Monday, March 10, 2008

name that person's tune

I'll sometimes play this game when I meet someone for the first time, of trying to associate them with a piece of music. Usually I won't tell them which piece I've picked for them (unless they ask), but it gives me something to remember and connect with them -- i.e. "Lydia just came on the radio this morning, I should write to her!" I may have gotten this from the character Charles Swann from In Search of Lost Time, who tends to associate people with Renaissance paintings.

It's usually best not to go by the nationality ("she's Finnish, therefore Sibelius") or the eccentricities of the composers ("he's an adulterous megalomaniac vegetarian, therefore Wagner"). Sometimes physical features will throw you in a certain direction (big=Mahler, small=Webern), but that won't give the truest result either. You really have to try to get a sense of the character of the person, their facial expressions, their ways of shifting between moods, the quiet spaces in between their words, etc.

I don't claim to be an expert on this, but I can definitely tell when I've chosen well -- that piece keeps coming back whenever I see or hear from them, and getting to know them better I find even more associations between person and piece -- "She's a bit like the third movement trio after she's had a couple drinks!"

People might get upset if I did reveal my game to them -- though I figure it's better than associating them with a movie star, since a piece of music is much less likely to go into drug rehab or stand up on Oprah's couch and make a fool of itself. Often a piece of music seems like the closest thing to a real, complex, living human being, with its own habits and charms and peculiarities -- but which you can listen, imagine, and reinterpret all you want, and it will never get self-conscious, confused, or offended.


L. said...

What's my tune?

Matt Heller said...

I think I was on a Sibelius kick when I first met L, and paired her with the second movement of the 3rd Symphony. It's one of those great ice-skating pieces (not figure skating, just gliding around) -- I especially love the cello chorale in the middle.

What this has to do with L., I'm not sure -- but please do read her blog!

Kevin said...

Damn- what piece was I ( or do I not want to know?) Kevin Fagen