Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and
curl my back to loneliness. – Maya Angelou
We read to know that we are not alone
quote credited to C.S. Lewis, from the film “Shadowlands”
Wisdom suggests that we stop and ask ourselves sometimes, are we feeling lonely or alone? In loneliness something is missing, there is pain, a need or a lack of something, an incompleteness, depression perhaps. It is the absence of light. Conversely, aloneness is the presence of light. Being comfortably alone implies an aliveness, a joy of being, a comfort with yourself in which you feel complete. What the faithful know in their hearts is that we are not alone, ever, in our aloneness.
For Maya Angelou the antidote to loneliness was music and for C.S. Lewis it was reading. In their loneliness they each found a way to be alone.
The aloneness expressed in this music of Vivaldi is not that of emptiness, tragedy, or even sadness, as forlorn as this music can sometimes sound. Hearing it takes me to a place of receptivity, of hunger for something indefinable, but desirable. No loneliness in this music, written originally for two mandolins, and recorded by two musical luminaries – YoYo Ma and Bobby McFerrin.
Bach’s 12th Goldberg Variation begins and ends with a single note, but so much happens in between. The tolling single notes heard are wrapped in a gentle cocoon of two other musical lines. Another reminder perhaps that we are never really alone.
I’ve lived with Bach’s Goldberg Variations for a long time now. More than half my lifetime in fact. I would pull them out periodically, feeling that I was revisiting an old friend, but a friend who always has something new to share. I began thinking about Bach and mindfulness last year in a way that meant something to me. Each variation became linked in my mind with a word and that word became something like the “intention” that yoga students are sometimes asked to set for their practice. A word to mediate on and to help draw more from within. For the next 32 weeks I will post one of the variations and write about the word I associated with the music. Sometimes a connection will seem obvious, but more often it will be unexplainable. It became apparent as I worked on this project that I thought about things which I wanted to cultivate in myself, ways of being in the world that were positive. All of the recordings are to be made in my living room, playing the 9 foot Steinway that was gifted to me on January 5, 2016.