A Friend Indeed – Marla Hansen – 2007

When I first moved to Boston, I made a friend who was a little obsessed with his stereo. An audiophile.  I didn’t have many friends.  I was still extremely serious, and it took a long time for me to make friends.  I don’t know whether he was particularly serious himself or if he just had a really big tolerance for seriousness.  Or if he just totally ignored me.  Hell I still can’t figure that out about him.  So at the time, I was always in some sort of emotional crisis.  It was the only way I had of relating to people.  I must have been a drag.

“we’ll talk about bigger and bigger things”

Anyway, I used to go over to his house a couple days a week and we would drink coffee and talk while playing chess.  One day I went over and he had some new speakers or a turntable or something.  And he had this Bach organ record.  So rather than sitting there for hours being heavy about nothing, we played chess and listened to this Bach organ record extremely loud.  It was an apartment and I’m sure someone must have tried to complain, but we would have never known.  It was simply too loud.  I tried to talk a couple of times, but if I continued, I would have wasted my voice for a week.

“my oh my you are a friend indeed”

Some music should be heard really loud.  And sometimes it’s not very obvious.  Bach organ music is music that should be heard very loud.  I’ve never been to the church that is the organ that created that particular record, but I feel like I have been there.  Strangely enough I feel like this song is one of those pieces of music that should be heard very loud.  Not because that’s the way it was created (the organ is a very loud instrument), but because all of the instruments have a depth that can only be heard in the recording really loud.  I don’t even think a live performance of this song should be that loud.  Too much distortion.  But it was kind of a mistake that I listened to it so loud, and now I like it that way.

“all our puzzle pieces”

I was going to Berklee and I got home from visiting my parents one New Year’s Eve at about 11pm.  I had just flown into Logan Airport.  I was sick.  I got all the way to the door of my building before I started looking for my keys.  That’s when I realized I didn’t have my key.  My roommate didn’t get off until after 2am.  She worked at a bar.

“have fallen behind chairs under beds”

I followed another tenant into the building and sat with my luggage on the bottom stair in front of my first floor apartment.  Being the holidays, it was unlikely that anyone was going to be coming home.  So I just leaned my head against my bag on the stairs.  I was fairly sick and tired from the flight.  So I just about drifted off.

“it’ll take the night to sift and sort them out”

A gentle voice was shaking me carefully.  It was my upstairs neighbor.  She was going to New England Conservatory.  Her roommate was a good friend of mine.  I had tried several times to get her to go out with me.  She couldn’t say ‘no’, but she never went out with me either.  I told her that I was sick and locked out.  She invited me upstairs to wait.  She was with two guys that were her friends from out of town.  They were extremely drunk and I gathered that they had been visiting for a couple days.  I also gathered that she was about done with them and the whole holiday season.

“well that’s okay you can sleep here instead”

We got upstairs and she made me some tea.  Her friends tried to be boisterous and yell at me about New Year’s.  It wasn’t easy to motivate me in the state I was in, and they were kind of dumb in addition to being stupid drunk.  There was some music playing softly somewhere.  I don’t remember what it was, but it was acoustic instruments and soft vocals.  I sipped tea and she told me about her lame holiday.  The stupid drunks fell asleep on the floor.  “Thank God,” she said softly and we both laughed.

“and oh it’s been a long time”

That particular holiday had been incredibly disconcerting.  I felt like I didn’t actually need to be in Houston at all.  And I felt invisible around my family.  And the whole Houston thing was so distant and unlivable for me right then.  Sometimes my orbit was close.  Sometimes it was so far away.  I was a comet in my own life.  Returning from my long icy journey only sporadically.  Spending most of my elliptical life far out in the lonely darkness.

“but I am a friend in need”

We went to her room and talked softly for a long time on her bed.  Music school is a journey in disillusionment.  Half the time we wondered what the hell we were doing but couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  I thought that what she was doing at New England Conservatory made so much more sense than what we were doing at Berklee.  And of course, she was envious of our exposure to modern genres.  Unless you are a prodigy student in either setting, the undertone is always, “If I’m not here to learn to teach, what am I doing?”  It’s only after I left school that I realized that I should have stayed as long as I could.  Life is long, but some chapters come at the beginning of the book.

“i want him to know without being told”

Marla Hansen has something unique happening with this music.  I want her to make more of it.  She plucks her viola in this song and it’s got a very warm and dry sound.  And the minimal input from other instruments breathes a lot of life into simple melodies and rhythms.  On the surface it’s all sparse and sing-song.  But after listening longer, there’s a lot more to the space than emptiness.  Like turning a telescope onto a blank space in the sky and finding a cluster of galaxies.  And sometimes when nothing happens, it’s still the perfect story.

“and why shouldn’t I”

We fell asleep on her single mattress fully clothed.  I woke up feeling decidedly less serious, and now I like the song played softly.  Nothing ever came of us.  But that morning while I watched her sleeping, I would have gone anywhere with her.  And when she woke up, she was so happy to see me.  The first thing she said was, “Christmas sucked.”  I agreed.  Then she hugged me and cried for a while.  We made breakfast and then I left her to her hungover asshole friends.  The world isn’t so heavy and loud after all.

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