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Do you ever look at old houses and wonder…. They may just be empty shells now: shingles falling off the roofs, gardens gone to weed, paint (what’s left) peeling, but there was a day when a family moved into this very house and pronounced it the “home of their dreams.” They planted roses in the front yard, there was a swing on the front porch, the paint was fresh and, as dusk gathered, there were lights in the windows. Now it’s as if the house has died. It is the occasional dwelling of vagrants, leftover people in a leftover house.

Music  can be like an old house, posing questions about which I can only speculate.  Why was this composition written?  Why isn’t it performed more often?  Has it been forgotten?  What was the composer thinking about when it came to him?

But as you look at it, you wonder. Who lived here? What was their life like? Why did they leave this old house to rot?

Music can be like an old house, posing questions about which I can only speculate.  Why was this composition written?  Why isn’t it performed more often?  Has it been forgotten?  What was the composer thinking about when it came to him?  Did he intend to delight a particular person or audience – or to make someone sad?  When written, did this music have a life beyond the notes and movements?  Was it painted brightly and did it invite visitors to come and sit for a while and listen?  And what does the composer want me to understand?  Did he hope that we, the audience, would enjoy and appreciate his music, or did he fear that we would just walk away and forget about it, leave the roses to die and the paint to peel?

Just like the houses that are forgotten and falling down, the music that has been lost or that the composer never completed or put aside as unworthy could still be played by someone who cared to resurrect it and provide a fresh coat of paint.

I suspect that the music we enjoy today is just a small portion of the music that’s been written over the centuries.  Just like the houses that are forgotten and falling down, the music that has been lost or that the composer never completed or put aside as unworthy could still be played by someone who cared to resurrect it and provide a fresh coat of paint.  Just as I would love to see a new family move into that old dilapidated house, giving it life and a second chance to be part of a vibrant neighborhood, I would love to hear some long-forgotten or overlooked composition that will once again inspire the thoughts and emotions the composer intended.

Consider:  when you listen to a musical composition (or see a painting, for that matter, or walk into a house), it is new again because you bring your thoughts and taste and appreciation to it.  The music will never be old or outdated or shabby to you – even though you’ve heard it a dozen times or more. It will always be new, eliciting new understanding and images and calling up memories.

Old houses quietly keep their secrets. Music calls out to us, “Come in, listen, enjoy.”

– E Doyle

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