Thursday, May 7, 2009

If Music Be the Food of Love...

Last night we were at the faculty recognition awards. We wound up sitting near some music faculty, and talking about the Music for the Elementary School Teacher class, which, like all classes in the Music department, require attending live music performances. We talked about how sometimes it's the first time students have ever even seen live music--the woman I was talking to (who'd have to be leaving to go teach that class) recalled a response written by a student that mentioned seeing a "really big red clarinet."

I laughed and clapped, because I knew exactly what she was meant: "Oh! Bob Danziger's bassoon!" I almost said, but didn't, for some reason. It got a little busy, a little loud, and it slipped my mind. Maybe I thought it would sound a little familiar, or like I was trying to sound involved, if I identified a faculty member by a poor description of their instrument. I don't really know.

But I loved Dr. Danziger, and his bassoon. I took Music of World Cultures from him in my very first semester at Stanislaus, and had the most wonderful experience--he was so warm and dynamic, and introduced us all to so much fantastic music. He was free with encouragement, friendly, talented--a joy to be around, always. I got lucky enough to have him for my advisor for the Music concentration in my degree, and to just get to see him around campus, sometimes. I really only had maybe two classes from him, but he stands out as one of my favorite teachers on the campus, one I always think of when I remember, despite all its problems, how great this campus really can be. It has had people like him there.

He told us, during class, about this bassoon (bassoon being his instrument of choice). He'd had it commissioned in Germany five years earlier, and it was going to be done any day--he was going to have to fly to Germany to collect it and bring it home. The next semester, waiting for a concert to begin, I saw the most beautiful red bassoon on the stage, and I knew that was it--that he'd gotten his beautiful new baby and loved it, and that he'd be playing it for us that night.

Any time I've seen a stage with a red bassoon, since, I've felt a little better, because I knew I'd be seeing him play--I've never seen another bassoon that really looked like it. And it was such a joy to be around him, even just to hear him. He played with the school ensembles, and we still go see those, and with the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, so any nerves I'd have during a concert, I could just look around the stage and find the red bassoon--and know a sweet, warm, wonderful person would be nearby, soon, playing with us. It calmed me down and made me happy.

I wish I could find a more recent picture of him--one taken with the red one.

I just found out this afternoon that he died Monday night. Here is is lovely obituary.

It just occurred to me, writing this, that in a week and a half, when we sing Poulenc's Gloria, and Beethoven's 9th Symphony (Ode to Joy), he isn't going to be there with us. His bassoon isn't going to be on the stage.

But the obit, and the letter Chris got from the school president, both closed with this:

"If Music be the food of love, play on."

So I'm going to go back to crying, now, but then I'm going to go back to singing, too. He will be very, very, very missed. He was loved very much.

EDIT to add: I'd been blanking on the other class I took with him. Not what was in it--I had a couple vivid memories--but what it actually was. I remembered, after looking through the class schedule*: it was Music for the Elementary School Teacher. (The woman I'd been talking to had been surprised when I said I took that class from M., because that was the version for music majors--Music in Elementary Schools. I'd forgotten I'd actually taken both, trying to reach my units. It was just his night to be evoked, I guess.)

He'd advised that could be okay to take both--I'd taken his first. He also told me I should consolidate my student loans as soon as I graduated (I forgot and didn't, but I keep starting to), and that when I was in his classes, he'd used my scantron tests as the key to grade the others, because I always aced them (remember how I said he was encouraging?). He also said I should learn the bassoon. :) He'd taught us recorder in the Music for the Elementary (etc) class, and I'd immediately picked it up, along with the alto recorder, and he knew I played flute, a little clarinet, etc... And not that I'd ever say this to an aficionado of one woodwind or another, but they're all essentially the same instrument. Maybe he thought I'd pick it up quickly. ...I'd kind of like to. Or the oboe. I've never tried a double-reed wind. I wished he could teach me.

My brain keeps playing tricks on me: for about twenty minutes, I kept thinking we should try to get to a couple more concerts on campus, soon, before we lost the chance to see him again. S'not fair.

I couldn't think of what music to put on--just knew I needed music. I'm listening to ABBA's "Thank You For the Music," now.

Thank you for the music,
the songs I'm singing
Thanks for all the joy they're bringing
Who can live without it?
I ask in all honesty,
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance, what are we?
So I say thank you for the music,
for giving it to me.

...He taught us Jewish songs and dances he had learned living in Israel. I still remember--and can sing--the refrain to Simkhes Toyre. He taught us about early music--which I did my project on, for Music of World Cultures. He used "Down in the jungle, living in a tent, best part is: no rent" as part of teaching us the ta/ti ti/tiri tiri/timri ta method of rhythm. He taught us about (and had us use) Orff instruments. I had never gotten to have music ed, in school--other people remember these things from being a kid, but they were all new to me, and it was like learning all of these things new. It was like getting to be a kid, and just revel in music, again.

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