And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end.
George Gershwin in reference to Rhapsody in Blue.
For Oliver’s 2nd birthday, my Father sent him a copy of Fantasia 2000. This was just a few weeks before he died. My Dad loved classical music. So does my sister Chantal, who’s pretty fancy as a freelance double bassist. He brought classical music into our household. Sometimes I surprise my sister by naming a composer as a piece is playing. It’s a very rare moment of pride (and accuracy).
Sitting with my son and watching Fantasia 2000 for the first time, I was thrilled to discover the Al Hirschfeld inspired illustrated version of Rhapsody in Blue. I’ll be honest, I previously knew it as the United Airlines theme song. But that quickly changed. And I couldn’t believe how quickly my son fell in love with it.
You see, Rhapsody in Blue is the type of work you have to revisit constantly. It’s like a Dickens novel. Or a Van Gogh painting. You simply can’t fully connect with a Dickens book unless you read it several times. Only then do you understand that his complex sentence structure leads to some remarkable revelation. The same goes with a Van Gogh painting. Each brush stroke reveals something. It can’t be captured at a first glance. It requires adoration and a commitment of sorts. It’s the sum of all of its parts.
The same goes with all real artists. The cinematography in Citizen Kane is unforgettable in it’s first viewing. But it needs more attention. There’s a reason it’s one of the first movies discussed in any college film class – it’s near impossible to capture its incredible use of light, shadows and focus in the first viewing. Think about how many films you’ve seen and how some of them get more beautiful as you watch. I could go on and on about other artists (maybe that will be another post) – but artists are capable of creating unfathomable connections and beauty.
What I’m proclaiming is this: Gershwin produced a work of art with Rhapsody in Blue.
I have no idea how one human being sat down and created something so beautifully complex, emotional, motivically connected and perfect, spanning 13 minutes or so. I’ll never understand his genius, but that’s part of the fascination and allure. I do however, understand what a gift he left.
Gershwin died at age 38.
My dad sent Ollie his birthday present knowing he would love it. And to bring classical music into our househoId.
I keep discovering gift after gift from my father and it makes me happy, sad and whole slew of other emotions. I can’t listen to this song without thinking of him now. And I never grow tired of listening to it.
Rhapsody, Noun: An effusively enthusiastic or ecstatic expression of feeling.
Tonight, Oliver and I watched it again together – in fact, several times. He fell asleep in my arms.
And I knew I had to write.