My daughter was a whirling dervish when she was little. Rarely a minute passed when she wasn’t constantly moving. Sitting down and relaxing was an alien concept. There was always too much to see and do, and never enough time to accomplish it all.
Like most parents, I wished I could bottle up all that energy and use it when keeping up wasn’t possible. Which was most days.
That’s why I was always impressed, and a little shocked, when she loved curling up in a big chair to watch Disney’s old movie – Fantasia. I loved the opportunity to finally rest, maybe take a nap, while she was enthralled. For over two hours she sat engrossed in a ballet of music and motion set to breathtaking classical pieces. Who can forget The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas? Based on Goethe’s 1797 poem “Der Zauberlehrling”. In it, Mickey Mouse, the young apprentice of the sorcerer Yen Sid, attempts some of his master’s magic tricks but does not know how to control them. The swirling, surging water, and self propelled brooms that take over is a brilliant orchestration of action set to music that tells a vivid story.
To this day I can still picture the entire scene and feel it’s vortex of notes and animation starting off slowly, building to a crescendo together in an indelible moment. Fantasia was a compilation of beloved classical symphonies brought to life through animation.
Sections from The Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovski underscored scenes depicting the changing of the seasons from summer to autumn to winter. An amazing variety of dances are presented with fairies, fish, flowers, mushrooms, and leaves, in the famous “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”, “Chinese Dance”, “Arabian Dance”, “Russian Dance”, “Dance of the Flutes” and “Waltz of the Flowers”. Those portrayals filled my mind with such incredible visuals I remember them as much today as the actual ballet I watched live on stage. Dance of the hours by Amilcare Ponnchielli provided comic relief when Madame Upanova and her ostriches, Hyacinth Hippo and her servants, Elephancine and her bubble blowing elephants and Ben Ali Gator and his troop of alligators danced together while the palace collapsed in the background. A brief jam session led by clarinetists humorously demonstrated sound rendered on film as an initially straight white line that then morphs into different shapes and colors based on the notes played.
The breathtaking array of sights and sounds seemed to soothe my daughter’s soul and invigorated her mind. I couldn’t pull her away. For hours it became a weekly ritual that immersed us in a world we’d never known but loved to revisit over and over again. That’s what music does for us. That incredible movie, based on sound, combined with stunning animation, brought all our senses into play.
In the beginning it felt like a chore. Something I did because it made her happy. But the more I relaxed and let my senses go, the more I began to see what she had understood all along- music is curative and restorative. Depending on your mood and desires it can lift you up, energize, bring back loving memories, share timeless events or decompress an overwhelmed mind. It can do what nothing else can- give each of us a moment to relax in a world of our own making. Where outside stressors and issues can’t intrude. That’s what my 3 year old intuitively knew, even then- music brings balance to our lives.
It can penetrate areas we never realized felt empty or bereft. Today, with all the craziness we are facing, I find that need to escape however briefly, more important than ever. Some songs fill me with hope and confidence, others give me a much needed burst of energy when I’m exhausted, or calm me down when I’m anxious, while others make me laugh or let loose that much needed cry. Whatever my mood, music finds a way to honor it. Regardless of the genre I can always find just the right tenor to fill the void and bring me safely to the other side.