For Bob, music is to be heard, not read

For Bob, music is to be heard, not read by Bob Karolevitz I have never learned to read music, and I�m really sorry that I didn�t.

I marvel at folks who can look at a page full of black dots and convert them into a tune.

Not only do they have notes to follow, but usually there are lots of them, all arranged on the five horizontal lines called a staff. For piano and organ players there are two and sometimes three staffs, with squiggly things known as clefs at the beginning of each one.

Then, to add to the confusion, there are numbers and small b-shaped things (flats) or pound signs (sharps) which obviously mean something to somebody. But not to me!

The same is true of rest signs and all the other stuff which real musicians understand. Next comes a bunch of words in Italian � like larghetto, andante, allegretto, allegro and presto � which have something to do with speed.

Why don�t they just say slow, moderately slow, fast, faster and fastest? It�s frustrating, that�s what it is.

I guess it�s heredity from my sainted mother � I don�t think she could read music either � which allows me to sing harmony. However, I don�t have that elusive thing called �perfect pitch,� so I can�t hit a note unless I hear it played or sung next to me. The figures on the the sheet are worthless until somebody starts me out.

Am I making myself clear?

Needless to say, I play my clarinet by ear. In the past I have performed with a number of jazz combos, the last group being the �Poker Alice Band.� They graciously had several numbers � in the �key of R� � just for me, but other than that I was obviously limited in their repertoire.

Phyllis and I go to band concerts, and I spend all of my time watching the fingers of the clarinet players to see what they are doing. Not one of them ever plays in the �key of R.�

Because I can�t read music, I am never invited to play with the band in summer concerts. I can hit the notes all right, but I never know when to come in � or when to quit, for that matter. All they need is a screeching clarinet sounding off when the other instruments are silent like the score says.

I like music � the old-fashioned kind � but when it comes to knowing the intricacies of the art, I am sadly deficient.

I kick myself for not learning what seems to come so easily to others. To me it�s sort of like the mathematics to guide rockets into Outer Space. I�m afraid it�s all Greek to me � which is something else I don�t understand, except to put rho, chi and omega in my crossword puzzles.

I suppose I�ve missed my chance. I should have started sooner, but there was always something to interfere with practice � and practice, I guess, is the name of the game.

If and when I get my harp from Saint Peter, he�ll probably give me sheet music, too.

I wonder if any of the Seraphim and Cherubim play by ear?

� 2003 Robert F. Karolevitz

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