My Love Of Wagner

If you are a regular reader of my posts, you see the child I was. Lazy, lonely, yes, very lonely. What is that word? A misfit. Interested in music, and in nothing else. And I was the youngest child, an only boy, spoiled by my parents. As I entered high school, it became evident that I was not going to fulfill my early promise. My teachers saw it first, and then I did. Though I kept my inner torments from my parents, it was difficult for me to accept. Sixteen is a bad age at which to know one will never be a genius. But by then I was in love.

I first heard Wagner’s music when I was eleven. We lived in West Oak Lane, in Philadelphia. In one of those small brick row houses for lower middle-class Philadelphians. You know them? A patio in the front. A front porch. At the back was a small garden, about the size of a postage stamp. My mother grew tomatoes every summer. And cucumbers and green peppers, too. Unkempt, but very green. At least I had my own bedroom. But the room afforded little privacy. A door inside my bedroom led directly to my sister’s bedroom. One day — October, a noble blue day, burning, clear — I was reading the life of Wagner. I remember that exactly. You know at my age you recall the first twenty years far better than the second — or the third. I was reading and no doubt seeing myself as Wagner. It was 1965.

It was at about that time, in the fall of 1965, that I was first exposed to Wagner’s music — Lohengrin, I think it was — and I fell in love immediately. A childhood friend, Mark Needleman, had a collection of phonograph records passed down by his older brother, Alan Needleman, now an engineering professor at Brown University. Among the records my friend had was an ancient recording of excerpts from Wagner: from the Bayreuth Festival of the 1930s. Every time I went to Mark’s house, I had to listen to that music. I was addicted: and that addiction never left me. Today, perhaps, my obsessive preoccupation would be seen as a symptom of Asperger’s syndrome. In the mid-1960s my idiosyncracies were seen as a sign that I was just a weird kid.
flipper1966 flipper1966
70+, M
May 5, 2012