Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Een klein nachtmuziek (A little night music).

Between watching Bridget Jones and playing online chess, came the loud sound of our doorbell. It was Romke and some friends. I've heard a lot about Romke. Romke this and Romke that. Hubby seems to have deep admiration for Romke. I only knew the man for a couple months, whereas he and hubby go as far back as the early nineties during their university days.

Romke is a very animated man. He waves his hands a lot while talking, and laughs hard. If you ask me, he´s not the typical mild-mannered, intellectual elite Dutch guy. In fact, he works as a mechanic....by choice mostly. I said by choice, because he also has a doctoral degree in electronics engineering.

But Romke is just a guy. When he talks, he´s just this lovable person who is full of wit and funny stories. He had never tried to impress me with his knowledge about math or physics, or anything for that matter. Nor did he try to make me feel that he was more clever than I. In fact, Romke was just plain Romke. Funny and adorably sweet. No bragging, no pretentions.

And tonight, Romke impressed me without trying. He played the piano for me. He started with short, abrupt and even careless lines from Mozart's themes and variations. I smiled politely. Then, he played a Louie Armstrong piece. I smiled encouragingly. He shifted to more advance pieces and swept me off my feet. There I was... in my own living room... listening to Bach's Partita no. 2 in Cminor.

For a moment, Romke stopped being the funny Romke. His music filled our room, and I sat there in awe. I was no longer smiling... I was listening intently to every note... every phrase and every section. Oh how his music moved me. My upright piano sounded like a Steinway grand piano, transporting me spiritually to the concert halls of Carnegie Hall. At that moment, the ordinary became extraordinary. And I.... I felt like I was touched by an angel. Romke's interpretation was so divine. Bach would have been so pleased!

Before he left, he invited me to visit his home. I smiled meekly. In my mind, I was thinking... I stopped being a pianist a long time ago. I could teach. I could show my students how to play certain lines. But I no longer have the passion, dedication, and the skill of a real performer. My rendition of that partita won't even come close to his.

I realized that one thing about the Dutch is that, when they learn something, they really give their hundred percent. Playing music is therefore not some hobby that they try to do to kill boredom or pass time. It is not functional either like the gamelan music of Indonesia or the Philippine kulintang music.

This may sound cliche because this is also true in other cultures of the world that I have studied, but music is in fact a part of the common Dutch character formation. It's a discipline... not something that they do in their leisure time but something that they do to find joy. Music is something that they master to achieve perfection..... for their own pleasure.

As for me, I am going to sleep with a wide smile on my face tonight. LOL