It warms my heart to think that Albert Einstein, a physicist, who could readily wrap his brain around notions like critical opalescence and mass-energy equivalence, could also ultimately feel that music, and the violin in particular, were the things that brought him the greatest happiness.
In my family, as children, we were early on exposed to the arts. I always sort of assumed that all families had that same exposure until I grew older and realized how fortunate I was to have had that influence from my parents. At that time, we lived on the outskirts of
, and took full advantage of going into the City whenever possible, to see the NY City Ballet at Lincoln Center, or we'd head to Broadway and off-Broadway plays, or Shakespeare in the Park, or we'd visit art museums on weekends for as long as I can remember. My father listened to the Saturday afternoon operas on the radio, and my parents went religiously for years to operas at the MET, and they played classical music in our house. I had early on memorized Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” and knew the story behind "Madame Butterfly" in kindergarten. Manhattan
While my younger sister and I “played piano,” (quotation marks intentional) my older sister played piano beautifully. It was from her practicing that I was introduced to Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Liszt, Brahms, Mozart, Bach, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Chopin… To this day, anytime I hear any classical music on NPR, I immediately think “Mary Kate played that.”
I remember my dad reading to me in his “big chair” when I was very young. My feet stuck straight out, and I thought, “one day, my legs will be long enough to go over the edge of this chair.” I don’t really remember him ever reading me children’s stories, but I do remember him reading me “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Coleridge. I didn’t understand much of it, but I loved that he was reading it to me. I remember that I couldn’t comprehend, for example, how there could be “water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink,” until he explained to me that it was salt water, which you can't drink, and I thought, “he’s soooo smart.”
Turns out they both really were so smart. They inculcated in us all a love of art and music and theatre and dance, and we’re all so much richer for it.
“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.”
(-Ludwig Van Beethoven)