Life Motifs

 I grew up listening to my dad learning to play the saxophone.
Today he flies in from Zim for the first time in 2 years, & someone is playing the saxophone outside the studio. Thursday you are awesome.   (facebook status 28-2-2013)

I work in a busy noisy part of Woodstock; usually full of the sounds of taxis & renovations, but this day something else caught my ear. At first I thought I was imagining it, but somewhere close by someone was learning/ practising scales on the saxophone. I recognised that melody more than any song they could have played.

My Dad didn’t have any musical training, but he always loved music. I grew up surrounded by his vinyls & CDs – Cat Stevens, CCR, ZZ Top & Hot Chocolate stand out in my memory. In his early thirties he learned to read music for the first time, then he started playing the alto saxophone. Now fifty he plays both the guitar & saxophone confidently & has dabbled in drumming. Never too old to learn indeed.

Many an early weekend morning I lay in bed with my book, listening. To the sounds of scales floating down from the balcony; deciphering what he was trying to learn, loving the smooth notes as he danced with ease through a familiar piece.

Since those scales caught my attention again I’m aware of the significance of the saxophone to me. Maybe it’s not even the sax itself, but the significance it has in my story. The fragments of memory it conjures & the peace that sound gives me.

I can’t remember what song I walked down the aisle to as my Dad ‘gave me away’. I do know that is was a live alto saxophone echoing through the room as I took those considered steps.

One of my most vivid & treasured memories, from a trip we took as newlyweds, puts us under a bridge. Late one night we sat on a busy street corner under a bridge, listening to a busker on his saxophone. He had a beautiful style, I made my Mr. give him all the change in our pockets. In a surreal scene, we sat overlooking the ocean & the Sydney Opera House, listening. Marvelling.


I feel like I’m just thinking out loud a bit here – rambling through some memories & enjoying the soundtrack. What I’ll take away from this external processing? As in music & literature, so there are motifs in life.

A motif: a “musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance”, “any recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story”. *

You can listen to a song & not pick up the motif of notes woven in, making a seemingly upbeat song leave you with a note of melancholy. Many read through great works of fiction, of comedy, & miss the crow that sits on the wall in the background, foretelling the tragedy that looms.

Isn’t life just as delicately constructed as these works of art? People, moments, songs sights stories that we somehow keep coming back to. I can’t help believe it is.


One thought on “Life Motifs

  1. HI Tessa, What beautiful memories of you growing up. Did’nt know your Dad could play sax & violin. Maybe you may learn one day. Loved the whole story, you really have a gift for writing. Looking forward to more.
    Love Mum Tuttle

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