Gary Larson, Helen Gardner, Mozart, and Me

I feel as though I am trapped in a Gary Larson cartoon. You know the one I mean; it’s the one illustrating what dogs hear.

what dogs hear

Except here is my version:

blah blah blah

Every once in a while I have an “aha” moment where something clicks.  I had one this week.

It happened while I was driving.  I was on my way to a full afternoon of teaching swim lessons and coaching.  Confession time: I get anxious. So I was driving along and feeling anxious.  Then I thought, I can’t be anxious alone.  What can I do to make my two daughters anxious too?

Actually, I didn’t think that.  But I did do that. I don’t text while I drive.  It’s illegal in New York State, plus I don’t know how to text.  However, I do something akin to texting which is trying to find a certain song on my MP3 player.  It makes my children incredibly nervous.  New York needs to make it illegal.

So, I was driving along, feeling anxious, and suddenly had to find a certain song on my MP3 player.  I needed to listen to the 4th movement of Mozart’s 40th Symphony.  Don’t ask me why;  I just knew that it would set my world right if I could listen to it.

Scrolling through the symphonies on my MP3 player is not an easy task while sitting at the kitchen table.  It’s even harder while driving.  I let my children help me.

“Find the Mozart album,” I instructed, “then find Symphony 40 and go to the 4th listing under that.”

Success without a car-wreck!

As we listened together, they asked, “What’s this one about?”  I’ve told them the stories behind some the music I listen to — you know, like Swan Lake and Peer Gynt.

“I don’t know,” I confessed.  “I just needed to hear it.”  Those poor kids have such a strange mother.

I listened, and wanted to close my eyes, but didn’t, because I was driving.  Words from Helen Gardner’s book came flooding back to me.  Well, not actual words, but a concept.  I looked up the words later.

The Waste Land is given coherence not by its form, but by its underlying myth… But in Four Quartets the title of the whole poem tells us nothing of its subject.

Just like the 40th Symphony in G minor.

The ‘thematic material’ of the poem is not an idea or a myth, but partly certain common symbols….

By relying on form and these simple underlying symbols, Mr. Eliot has found not only a personal solution of his personal problems as a poet, but a solution, which may greatly influence later writers, of the problem of the long poem.  He has freed it from its dependence on a subject that can be expressed in non-poetic terms.

Just like Mozart’s 40th.  It, too, expresses a subject that cannot be expressed in non-musical terms.

My ‘aha’ moment.  I needed Gary Larson and Mozart to explain Helen Gardner who is explaining T S Eliot to me.  Easy, right?


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