By Sharon F. Cramer
When first learning to read music, I asked what the phrase da capo al fine meant. I frowned when I learned it translated as “from the head to the new ending” – the composer’s way of telling musicians to return to the start of the piece and play it again until a notation showed where to stop.
Repeat what had just been played? As a young person, I enthusiastically searched for the new and different – da capo was just redundant.
However, as time passed, my view of da capo changed. I realized that, before recorded sound, audiences had to be in the same room as all of the musicians to hear any music. The chance to re-experience the excitement of sounds of various instruments, and the beauty of a quiet musical phrase becoming a full musical rejoicing, helped me to understand why a reprise was of value.
And I realized that I had incorporated da capo into many parts of my life.
Why travel back to a familiar place, reread a book or rewatch a movie when there are so many new options available?
While I do the new – places, books, movies – I have found that, in every type of revisiting, I always find something undiscovered and startling.
Because I know my way around many cities, a return to them offers reassuring comfort as I explore, especially museums. I grew up near the Art Institute of Chicago, and learned to powerfully connect to a dozen pieces that never disappoint, a routine I’ve established at other museums I revisit.
I always first view my favorite pieces, which I think of as old friends, before seeing new exhibits. Although I think each piece of art is clear in my mind, something new intrigues me during every visit.
Art forces us to look again, da capo. Right now, an exhibit at CEPA Gallery (through March 4) shows how over 50 photographers captured the Richardson Olmsted Complex, day and night, in all seasons. The buildings, with history stretching back to 1871, are like a work of art. Photographers invite us to see the endless angles, textures and shadows. Who would think there would be so many surprises in the complex structure?
Revisiting the familiar is not dull. Rereading books I love is a scavenger hunt for the new. Checking out the copyright date, I reflect on what my life was like then. If I have read subsequent novels by the same author, I search for evidence of how the novelist laid the groundwork for future plot twists.
My favorite discoveries are previously ignored sentences, ones that make me think the author snuck into my book in the night and planted words just for me. I mentally touch these pristine jewels, taking pleasure in them, knowing that on the next reading, something else will be uncovered.
Why rewatch movies, television series or documentaries? Well, preparing dinner, and eating it alone, can be hard. After the death of my husband, sitting down at the dinner table was the presence of his absence. Now, well-known faces and scripts are my dinner companions.
Internet options changed my table. Now, via internet streaming, I welcome company each night. Like my well-read books, within these frequently watched shows I can pay attention to lighting, sets, dialogue or forgotten plot lines, along with the “comfort food” of familiar faces in my kitchen.
Although sometimes I watch new things – accepting that I am as likely to be satisfied as be disappointed – I am happiest dining da capo.