Jacob Lawrence, "The Apartment" (1943)
Jacob Lawrence, The Apartment (1943)
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages

January 10, 2010:

My mother loved Beethoven; as a child I believed that Beethoven represented adult music while The Beatles represented the music of children and teenagers. One day my Junior High music appreciation teacher emphasized that The Beatles' music was changing, becoming more grownup, and my heart sank in real dismay to think that their wonderful catchy music of fun and optimism was to turn dark, symphonic, and old.

I wanted to play guitar like The Beatles: the fun rock and roll music: Twist and Shout, I Saw Her Standing There, and of course the anthem that was personal to me for obvious reasons, Roll Over Beethoven. Because my mother believed in experts and musical discipline I was sent to a guitar teacher to learn to sight read Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and On Top of Old Smokey. I detested the lessons which I rightly saw as pointless and demoralizing. Worse, the guitar she bought for me on the advice of the sales experts at the same music store where the expert instructor worked was defective and could not be correctly tuned, from which she incompetently concluded not that the experts had sold her a pup but that her son whose heart's desire was to be a musician was hopelessly tone deaf. A way of passing on her own demoralized resignation to the next generation.

Many years later in my early 30s I was playing a sad song I'd written on my 12-string and she stopped to listen. There was a confused and kind of marveling look on her face which I didn't understand. "That's pretty," she said; then, "I sincerely thought you were tone deaf."

Today I try to play often. I blame no-one but myself for my failure to date to realize my potential as a songwriter. And I'm interested in Beethoven, enough to make time to listen seriously for the first time in my life.