Lately, my husband and I have been listening to Alexa’s soothing classical harp music. In the collection is Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess) by Maurice Ravel. It is a sweet, mournful piece of music that, for me, evokes memories of my mother. When I was in tenth grade, she bought me a record album of Ravel’s music. On one side was Bolero, and on the other side, the Pavane. Bolero was too intense for me, much like a musical headache, but I listened to the B side often enough to know the music well.
Bolero was one of the pieces of music I needed to recognize for my history class. Tenth grade social studies at my high school included a two-week series of lessons called “Culture Vulture.” In this short time period were crammed all the works of art and music deemed significant by our teacher, Mr. Occhipinti, in the era we were studying in Modern History. At the end of the two weeks, we took a test with slides and recordings.
Those fourteen days of Culture Vulture created a thrilling panic among Mr. Occhipinti’s students. We met in study groups, quizzing each other, and inventing mnemonic devices for remembering the titles of the works.
My mother may have enjoyed Culture Vulture as much as we did, possibly more. At last, I was being exposed to the music she loved. In addition to the Ravel recording, she gave me a compilation of Baroque music, and another from the Romantic era.
That was my mother. She constantly supplemented my learning. If I was studying ancient Greece, she went to the library and brought back books of mythology and architecture (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian—burned in my memory). She went into the local record store and asked the clerk what was new and popular with teens. That’s how I got a recording of the musical Hair before my friends had ever heard of it.
I owe my mother infinite gratitude for the parenting model she provided, a model that I hope, to some extent, I carried on with my own children and grandchildren. My mother encouraged and enhanced anything academic or artistic in which I expressed interest. I’d be willing to bet that it was my mother who introduced me to Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. It’s because of her that I know and love the opera La Boheme and that I can hum along to Ravel’s Pavane.
The Karakesh Chronicles