Friday, December 5, 2014

What I Have in Common with an Autistic Child

I seem to have a great deal in common with the autistic child I have been teaching for the past 16 years.  It must be so otherwise I would never have been able to tolerate what is involved in finding ways to connect with him via the thing that is most precious to me, music.

For me the piano was edenic: No intrusions allowed.  When intrusions began raising their ugly heads I learned quickly to reject them.  The first intrusion, by the way, was printed music; the second, a totally square piano teacher; and it went on from there.  I would not let anyone intrude upon the elements of the piano that were most dear to me, the sounds themselves.

I have to use the word in plural because I had strong attachments to some of the sounds more than to others.  As I write this the answer to the dilemma becomes clearer.  It is the utter security within that most private space which is hearing and the ferocity with which I guarded that space, preferring to give up any pretense of going along with anyone else's expectation of my development in terms of the piano, preferring to take up another instrument entirely.

This most private space is, as one eminent theorist said on first studying Tonal Refraction, "what gets trained out of us."  It is all that autistic children have.  It can be reached.  It can be communicated.

"Music," according to Henry Purcell on one note, " for a while, can all our cares beguile."