Time Travelling with Chopin

This morning, I am sitting at my desk trying to clear out my email file. As usual, I have WETA on the radio. Chopin’s Scherzo #4 in E Major is playing, and I am transported back to Boston in 1979.

Although I was a student at Northeastern University, I lived closer to Boston University and used their library almost every weekend. It was quiet and there was a large selection of geology journals and reference texts to use. In the process of finding a good place to settle in and write papers or memorize paleontological species, I stumbled upon the best place for deep thinking, ever.

BU’s library had heavy wooden desks and tall windows overlooking Commonwealth Avenue through which the sunlight streamed, making it a delightful place on a cold winter day. The desks had headphone jacks embedded in them because BU also had a large selection of vinyl LP records (that I even have to qualify the type of media makes me laugh) to listen to while there. One could browse the records, hand them to the student DJ, and hear them through the headphones plugged into the desk. My study atmosphere was complete.

Being a former music major, I was delighted to discover plenty of favorite music there, but I also discovered composers that were new to me. The music of Ravel, Debussy, Satie, and others, all part of the Impressionist Movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s, was as emotion-evoking as the paintings of Monet and Cassat. Their pieces instilled a deep yearning for home and sense of nostalgia in me, but none more than Chabrier’s “Pièces Pittoresques.”  I was perplexed that I enjoyed them because they were not the orderly pieces of Mozart or the Rose’s Etudes that I’d played as a teenager.

Almost every weekend I checked out the same album to start my afternoon of studying, and it started off with Chopin’s Etude #4 in E Major. Whenever I hear it on the radio now, one of two things always seem to happen: I am transported back to those simpler days of studying at the library before computers and cell phones, and I am called to attention to get back to the tasks at hand and quit procrastinating.