Wednesday, January 14, 2009

As Aristotle Said

For the second lesson in a row, it was the kind of episode all real teachers dream of, work for, pray for: that moment when a student simply takes an essential principle and runs it to the stars. The teacher may have had an inkling, as I did in the case of grandson James; or a warning to drive himself incessantly to get on top of a new idea, as in the case of the week before Hayley sat on the piano stool; but for this kind of situation to be at its best, the student has to bring something uniquely hers or his. In Hayley's case it was the compelling inspiration of descants in the Jane Austen sound tracks, in James' his constant preoccupation with professional musicianship. He's either soloing regularly, fronting his own band, sitting in on a performance or recording session with some other bands or singers, and writing. And this all across the country and even, once, south of the line. You Yanks just might be in better luck with him than you've been with me. I hear he actually likes New York. I don't actually hate the place, but it's performance in my own regard has been far from perfect. It still has an awful lot to learn, and it is by no means the only metropolis in the land of Lincoln and Mother Cabrini with that kind of track record. I speak of the Church, I speak of the arts, I speak of government. All three of these invested interests would do well to start reading John of the Cross. Ah, yes, and the press as well. Is there such a thing these days as an anglophone journalist who is actually literate?
James blew in early Sunday morning, on the Greyhound. He was two or three days later than originally intended, thanks to the unusual snowfalls from the Coast to the Rockies that have been closing the British Columbia passes, and my first fear was that we would not have available the week he had intended to pass, in our attic, at the piano - and guitar studio as well - and amongst the talented people he grew up with in Nelson. I actually had not considered this last category until I realized that one lad he was keen to connect with is actually a graphic artist.
Thus the reference to Aristotle, who said, in the Nicomachean Ethics, that you cannot accomplish anything great without friends.
It is one thing for the inventor to teach a skill one to one, or even to a class, with a blackboard and the requisite tools or instruments. It is something else, and in a sense, infinitely more challenging, to produce the texts by which any other teacher, who is not the inventor, can pass on the same information.
But later in the day, when James had caught up on his sleep - bussing does not permit such comforts to his long legs - we had a preliminary chat in which he confirmed that he would still have a week to absorb the ideas and I started in expounding the ideas so he could start getting his head around them. This was all very sketchy as we were in the midst of a birthday party, mine and my professional musician daughter's. It was also the birthday, January 11, of my late father, who was to a small but significant degree part of the earlier research team. A nice coincidence, in the Providential scheme of things. After the party, James headed out to visit friends.
So it was not until Monday morning that we could get together at the keyboard, and just as well, as on Sunday night after watching Morse and before I headed for the tub I tinkled away until I uncovered a significant gap in my approach to entire octaves. Thus, I had this essential additional feature in place, mentally, when we had our mere twenty minute encounter. Such an abbreviated affair due to my already scheduled guitar lesson with the great McDaniel.
But the boy is very quick, and the numbers of course make sense, like Thomistic philosophy, to anyone who takes the time to approach it. The scheme was all but self-evident and I left him practicing and analyzing, and the next morning he told me how he had not only made use of the
elements I had shown him, but had gone on to apply the harmony scheme to all the diatonic octaves and then the chromatic. And in the process, realized how he could study harmony. Heretofore always a lead singer, he had recently been rung in to add some backup on someone else's record. That had not been an easy assignment. Reflecting on his suddenly acquired understanding, he grinned like the cat that had just found the bottle of cream and knew how to get the top off and tip it over.
So then I brought up the subject of the frozen brains of the current captains of the music publishing industry in Toronto, London, New York, etcetera, as well as the government of Ontario's legislation, original response to my probing, and subsequent puzzling silence. He grinned again. He has some gigs back east coming up.
Coincidentally with all this, I have been thinking that it would be nice to get back to the rosary. This thought is more significant in symbol than in fact, for certainly throughout the years of this research - a round Ulyssian twenty - I have been by no means robbed of my habitual and co-natural relationship with the Mother of God, because it was specifically she who launched the ship ordained for these discoveries. In fact, as she made clear over and over again, she would only be displeased if I preferred the exercise of the beads to the exercise of probing the calamitous faults of current music instruction. She never actually smacked me over the head, as she is said to have done to one Blessed Allan, but she was thorougly rigorous about the preference and the obligation.
The night before James' fateful lesson, I was as always browsing Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary, and was struck by his stating that it was a good idea to be familiar with the Little Psalter of the Virgin Mary as written by Bonaventure. Now I have in myself, as befits someone familiar with the Seventh Mansion, had very good luck with Marian interpretations of the psalms and other sacred texts concerning the fullest wisdom that can ever be granted to a Christian in this life, but I had never studied a Little Psalter by Bonaventure or anyone else, and it felt, given the order our Bishop Corriveau belongs to, an appropriate time to take it up. I had my business meeting with my grandson yesterday morning; Marianne downloaded and printed Bonaventure's genius yesterday afternoon. The pages now rest, appropriately enough, in a blue covered ring binder.
Retirement feels good, and perhaps my grandson and his cronies will do something to get the economy rolling again. God knows the generation ahead of them have managed to trash it. I was moved to give both government and journalism a chance to head it off, to catch on to the hysteria that comes when the greedy try to make money off the money off the money - the first two are legitimate and necessary, but the last always causes trouble - but nothing took.
As John Paul said long ago, music is prophetical, and I had to stick with that, because I knew that in this situation music was almost as important to the economy as it was to education.
James and the cronies he collects for the Operation Wakeup Call will no doubt continue to report to Grandpa, but the movers and shakers and supposed think tanks can report to the youngsters.
James is friendly. They might even get a piano lesson that will make the first day of the rest of their lives. Or guitar.

1 comment:

cabbage ears said...

Ken...would you address Acedia in your Kootenay Ranger within the boundaries of the post? You certainly are a match for anything out of New York. regards...Irene Cavalier