My husband really likes hockey. He goes to games, watches it on TV, follows the Bruins pretty closely. I’m a sports fan, but hockey eludes me, mostly because, embarrassingly, I cannot follow the movement of the puck. (When the networks started showing that blue “after burn” streak a few years ago, I rejoiced. Turns out I was alone in that, so, bye-bye after burn.)
But here’s what I do know that my husband does not: ice skating is hard. My dear hubby has never laced up a pair of ice skates in his life. When I watch hockey, I watch for the skill of the skaters. These guys are huge – most well over 6 feet tall. And they are moving at such speed, turning, pivoting, stopping, being chased and hit by other huge guys, all while balancing themselves on 0.11 inch thick blades. If you’ve ever ventured out on to the ice, legs wobbling, ankles turning hopelessly inward, and made a few tentative turns around a rink, you’ll have a much greater appreciation for the talent and force of professional hockey players. And I often wonder how – or if – my husband can really appreciate hockey without having some sense of the difficulty of mastering the basic skill on which the whole game rests.
I’ve been thinking about this more lately since I have my own hockey equivalent. For me, it’s music. I love it, but I can’t generate a note, nor understand the complexities behind much of it. My music education and experience is limited to the following:
1. I played the glockenspiel for about 3 years in the middle school band. Pretty cool, right? It wasn’t even a marching band. And while I did learn to read music, the notes are engraved on the instrument’s keys.
2. I sang in the choir in my freshman year of high school. I’m pretty sure I’m an alto. Please don’t get the idea that this was a “show choir”, a la Glee. This was a bunch of awkward teenage girls in matching outfits with their hands clasped in front of their diaphragms singing, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to a theatre full of bored but obligated parents.
3. I took a beginner violin class in my early 20s, but it was hard to practice because my roommates were convinced I was skinning live cats.
4. There is an old upright piano in my home. It came with the house, it is hopelessly out of tune, and I sometimes run my hand along the keys when I pass through the living room.
5. (And this is my strongest qualification) I really, really like music. I appreciate good songwriting and a surprising phrase. I love hearing an artist reinterpret a song during a live performance. I’m not a great dancer but I know what it is to be moved by the power of a song. I’ve been part of a crowd that a musician has eating out of his hand, shouting myself hoarse trying to echo back the same energy and passion and joy he’s giving us.
But the question still stands: can I really claim to love something if it’s something I can’t do? Or have never really attempted? Is music appreciation possible without a better understanding of music creation? In this time I have available to me, can I make a start, maybe in some small way, to become not just a consumer of music, but something else?