Chamber Music Campania 2015 came to an end last week. We enjoyed two weeks of intense concertizing throughout Sarasota, Florida. Our calendar of events included an outreach program for individuals with developmental disabilities, a celebration of Italian culture at a local restaurant, and adventures in contemporary American music at New College. We also welcomed a new member to the Chamber Music Campania staff: Tristan (pictured below), an inward-looking philosopher of Nietzschean intellect, who carefully chronicled our summer activities with a critical eye. His report (procured by Alice Jones, flute) follows.
From what I can tell, music making is just a clever ploy to reduce the amount of butt scratches I receive. It is a scourge that must be stopped. A perfectly nice day could be had if one simply adhered to the following schedule, which is by no means a rigid agenda, but rather an outline of my suggested best practices for spending one’s day:
Awaken. Preferably everyone awakens at the same time, so I don’t have to sniff every door jamb and make sure everyone is in the house.
Potty time. I wish my owner wouldn’t call it this. It’s so demeaning and reduces the importance of and concentration required in order to complete my herculean efforts of neighborhood territorial communication about my mood, thoughts, and general virility to my comrades. Oh, but it feels so good, and every time she says “Want to go outside and go potty?” I wriggle and want to scream “YES” with every fiber of my being. But I don’t, because I have standards. Instead I quickly go sit by the door so we may get on with our day.
Breakfast. If only everyone would sit patiently for food to magically appear in their bowls instead of this infernal cooking they insist on doing every morning: home fries, bacon, fried eggs on English muffins. And those green smoothies! I love grass as much as the next guy, but have some self control!
The next portion of the day is crucial, and unfortunately, the musicians can’t seem to understand this point. They all rush out the door, saying something about “Jim,” wearing smelly, tight fitting clothes. But they’re going the wrong way! The real morning activity should be the lanai: a magical place full of lizards, delicious rocks, the sounds of birds, and a giant vat of poisonous water. Sometimes, after seeing “Jim,” the musicians (inexplicably) all jump into this giant vat of poisonous water. I rush after them, trying to protect them from the danger, licking off the evil liquid when they resurface. They took me in the giant vat once. It was so liquidy and cool and soothing and… oh, now I get why they keep going in there.
The rest of the afternoon is where the real trouble emerges. The musicians must be very good beggars, because they get to eat another meal in the middle of the day, which is then followed by a clamoring of moving furniture, as chairs are relocated from one side of the house to another (and they scoff at me for moving my toys around the house) and set up in a ring in a different room. Every day, I hope against hopes that they’ve finally come to their senses and realized that this configuration is the perfect one for a tag-teamed unending Nirvana of butt scratches. There they are: circled about me, all five of them in a perfect position to cuddle, pet, rub, and sate my hedonistic ego. And yet, they ignore me and even, to my incredulity, yell out in protest as I sample the small bowls of water they’ve laid out for me throughout their circle. (I would be most appreciative if they didn’t put those small pieces of wood in the water – they are such a pain to drink around, and, moreover, they’ve made it quite clear that I am not to chew on them.) I curl up underneath the oboe, and no one pets me. I try to lie between the clarinet and bassoon, and they say I’m in the way of the clarinet stand. I sit myself, as regally as possible, on the black towel laid out for me at the horn player’s feet, and… oh, the horror and the shame – he drops viscous, smelly water all around me. He doesn’t even make eye contact with me when he does it. I want to believe he’s playing a game with me, but something about it isn’t quite right. Even my owner, when she pets me during these awful afternoons, does so in a cursory manner, just a stroke or two, as if that sated my needs.
But the worst of it – the worst, I say! – is the noise. The lows, the highs, the louds, the getting-louders, the shorts, the longs. They somehow have decided to do these sounds all together. They breathe together, they look at each other instead of at me, and they do it over and over and over… Every so often, however, a soothing sensation comes over me, as if the monstrous instruments they all hold have turned into caressing hands, and they loll me to sleep. I can feel the energy in the room change, and the musicians are powerfully electric, but without tension – it’s hard to describe, but in those moments, I am sure of the love in the room, and that butt scratches will return shortly.
And they do! Once the musicians are done with their séance, it is my job to ascertain which of them is most likely to pay attention to me the quickest. I follow this person to his or her den, trotting as quickly as I can, so that I convey the urgency of butt scratching, but not galloping, as that would be undignified and cheapen the activity. As if to make up for the wretched stretch of ignoring me, they all often reconvene on the lanai, enjoying the sunshine (ah, I’ve taught them well!) and relying on me to supervise their poisonous-water time.
As an added bonus, a perfectly lovely day such as the one I’ve described should be completed with a car ride. It’s not necessarily important where one goes, but rather it is the going that matters. Often times, I have found, we end up somewhere, which is always a pleasant surprise, although I would be just as happy to not end up anywhere at all and simply take in the experience. (I imagine that when the musicians leave me alone in the house, they simply drive around in the car, going in circles, waiting until they can come home. I suppose they think I need the time alone to work on things such as my manuscripts and other intellectual projects, but they fail to realize that butt scratches are just integral to my work.) When one hops out of the car in a new place, the rush of smells and sounds is intoxicating, especially in this past month, in which every time the car has stopped has been further and further from home – everything is new.
On one recent evening, we took a car ride and stopped at a sandy, sunny place that abutted the biggest stretch of water I have ever seen (and I am fairly well traveled). I was apprehensive but sensed the musicians’ excitement and happiness, and so I forged ahead, leading the musicians along. We crossed over a low rise, emerging out of the tall grass, and into a great expanse that was, in the words of the musicians, “The Happiest Place on Earth.” I cannot relay the specific events of the rest of the evening, only sensations, and they were, in no particular order other than a Proustian array of images: sand; sun; turning back to make sure the musicians were following me; new people, oh new people! oh the butt scratches!; sand; salt?? wow it’s so salty out here!; running along the water with a Brittany spaniel, tumbling with a Rottweiler, sniffing a Staffordshire; more new people!; being in the water, swimming in the water, walking into the water and a mass of moving water suddenly hitting me in the face; the setting sun; running the sand; a series of Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition-worthy photographs, starring me; oh, the softness of the sand!, and curling up in exhausted sleep, too tired to enjoy the car ride home.
I offer these words not to brag about the quality of my life (please, do be jealous), but rather as an illustrative example of how one should best structure a summer day. I beg of you, follow this general outline, and whatever you do, make time for butt scratches.