some people find classical music soothing,” I muttered to myself, “let’s give it a whirl.”  Starting my car, I changed my radio from NPR to the local classical station.

Here’s the thing:  I have never liked classical music.


I’ve often wanted to be the refined person who relaxes on the couch with a book and a cup of tea, soft violin music lilting in the background (have I mentioned I don’t much like tea, either?).  I played piano and flute as a kid, I danced ballet for years, yet I’ve never had any appreciation for the musical landscapes in which those activities lived.

For the next week, though, it is my commitment to try to understand classical music.  I’ll do my homework, I’ll keep the radio tuned to WCPE, and I will let you know what happens.

As for my rush-hour drive home last night, I’ll confess, I didn’t feel particularly centered — or entertained — by the orchestral maneuvers in my car.  Mostly, I waited for the radio to tell me the name of the piece I was listening to, which it didn’t until I pulled into my driveway.  My controlling nature had taken the wheel, edging out my desire to understand.

I think I’m going to need some help on this one.

Lovers of classical music, I welcome your recommendations.  Where should I begin my self-imposed music appreciation course?  I’m currently accepting any and all suggestions.

I hope today finds you centered, restored, and surrounded by beautiful music.  Thank you, always, for showing up.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeff permalink
    June 10, 2011 8:06 am

    Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto is one of my touchstones. This particular recording is one of the dearest things in the world to me:

  2. Leilani permalink
    June 10, 2011 8:31 am

    Try the movie Amadeus. I watched it as a preteen, and something about watching composers in action (even if it is fictitious) ignited an interest in classical music in me — it really was not until then (despite being dragged to the symphony at an early age and exposed to it at home) that I started to “choose” to listen to classical music.

    Lovely writing and story telling Anne — I am really enjoying reading your adventures.

    • June 10, 2011 7:56 pm

      I love your suggestion, Leilani — I haven’t watched Amadeus since high school, and I think it is time to revisit it. Thank you so much for your encouragement!

  3. June 10, 2011 6:51 pm

    Hey Anne 🙂

    Here is the thing. Don’t expect something from music. Soothingness, relaxation and the like is as personal as a dream during the night. Music is energy and it will affect everyone differently. So is the concept of Classical music, a very overused and exhausted category where everything with a violin and a movement will fall under its claws.

    The radio is a good place to start the exploration, it takes time, it takes dedication because there are centuries of music just there, within a small radio and with a very limited time span. One thing is Ravel, another is Debussy, another is Bartok, very different is Beethoven, or Rachmaninoff, Handel, Bach, Chopin or Schöenberg. Understanding music is one thing, requires technicalities; understanding your own listening of music is as complex as understanding yourself, and how can we understand ourselves if we stop listening?

    Don’t stop trying, turn on the radio, perhaps that day the northern melodies of Sibelius may strike your mind unexpected, or Debussy might paint a musical canvass on the road, perhaps Satie can whisper a quiet little message, or perhaps you finally realized it’s yourself you are listening to, quietly, driving on the way home.


    • June 10, 2011 7:58 pm

      Nic, thank you so much for your encouragement and suggestions. What a powerful question to pose: “how can we understand ourselves if we stop listening?” I really appreciated reading that today.

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