Music is the sound of life in a forest of rhythm. 

“Rock and Roll was invented to bust the unions!”

That was my father’s opinion.  His childhood was immersed in the Big Band Era of Jazz music in the Florida panhandle, during the land boom of the 1920s. He claimed Jazz was invented in New Orleans when a dirge carried a body to the grave, followed by a joyous dedication to the heavenly ascent of the departed.  The preferred term, “a funeral with music,” included jazz where horns, drums, and voices filled the streets on their return to town.

Uncle Kenneth took his nephew to dance with him at the pier in Panacea. There the small boy would play tomtom with the colored drummer. Porta Kelehei’s band would be in full, Jazz Swing and he would sing, “When You’re Hair Has Turned to Silver” and recite this poem:

It wasn’t whiskey that killed Uncle John

Nor the women that took his breath

But a spider crawled up his britches leg

and tickled the dam fool to death

It is a far cry from the traditional Scottish folk dance other family members claimed as their heritage. My father became known as 8-beat Rod in the local clubs. In addition to the drums, he was a self-taught pianist and played the organ. His music was an impromptu event regulated by the passion of the moment and one participated by invitation. I never heard him play the drums until the year of his death.  I was surprised he had a drumset.

My mother rejected this framing of culture in favor of traditional piano, which she had studied for 8 years.  She also taught the girls to sing hymns in 3-part harmony. Secretly she turned on the radio in the car to listen to popular music;  we were not allowed to listen to radio.

Always, music is a mantra of sound derived of practiced repetition. Like birds, frogs and crickets, who raise their voices against the rustle of leaves, none can change their voice and no one will question the choice of a word when it is decorated by a symphony.

Find your voice and make it free.

 

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