Monday, July 12, 2010

isn't it romantic?

When people learn that your husband is a composer, the first response is always, "How romantic!" And, indeed, it is. The things is, though, the romance isn't about getting flowers, or a deep look in your eyes, or lots of sex -- although these are all things you experience, at various times. (Frankly, there could have been more flowers.) I was never awoken, like Cosima Wagner, to a chamber ensemble, arrayed on the stairs, playing an arrangement of my husband's hits that would enter into the orchestral canon as "The Naomi Idyll." (My children, however, were kept up many nights by loud banging on the piano, and I often fell asleep, over the years, to the rather endearing click of his fingers on a keyboard, when he courteously put on headphones and worked electronically.)
No, life with a composer is romantic in the more accurate, historical sense of sturm und drang, poets setting out in a rowboat in a thunder storm, with their dead friend's poetry in their pocket; or the annoyance of Liszt, distracted by the babies constantly nursing off of his lover -- Wagner's daughter, I believe -- and offended by the preposterous assumption that somehow one's offspring should take priority over artistic creation. No, I was married to Beethoven, only with an acute sense of hearing and probably, to be fair, a much better aroma.

Being married to Beethoven does have its moments of glory; sharing in the premiere of the 9th symphony is an incomparable high, especially when you have listened to the evolution of the an die freude theme and even collaborated with Schiller on the text. What is not fun is listening to the rants about how no one recognizes that he is in fact Beethoven, the injured merit, the perceived slights. And the fact that Beethoven thinks it is okay to keep you up for hours, ranting at you, because it is your fault that he is not living in Vienna, or NY, or San Francisco, and because your ears stick out and you refuse to cover them, and because you want to be Mary Shelley instead of the Immortal Beloved.

But, at a certain moment, you can realize that "Isn't it romantic?" doesn't have to be your song, and you can gather up Bathsheba, and the Rockstar, the Butterfly, and Tigerlily, and compose a new melody, with lyrics all your own.

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