Monday, February 25, 2019

A Wisconsin Winter

Yes, ice fishing is a “thing” here.  So are cheese curds and beer; the Packers and the Badgers.  Restaurants offering Friday night “Fish Frys” are packed each week with multi-generational families.  People drink brandy Old Fashioned cocktails and beer and the bars are as plentiful as coffee shops are in the Pacific Northwest.  

Snow is also a “thing” here.  I haven’t seen the ground since mid-January.  I discovered after the first snowfall that you need two kinds of shoes in a Wisconsin winter—snow boots and in-between shoes.  In-between shoes are waterproof, non-skid, “can walk on ice and a couple inches of show” footwear.  I call mine my “Grandma shoes.”

I was prepared for the cold when I moved here.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer beauty of sunlight on pristine snow, the sound of the Fox River outside my living room window, and the ducks, robins, seagulls, ravens, hawks, and bald eagles that populate this area.  I am still stunned by the sheer number of live music events offered every night of the week and to say that I’ve been gorging myself on it is an understatement.  

All of this seeps into the music I’m learning.  I hear the running river in a Goldberg Variation, and the uncompromisingly beautiful cold in the closing chords of Chester Biscardi’s Companion Piece.  Most musicians know that the music they learn becomes imprinted by what’s happening in their lives when they’re learning the notes; revisiting an old piece can feel like a mini form a time- travel.  

Reminiscence was written by Dave Deason, one of my smartest, funniest and most generous friends.  When I play it, I remember how he used to drive to my house with stacks of new pieces and play through them for me in my teaching studio.  I remember how he let me title this piece while grumbling that first he’d “have to learn to spell the damn thing.” Dave moved to the Midwest a year and a half before I did (he’s in Kentucky), but we stay in touch.  Last week he sent me a sound file of a piece for unaccompanied flute.  It’s eerie, icy, and haunting.  

The title? A Wisconsin Winter.