Music and The Temple of Chocolate

Dear Readers, I appreciate that my silence has been deafening and that you have been sitting on the edge of your seats for the past two months, wondering whatever happened to that Labensohn writer, Judy, I think her name was . . and her sad book that still has not appeared. Well, she is on hold. More precisely, the publisher who was excited about her book back in September of 2018, realized, during the ensuing months, that publishing is more time consuming than preparing weekly Shabbat meals. She is behind  schedule, but hopeful to get back to me after Pesach. 2019.

So while I am on hold, I will let go of that self-aggrandizement stance used over the past two blogs, a stance which, because I am my father’s daughter, does not come easy to me. Let me tell you, instead, about my music theory class and piano lessons. It all started because I wanted to set an Emily Dickinson poem to music, but when I tried transposing the melody in my head onto a music staff, I had no idea how to proceed. Determined, I sought, found and bought piano books for beginners, both children and adults, read through them all, played “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and quickly signed up for a class in music theory.

I love going to classes with twenty-somethings who jam (l’jam-gem, in Hebrew) and study to become DJs. I fit right in, of course, so when we went around the class on the first night and everyone said their age, I too said I was twenty-two. Thank goodness that now at seventy-three I have the self-confidence, self-esteem, motivation, backbone, or whatever it’s called that prevented me from living fully back then.

By the time the class mastered tetra-chords, I knew I needed to start piano lessons. After a break of sixty years, I returned to the piano and now practice an hour a day, because I love it. In a few months I will be able to put Emily’s words to music. Even without having the music written down, just humming the melody has enabled me to memorize the poem that begins “I’ll tell you how the sun rose/ a ribbon at a time.” Any of my readers who recall tenth grade English class with Mr. Burnett at Shaker Heights High School will remember that poem.

In addition to my current piano lessons being enjoyable, as opposed to anxiety-producing, as they were in 1957 when I was twelve and took a bus by myself to Cedar -Lee and the teacher, a man with wire-rimmed glasses from the Cleveland Institute of Music who never smiled and actually expected me to practice at home,  my current piano teacher lives in FLORENTINE. This is the coolest neighborhood in Tel Aviv.

On Vashingtone, one street over from my teacher’s fourth-floor walk-up, I found COCO, a Vegan Chocolate & Cacao Temple. The owner, who spent time in South America after his IDF service, sells a ritual cocoa in a small paper Kiddush cup for NIS 15. The drink is made with pure natural raw organic chocolate beans, organic coconut milk, mineral water, and organic coconut sugar, spiced with chili and ginger. This drink is better than coffee and expands the mind immediately. I drink it once a week before my piano lesson and, being a lover of ritual,  say a bracha before doing so. (Blessed are you, oh Lord, creator of Chocolate.) The drink is based on a Mayan ritual drink, according to the farbrente owner. Tell him Judy sent you.

Just writing about this drink has made me lose my train of thought. What did I want to tell you? Piano lessons and music theory. Yes, I am learning a new language that does not demand words, preparing myself for the possibility that I will be one of the unlucky old women to develop Alz. At least I will be able to bang on the keys and sing “You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog,” structured in the miraculous 12-Bar Blues in C format. Who knew?? The world of music is endless and fascinating and I am a newbie enjoying each discovery. Maybe next year, before Purim, instead of a post with less than 1000 words, I will uplift, or raise up or up something, on YouTube, a film of me playing on my little Yamaha E363 “Rock Around the Clock.”

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, the world is imploding, but I keep my balance,  secure in the knowledge that all chords on all major scales share the same structure, which is to say that chords I IV and V will always be the main guys and that that miraculous structure, that sublime creation, which last week was still hidden from me, gives me hope for the future of mankind and the natural world.

About Judy Labensohn

I'm a writer and teacher of writing.
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4 Responses to Music and The Temple of Chocolate

  1. Shoshana London Sappir says:

    So happy you broke your deafening silence and continue to share your new discoveries and adventures. Always good to be reminded there is life beyond the march towards fascism.


  2. claire ruder says:

    I so enjoy your blogs. Thank you

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.


  3. Judy Dvorak Gray says:

    I so admire your spirit and your ability to continually renew yourself and have the confidence to try new things. It’s a good thing that your memoir hasn’t been published yet–you have so many new chapters to add each year!


  4. Allan Kohrman says:

    I think I was in that class with Robert Burnett, but I believe it was in 11th grade.


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