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3.1.09

À mon chevet: Hallelujah Junction

John Adams, Hallelujah Junction
À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
I began to teach clarinet students on school-day afternoons, and with the money I earned I paid for a weekly Saturday train trip to Boston. I would leave Concord at 6:45 a.m. and ride the Boston and Maine train along the banks of the Merrimack, the same waterway traversed by Thoreau and his brother and documented in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Upon arrival at North Station, I would take the streetcar to Boston University for morning rehearsals of the Greater Boston Youth Symphony. In the afternoons I would take a clarinet lesson with Felix Viscuglia and/or theory lessons with a graduate student in Cambridge. This routine went on for about three years, during which time I discovered that I had also inherited from my parents an addiction to reading and to loitering in bookstores. Harvard Square provided the ideal pusher for my jones. I rarely returned from a Saturday trip without some new book, and I remember many of them: A Farewell to Arms, Crime and Punishment, A Mencken Chrestomathy, The Portable Aristotle, The Writings of Sigmund Freud (not as good as Peyton Place, I thought), William Faulkner's Sanctuary, Will Durant's The Story of Philosophy, Edith Hamilton's The Greek Way, and countless biographies, not only of composers but of writers, philosophers, and historical figures. When I graduated from Concord High School I was asked the usual questions to go with my yearbook picture. Under "prize possession" I wrote "my libido." The student editors printed this without looking up "libido" in the dictionary. "We thought it was a musical instrument," one of them said when she eventually found out its meaning.

-- John Adams, Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life (2008), pp. 26-27
I am surely not the only classical music-head to receive a copy of this autobiography, by American composer John Adams, for Christmas. This passage made me think a lot about what sorts of opportunities to try to create for my own children -- or being open to the opportunities they may try to create for themselves, which is what Adams did.

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