When I was about 6 years old, I heard someone play Clare de Lune on the piano, and declared I wanted to play it myself. Eventually, I did, and today, it remains my all-time favorite. I had no idea, at the time, that what I was loving was impressionistic music. Throughout the years of studying, I was constantly drawn to those composers who melodically peeked my imagination with their romantic softness.
I listened to Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Jean Sibelius and Ottorino Respighi. Ravel’s Ma Mere l’oye (the Mother Goose Suite) was a favorite to play as a recital duet, and the "Going Home" movement of Sibelius’s "Finlandia" has always held me captive. It is a popular piece at funerals today.
The impressionists, as I learned about them, seemed, first of all, to write their music as representative of their native countries. In listening, you can almost immediately begin to visualize the country sides of France, Italy and Finland, and then lapse into your own visions brought forth by the beauty of the lyrical notes.
Artists and writers of the same period followed with gently smudged images of their own. Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir didn’t smack you right in the face with perfect lines of realism. Their paintings left something to the imagination, something to wonder about, a gentler feeling of mistiness and etherealness. I have a print by Mary Cassatt that was given to me by an editor of a paper I worked for 40 years ago. He is gone now, but the painting brings back memories, and always reminds me that even a tough old boss recognized the softness of an impressionistic painting and held a touch of that softness in his heart.
When I read a newspaper, I want straight facts, no glossing over the truth, no opinion of the writer, no narration. But when I read a novel, I don’t want to figure out the ending right in the beginning. I don’t want the author to explain anything to me. I want to figure it out myself from the cleverly penned words that keep my interest until the end.
It seems today that we might be a lot happier if we stuck with impressionism. Everything is so spelled out in terms meant to influence us to a certain way of thinking. Many truly don’t know whom to believe because every bit of news is presented to us as if it is the God’s truth, as if we are incapable of seeing the way things really are, and have to have it thrown in our faces, crammed down our throats and rung through our ears. Here I go again with the softer, gentler that I am always pushing. Amidst the horrendous fire and flood images, amidst the politicians "profounding", amidst the trouble the world seems to be in, couldn’t we blur the edges a little? Wouldn’t it be a relief to sit back and imagine our planet as the wonderous gift it has always been, and pick up our brushes, our musical instruments and our pens to make it beautiful again?
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