I write these lines as the old year rapidly comes to a close. December found me pre-occupied with editing the first draft of my book, Measuring My Days, all the while re-living a huge segment of my life as a semi-retiree. Reading the book with little intermission, I found the same theme that has given me purpose and meaning for living repeated over and over, reminding me somewhat like the musical drumbeat in Maurice Ravel’s orchestral piece Bolero. For those familiar with the music, Ravel begins with a quiet repetition of the same notes with the sound growing louder as it progresses. According to one review from the premiere performance, a woman was heard shouting that Ravel was mad. When told about this, Ravel is said to have commented that she had understood the piece. Without disclosing the repetition of themes in my book, I will allow the readers to discover the drumbeat for themselves with a tongue-in-cheek wish that my composition will not drive them insane. Draw here a smiley face!
Incidentally, the musical history of Ravel’s Bolero, initially composed for a ballet piece, has had a storied career with conductor Arturo Toscanini giving the American premier directing the New York Philharmonic on 14 November 1929. Toscanini would later perform the work at the Paris Opera with Ravel in attendance. Ravel objected backstage to Toscanini’s upbeat tempo, to which Toscanini responded “it’s the only way to save the work”. The back-and-forth became a cause celebre which only served to make the piece more popular. Ravel’s music would later became the title theme for the 1934 motion picture Bolero starring Carole Lombard. One reviewer claimed that Toscanini had made Ravel “almost an American national hero.”