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The Sound Garden: Romance Week

Mei Stone Sound Garden
Matthew Schlomer

Every other song on the radio is a love song. Every wedding has a special song. Every first kiss or romantic moment in the movies is accompanied by a sweeping symphonic motif. Romance, in all of its alluring glory and elusive mystique, captivates all of us, musicians and non-musicians alike.

This week, we wanted to explore the interactions between love and live music. Our mission was to go into downtown Traverse City and play for any couple who crossed our path. We wandered down Front Street and the pier, popped into The Cook’s House, and ended the evening on the rooftop bar of Hotel Indigo, on the lookout for telltale signs of romance--hand holding, a nice dinner, starry eyes. We found all types. The first couple I met was on their first date, and the second couple was celebrating their 42nd wedding anniversary!

Matthew Schlomer

It is wildly out of my comfort zone to approach people--and I can imagine it’s a little jarring for the “victims” themselves to see a total stranger armed with a flute, marching their way. But every couple seemed to connect with the music. It was interesting to see the contrast between the nervous excitement of a young couple sharing a moment of music for the first time and the tender mutuality of an older couple sinking comfortably into each other as they listened. And it’s no wonder musicians are constantly writing love songs--romance is such a multifaceted topic.

In this week’s musical adventure, I realized something new--despite our objective of bringing classical music into “normal” society and to people of all ages, I was actually more nervous playing for people my age. Most audience members at classical concerts are older, so I’m more comfortable playing for anyone above the age of 50. Yet the couples my age were just as eager to listen when they were given the opportunity, which I found surprising. Young or old, we all can feel profoundly and listen intently when music is given to us; it makes me wonder what else we musicians can do with this idea of bringing music to people, rather than waiting for them to come to us.

Music for romance

Plaisir d’amour
The first piece, "Plaisir d’amour," was written in 1780 by Jean Paul Égide Martini--but its melody is recognizable as parts of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” It’s a simple and sweet but understandably timeless melody that has found its way into pop music and the hearts of millions.
The second piece, Claude Debussy’s "Syrinx," is a captivating, haunting solo, and one of the most well-known in the classical flute repertoire. Based on a tale from Greek mythology, the piece follows Pan, the god of the wild, who was trying to seduce the wood nymph Syrinx. To avoid him, Syrinx ran into the river and transformed into hollow water reeds, which inspired Pan to fashion a set of pan pipes out of them. This piece is his lament in memory of his lost love, and I think it captures beautifully the tragedy of unfulfilled love and the lasting beauty that arises from it, despite the pain.
I took the last piece from an arrangement for flute based on Bizet’s opera "Carmen" Known as everyone’s favorite femme fatale, Carmen is a fiery woman in southern Spain who captivates the heart of every man she meets. This piece captures a side of love that is unpredictable, tantalizing, and full of adrenaline.