I was very young when Dad first introduced classical music to me. Little as I was, it was evident early on this was not a type of music to be taken lightly. During the day, the music accompanying our daily routines would be Billie Holiday or Nat King Cole or Ella Fitzgerald. The only time the sacred classical records emerged was in the solemn peacefulness of night. After dinner was eaten and dishes were washed and put away, the four of us-- Mom, Dad, my sister Mel and I-- would congregate in the den.
The den was reserved for a few special uses, and there were really only three items in the room. The couch, a gold velour number you'd only find in the 70's, was long and comfortable and fit all four of us; the computer, an Atari (the latest thing) which was affectionately named Hermione; and The Stereo. Addicted to all things electronic, Dad made sure The Stereo had all the latest gadgets: cassette deck, open-reel, turntable, and eight track player.
Mom, Mel and I would get comfortable on the couch while Dad chose a record. Once the record was on the turntable, he pulled the nubbly brown drapes closed, switched the lights off, and lowered the needle to the groove. Littered with dots of red and green lights, The Stereo was the only light in the room. Dad settled on the couch, and Mel or I would curl up in the crook of his arm.
My heart pounded as the record popped and crackled. Would it be Debussy's soft strains? Or a crash of Tchaikovsky? After the initial jump of adrenaline at the start of the music, my heart slowed down. We'd all close our eyes and listen. The imagery behind my eyelids was of the type only classical music can inspire. Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" varied from abstract pastels swishing softly to a desperate ship on a storm-tossed sea. The "1812 Overture" involved me energetically conducting the London Philharmonic. Other pieces had already been colored by different experiences. Once I had opened my eyes during "Reverie" and watched the green bars on the receiver measuring the sound, rising and falling with the music. Afterwards that was all I could see when I closed my eyes. "Night on Bald Mountain" was changed forever when I saw Disney's "Fantasia", and spooky images of ghosts and demons danced behind my eyelids.
The majority of these pieces have since been experienced in different ways-- in movies, operas, at work or in the car-- and so have lost their delicious unbiased imagery but not their beauty. However, certain pieces have the same sudden effect. Whenever I hear Debussy's "Reverie", I am immediately in the den with the brown shag carpet, curled up next to Dad, the green lights dancing on The Stereo.