Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I remember well the first time I heard Maurice Ravel's classic Bolero. As it so happened, I was at a coffee shop called "Rue de la Course" on Magazine Street in New Orleans, drinking espresso, and finishing up a story I was working on. The shop always used to play some type of classical music over their sound system, and that day was no differant. Although I usually ignore classical music whenever and wherever I hear it (except when I'm driving), I heard a gentle, lilting melody that sounded somewhat mysterious, even alluring.I barely even noticed that there was music playing in the background, but as I've said, the melody was good, kind of catchy even, not quite like a pop tune but more like an old folk melody. My attention was immediately drawn by the fact that there was a light, but somehow militaristic drumbeat in the background, a steady rhythm that beat relentlessly but unobtrusively on, with a light, deft touch that again reminded me of a pop song.
I became really engrossed as I slowly became aware that the song was steadily picking up in volume (and rhythm), but at a measured, controlled pace. I sat there at my table, my story forgotten, listening to this piece in delighted enjoyment. I am always thrilled to discover good new music, and this was indeed very good. At first, the melody and counter melody was played by the lighter wind instruments, i.e., the flute, clarinet and piccolo, but as the volume ever so slowly increased, differant instruments picked up the tune, and all the while, that same relentless drumbeat kept up a steady and precise rhythm. I was totally gone, lost in this orchestral tour de force. I could see pictures in my mind, and also, I got the sense that the music was heading to an inevitable violent climax, but in the meantime, the violins picked up the beautiful melody, and now, all was joy and unbridled passion. And then came the brass instruments...soon, the entire orchestra was thundering in an unbelievable frenzy, clear, precise, measured...and the drumbeat still beat on and on. I probably forgot to breathe, for when the music came to an abrupt climactic end at the crashing of a tympani-drum, I sat there breathless and stunned. Involuntarilly, I said, "what the hell was that?" I looked up, embarrassed, and saw the pretty countergirl smiling at me in understanding. "That was "Bolero", she said.

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