The Music of Love

Music and love go hand in hand.

My first love, Jolie, was a musician. When we met, it was impressed upon me that she could perform the amazing feat of hearing Delta Goodrem songs on the radio then reproducing them on piano. Jolie could also play “Für Elise”. Back when I was 13, this was quite something. Most piano students, myself included, hadn’t then got past the A section.


The B section of Beethoven’s “Für Elise”: a mystery to most 13-year-old piano students.

I wasn’t then the musician I am now, but music nevertheless catalysed Jolie’s and my relationship. I remember frequent duets, she on piano, I on clarinet. Most poignantly – and, indeed, remarkably – Jolie wrote a composition based on a short piece of writing I’d done. We performed the piece, called “Now Content”, at an Eisteddfod. It was, in hindsight, brilliant. She even wrote a clarinet part for me, although I never quite pulled it off. Too many semiquavers. Eventually of course the music, so to speak, stopped playing. She dated a trombonist for a time. I was less original – my next girlfriend played piano and sang.

Perhaps the whole music/love thing is so striking for me because music affects me more intensely than it does others. In the same way as love itself, music can transport me, transfix me, offer transcendence. So when the two – music, love – combine, it’s nothing short of magical. Nothing short of magical to hear an inamorata sing, or to sing in return. Nothing short of magical to play together.

(This, incidentally, is why I think Les Miserables succeeds so much as a musical. It’s a love story, and there’s singing. “A Heart Full of Love” might be the most harrowingly loving song ever. And while other great love songs from musicals – “All I Ask of You”, “I’ll Cover You”, “Come What May” – are extremely affective, only Les Miserables features, in addition, a narrative of revolution. For a romantic, musical, social activist, what could be more apt?)music-love-guitar-ukuleleAnd this linkage of music and love goes for love in all its guises. A turning point in my self-discovery as a musician took place at a family gathering where, bored, I turned to the piano and found a songbook of Oliver! The Musical. As I began playing, family members gathered round and we busted out chart after chart: “Consider Yourself”, “Where is Love”, “Oompah pah”. I had the time of my life, playing piano while my family sang around me. The force that connects performers in an ensemble is sublime, life-giving, almost sensual. Music brings us closer.

Recently I caught up in Adelaide with one of my oldest and most enduring friends. We brought ukuleles. Then something amazing happened. After joyously playing Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue”, we began on “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes. It’s a song that, for years, secretly, I had associated with her. “Whenever I play this,” I told her, “I imagine playing it to you.” She smiled. I smiled. We sang. We played. We loved.

NB: Let the record show that I have never been romantically involved with a flute player, former or otherwise.


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