Have you ever connected with a piece of music, or a song, the very second you heard it, and from that moment, it doesn’t let you go?
I have experienced this with several songs throughout the years, but one that has stuck with me from the moment I heard the first opening bars is Comptine d’un autre été, l’après midi. It is from the soundtrack of a 2001 French cinema favorite: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain), or just simply: Amélie.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Delicatessen“; “The City of Lost Children“), Amélie tells the whimsical tale of a woman who orchestrates the lives of those around her, creating a world entirely of her own making. Shot in over 80 locations throughout Paris, it is a romantic comedy that features stunning vision and a whimsical charm about people in Paris and their connections to one another.
Back to the song, though.
Comptine d’un autre été, l’après midi loosely translates into English as: Nursery Rhyme from Another Summer. French composer, Yann Tiersen, wrote this short piece specifically for the film, and is written in the key of E Minor which, fun fact, is the 3rd most popular key among minor keys, and the 9th most popular among all keys.
I find the song so beautiful in its simplicity. It’s delicate, like a breeze or butterfly wings. Written in a minor key, it feels immediately like it wants to be sad, but it’s not sad. It’s hopeful and optimistic and, for me, reminiscent of things that are good in this world, like ice cream, puppies, floating quietly in a cool lake on a hot summer day, or walking a wooded path during a beautiful, quiet snowfall. The song feels like a hug, an embrace – warm, comforting, and familiar.
Passion and Calling
Music has always meant a great deal to me, throughout my life. It was my first passion, and calling, as a young woman in high school and then college. I’ve been to college twice. The first time was on a scholarship for music. I majored in Vocal Performance with a minor in Music Education. I know I should have reversed those two. The sensible thing would have been to major in Music Education. However, my voice is what got me the scholarship I was on, so in my 18 year-old mind, it made so much more sense to major in Vocal Performance. While in college, I made ends meet by taking on whatever singing jobs I could get my hands on.
A couple of friends and I formed a band that played at local bars, clubs on the weekends, and local festivals in the summertime. I got a gig singing on Thursday nights at a Blues/Jazz club on the south side of Milwaukee. I even answered an ad that was pinned up on the grocery store bulletin board, it was a local church seeking a soloist for Sunday mornings and Wednesday evening service. I am not a religious person at all – but I could sing, and then smile and nod at the parishioners! I joined our local summer stock theater group at the university where I loved to participate in musical theater. I also did the occasional wedding in my spare time while studying music theory, music and art history, piano and voice at college.
It was a full and busy life, but I was happy with all of it and wouldn’t have traded it for the world.
If you’re not paying attention enough, reality and adulthood can wreak havoc on passion. I realize that last sentence sounds bitter, or resentful, but that is not how I intended it at all. Adulthood had different plans for me – plans that didn’t include scraping out a living in the world of music and theater. I became a young mother at the age of 21, and again at the age of 23 and, thus, I headed down a different path because now, my passions were different.
Second Time’s a Charm?
I enrolled in college for a second time, except this time I went to nursing school and became a Registered Nurse. I worked 15 years as an RN and it was rewarding work. It was not where my heart was at, but it was stable work, it paid well and allowed me to create a safe, stable and happy home for me and my children.
I left my nursing career in 2004 when I began a journey into the technology space, specifically web development. Fast-forward to today, I am the COO and partner of a successful web development agency that is currently entering into its 15th year of business, and I am a published author 20 times over on books about the work I do today. I am fulfilled and happy with my work and proud of what I have accomplished in my years.
Music was always there. Always keeping me grounded, entertained – it was my therapy throughout years that I had no time for actual therapy, when I probably needed it. I do, and have, at times missed the musician in me. Music always gave me the ability to express myself in ways that my introverted self wouldn’t always allow. I never had a piano to turn to throughout these years, because, as a single mother, I couldn’t afford one. When I got to a point in my life that I could afford one, I felt like I was too many years removed from all of that….it felt an insurmountable task to try and pick it up and worried that I would just be frustrated with how much of that talent and ability the years have washed away.
Until Christmas, this year. Chris, my husband, got me a very nice digital piano for Christmas. I guess I had been talking recently about my musical past. I often would share recordings of piano that I loved. He would see me play my favorite piano playlists from Spotify loudly while cleaning around the house and he would poke fun at how I jam out to piano classics like normal people jam out to rock music. He likes music and has a wide range of musical tastes, but he is not someone I would call a ‘musical’ person – meaning that he has never played an instrument and couldn’t carry a tune to save his life! He appreciates good music, but doesn’t know the feeling of expressing oneself through playing music.
It’s a different feel.
I love that he has enabled the reintroduction of myself to the young woman with a passion and love of music – I love him for it. I have been playing my new piano every day since Christmas. Several hours a day. I wish I could say that playing piano is like riding a bike. For me, it’s definitely not. At first it felt foreign and unusual. While I don’t think I will ever forget how to read music on the Treble Clef, the Bass Clef is something I had to re-teach myself – but after a few days, it all came back and I’m reading music like I always had. My fingers trip all over themselves at times and I misremember chords and keys. So, I’m a work in progress – but it feels good to dig in and play again!
After about 3 weeks of re-introducing myself to they keys – I’m feeling much more comfortable.
I discovered the song from a Spotify playlist called “Bose Speaker Test” – I sought out that playlist because another Christmas gift from Chris several years ago of Bose speakers for my office. I wanted to find a playlist that would allow me to test out my new speakers and found this one. The song was at the top of the list – I fell in love with it immediately.
I found the sheet music for Comptine d’un autre été, l’après midi for my iPad and am currently teaching myself how to play it – and I can’t even express how happy that makes me! My fingers are still tripping here and there, but they are finding their way around the keys.
If they don’t play Comptine d’un autre été, l’après midi. at my funeral – I’m not going.