Tuesday, May 24, 2016

On My Way

I’m travelling alone this trip—when I was talking to my violinist friend she said, very emphatically, “go by yourself.” I think that she meant because I would have more fun. So here I am, sitting in terminal one at the Mexico City airport with an hour or so to kill before my flight boards and it occurs to me that, as a blogger, I am taking all my readers with me.

I’m going to spend ten days in Madrid, which is a city with a lot of appeal for me. I have lived in many different places in my life. It started by living in a different small town in northern Canada for each of the first six years of my life. Now that’ll scar you! But the multitude of places I have lived boils down to basically five regions:

Northern Alberta and British Columbia: from when I was born to when I was fourteen, due to my father’s work with the railway, we lived in several different small towns (a few hundred people and a couple of grain elevators) before settling down on a small homestead when I was seven

Vancouver Island, specifically Courtenay and Victoria, the capital of British Columbia (this was what really changed my life as, had my mother not had to move there for her work, I likely would have stayed in northern BC and never had any access to nor contact with a number of things that changed my life—those started with attending the University of Victoria, which opened a lot of doors for me)

Spain, Madrid and Alicante: what caused this, the second big dislocation of my life, was my desire to study with a real master of the classical guitar and there simply were no such in Canada in the mid-70s. The only places to go were Spain or England and I had no connection with England. My teacher in Vancouver recommended I study with his teacher in Spain, Maestro José Tomás (as I have mentioned before)

Montréal, Québec: I moved to Montréal in order to finish my first music degree and ended up doing two at McGill University. I chose McGill because I met Michael Strutt, who taught there, at the master class in Alicante. He won second prize in the competition.

And, finally, Mexico. But before then I moved back to Victoria from Montréal, where I taught for a number of years at the Victoria Conservatory and the University of Victoria, then I moved back to Montréal again where I taught at Vanier College and McGill and did all the course work for a doctorate in musicology. But before embarking on the dissertation, I dropped out and moved to Mexico. Suddenly the idea of spending another twenty years in academia just didn’t appeal!

So, looking at those five places, there are two that I have not ever returned to: northern BC and Alberta, and Spain. Perhaps I might revisit the Canadian north at some point, who knows. But I have had the strong desire to return to Spain for a long time. Having spent so much of my life living in so many different places, I find that I need to, as it were, revisit past places as a way of rooting myself, not so much in a place as in the person I was when I lived there. If that makes any sense?

Why Madrid, which I only spent a few days in on two occasions during the year I lived in Spain? Why not Alicante, where I spent most of my time? I was in Alicante solely because Tomás was there and he passed away over a decade ago. There really isn’t anything to go back there for. Madrid on the other hand impressed me greatly and I barely scratched the surface. Madrid is resonant with so much history and art. Within a short walk of my hotel (chosen for that reason) are three world-class art museums: the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bournemisza museum. Together they contain a wealth of great art from the 13th century to now.

I also understand that Madrid has seven or eight thousand restaurants so all that, plus I intend to spend every morning composing, should take up my time nicely.

I will keep you posted!


Later: it was a long flight, ten hours, with a seven hour time difference so by the time I landed in Madrid, it was seven in the morning local time, but midnight for me. Every time I go to book a flight somewhere, I look at the difference in price between tourist/economy class and any of the premium classes and think "it's just not worth it." But every time I am jammed into one of those tiny seats for a long flight and, on deplaning, see the comparative luxury of business class and I think "oh yes, totally worth it." Iberia business class looks really posh: each seat is like a little niche where you can stretch out full length. Lots of room and, one assumes, lots of service.

Anyway, enough for now. I have made it to my hotel, though, since it is eight in the morning, I can't quite check into my room so I am here in the lounge, finishing off this post. Depending on how jet-lagged I am, there will probably be a post tomorrow with my first impressions of Madrid. I can tell you one thing, the new terminal at the airport is very nice, all curvy wood strips for the ceiling.


David said...

Bryan, have a fantastic trip. Do you have theme music for your journey of (re-)discovery? Maybe R Strauss, DonQ? It's not really authentic Spanish, but it does have a great subtitle: (Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character).

When you taught at the Victoria Conservatory was it located in Craigdarroch Castle? They have done a fantastic job of restoring the building as a museum. It is one of my favourite attractions when I visit Victoria.

Christine Lacroix said...

I enjoyed you post about your trip and the reasons for it. I wonder how people who have lived all of their lives in the same place experience the world compared to people like you, and me I might add. I'm looking forward to your trip updates.

Marc Puckett said...

I wonder if the differences in pronunciation &c between castellano and the Spanish of Mexico are fewer these days than, say, twenty years ago?

"The new Terminal 4 is meant to give passengers a stress-free start to their journey." Hope this proves true!

Bryan Townsend said...

Now I am definitely encouraged to post a journal of my trip since you all seem interested! Personal experience seems to be one of the things that keeps the blogosphere humming

No David, no theme music as of yet. But looking over a book on Madrid Style 2016 in my hotel room, I see that Madrid's opera house the Teatro Real is offering a host of new productions over the next two seasons. It looks like the only one being performed while I am here is Moses und Aron by Schoenberg. Not my favourite, but unless there is something else on, a Mozart opera, for example, I may attend. Yes, when I first taught at the Victoria Conservatory they were indeed in Craigdarroch Castle. I remember one studio where the view was so lovely it was hard to practice! But then we moved down to another building near Beacon Hill park, that was a bit more practical. I understand they are in another facility now.

Thanks Christine! Most people haven't been moved around as much as I have (and moved myself, of course). My ex-wife, until she met me, had lived in the same small town in Germany. But then she moved to Montreal and then we moved to Mexico. She is now back in her hometown, but I do think she is glad of having seen a couple of other places.

Oh yes, there are significant differences in pronunciation! The fellow at immigration at the airport asked me how many days I would be here and I said "diez" (meaning ten) pronouncing the "z" as an "s" as in Mexico so he asked me again in English. Here, the "z" is pronounced as "th". In general the pronunciation here has a sibilance to it--not heard as "th" usually, but more like a "sh". They speak with the tongue further forward. It is interesting--they often don't refer to the language as "Spanish" but rather as "Castillian" ("Castellano").

Terminal 4 is quite a lovely building. I will try to get some photos when I leave. But there are some formidable escalators and a long, long walk (though with sideways) to get from your gate to the exit. It feels like a mile, at least.