Sunday, April 12, 2009

Magic Easter Music

These flowers are blooming out of roof tiles.

I was cleaning my apartment. Really cleaning. Spring cleaning. And listening to "Parsifal" because it is "Parsifal" season and because it is so unfailingly beautiful.

With arms full of blanket, comforter, bedspread and tablecloth, I went outside to air them out in the warm spring sun.

Outside, not far, crowds of tourists swarmed Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco, but it was quiet in my garden near the Accademia. The garden amazes me because no one takes care of it and so it has evolved into one of those strange hybrid places where wild things survive. A gardener comes once a month, hacks it back a little and sweeps up after himself, but otherwise it is as feral as a moutain oasis with a dry well.

The wreaths crowning the tall palm trees are fading from bright orange to rust, no longer filled with the black berries that attracted the madcap berry-loving blackbirds.

As I hang my things in the sun I hear it, faintly at first, and then, as I sit, more clearly.

It is the man playing his glass harmonica at his usual spot beside the Accademia. He spreads the gradated glasses in neat ranks on a large table and fills them with water from the tank he wheels around with him the way the street blues singers wheel portable amps.

I have heard him playing his glasses often, but what a difference to hear him this way. There are no distractions from the crowds he attracts, but their applause and the clink of their euros keep him playing.

He plays chestnuts: Ave Maria, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy; the most enchanting thing I ever heard him play was the Beatle's "Yesterdays" on Campo Dei Frari, which compelled me to sit on the bridge and listen. The sounds produced by his fingers on the edge of the glasses is delicate with complex overtones and unearthly registers. He plays clever counterpoint and it is fascinating to watch his hand and finger technique, but it is better here in the garden, where the music floats, disembodied, over the wall. For a moment the campanile bells drown him out with a joyous one-o-clock peal.

After a big round of applause he segues into "Strangers in the Night." It is all poetry, reverberating lightly in the air.

If this weren't a holiday, it should be; but it is, and the music makes it feel exactly as it should, filled with shimmering palpitations of spring and echoing with the gorgeous music of life.


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