Tuning the E string
An enduring harmony as certain as the groaning of the world
A man I know raised four children with few requirements of them. But one of those few was that each of them learn to play a musical instrument. This would not only supply them with discipline and delight, he reasoned. It would also give the family a language that surpassed speech, and his children a patois that would carry them around the world.
My parents had roughly the same idea, except that my piano lessons were strictly for my own improvement. No one else in the family played anything, and the only person I had to commune with was Mrs. Blitch, my piano teacher, who set her metronome with all the gravity of an inquisitor positioning her rack. After I failed to show any promise at the piano, I was introduced to the flute, the clarinet and the guitar, in that order. The fact that my parents rented those instruments told me everything I needed to know about their confidence in my ability. When I went off to college, I went without so much as a kazoo in my trunk.
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