Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Musical Trail

My first tape recorder was an dull brown Philips the size of a shoe box with piano style buttons to start, stop, pause, play, record, forward and rewind. My first tape was a Beatles Medley recording. At thirteen growing up in my small town in India, that felt a lot to own. I added to my collection slowly and tentatively. A collection of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas was next. My mother got me the ghazals of Mirza Ghalib by Jagjit Singh for a birthday. Ron Goodwin's Music For An Arabian Night must have played several thousand times in my teens.

Mrs M, our neighbor had a great collection of western classical LPs. Sometimes on summer evenings music wafted over to our home through her open windows draped with lace curtains. I heard snatches of memorable music but did not know what I was hearing. But I must have heard just enough to grow curious and explore on my own. Thanks to her, I became a faithful reader of Kishore Chatterjee's classical music reviews in The Statesman.

He taught me about Bruckner, Mahler and Mozart's Idomeno. Any chance I got to browse through music in the few stores in our town, I would look to see if any of his recommendations were to be found. Most of my tapes were HMV and EMI recordings. The collection included performances conducted Zubin Mehta, Neville Marriner and Daniel Barenboim. Some friends who owned dual deck music systems recorded music for me as I longed to have one of those things myself. My wish would be granted only five years later and would travel with me to college.

My room-mate was an army brat with a varied and interested collection of music. She introduced me to many genres and artists I had not even heard about. Her mixed tapes spanned generations and genres and though un-uniform in quality they often held surprise finds. We spent time making mixed tapes from mixed tapes ad infinitum trying to create that one desert island album that one never grows tried of listening to.

I remember the one time when she played the songs from Footloose and Grease back to back for days until I had to beg her to stop. In retribution I started playing Debabrata Biswas songs at medium to high volume. She ended up liking what she heard and before I knew I was recording Bengali songs for her to take home for the summer vacation. Then when college was over, I took my collection of fifty odd tapes to my first job.

Not much was added to it in the next few years. I got gifts of music sometimes and bought an occasional tape but the feverish pace of musical discovery of the teen years was now over. I was caught in a musical time warp. Then there was marriage with a man who came from a world entirely different from mine whose music that was completely new to me. On the long road trips we took turns listening to my music and his and found to our mutual surprise that there was some common ground.

Somewhere between the unraveling of my marriage and the years of wandering rudderless and rootless thereafter, my collection of tapes (and later CDs) seem to have fallen away from me slowly. Maybe they are somewhere in the attic of my parents' home, maybe some were left behind in the armoire of "our" room in his house. Some are entirely unaccounted for.

I still have some remnants that survived the upheavals and made to the J's collection. She knows to play Vivaldi's Four Seasons now when Mommy needs a little cheering up better still Radetzky March . I miss the music I have lost over time and try to remember what I had so I can recreate the past for J even if she never sees the hand painted sleeves of my tapes or the catalog that listed everything in my collection and the story behind it. She may never get everything neatly boxed as I would have wanted but it will come together in flashbacks from the past and inspirations from our present.

2 comments:

SFGary said...

You are doing a doing a good thing by exposing J to a variety of music. It was my alltime favorite till I discovered Mozart, Beethoven, Rach and others. I have listened to a lot of versions but the Israel Philharmonic version with Perlman and Mehta is still my favorite.

Its amazing, my first tape player was the shoebox type with piano key buttons as well. After I graduated to a better player I had it installed in my car - an early hack job. Jeez, I feel old...

Heartcrossings said...

SFG - You know you're old when your first tape player was a shoebox type with piano keys :)