that autumn feeling

Autumn has arrived in Salzburg. You cannot walk through Mirabell Garden without hearing the crunch of red and gold leaves underfoot!

I keep thinking about my favorite fall poems, the ones in English by Donne and Dickinson, and the ones in German by Rilke and Trakl.

And then there are the ageless songs of autumn, like September and Im Herbst … and Autumn in New York.  😉

Since I was once a college student here in Salzburg, that music always reminds me of past autumns in Austria. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to separate the memories from the music. In her wonderful book, The Inner Voice, Renée Fleming describes this phenomenon: “I have lived a life with a soundtrack. So many of my memories have music attached to them.”

And I know just what she means. I would take it even one step further.  Not only do my memories contain a soundtrack, but certain playlists seem to contain my memories!  When I hear a song that I love, I often remember where I was when I first heard it, and what was happening in my life at the time. It feels like my own story is written into the harmony.

The most vivid memories come from arias that I have studied or performed.  After all, learning a piece of music is a very personal experience, and hearing the music again reminds me of that experience – I can usually remember singing the piece for the very first time. I remember the people who were there, and what was happening, and what was said. When you live so closely with music, listening to a song can be like re-reading your own diary.

It’s a little dangerous to live this way, with some of your most personal feelings tied up in standard repertoire.  It means that you can walk into any concert hall and get knocked off your feet by a couple of measures of music. A well-placed chord is a powerful thing, and a single arpeggio can reduce me to tears. The pianist finishes some rich, luxuriant passage and I want to say: “You had me at the G minor sixth chord.”

Oh, the nostalgia. Of course, autumn isn’t just about memories.  There is always fresh new music to sing! And there is much to be excited about this fall. May audition season begin!


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