There is something I find absolutely magical about starting a new book (and it’s not just because this is Harry Potter either). The beginning of this book is perfectly timed with the beginning of finals season and the end of the 1L year. I sat down to read and write today listening to one of my absolute favorite musical compositions in the world: October by Eric Whitacre
In middle school and high school I played the flute (and sometimes other instruments) in band. I loved when we would play complex musical pieces like this one. Every instrument had its own crucial part to play. Every time we started with a new piece we would sight-read it, meaning as an ensemble we would get the music and just attempt to play it together, not knowing how the notes worked together, how each line created a piece of the story, how important the crescendos and diminuendos were… we would just play, hoping we would all at least stop together.
It never sounded amazing on the first run through. So we would try again. We would practice at home. We would work with our section leaders and each other to better our parts. We would come back together and play it again and again, working to see the big picture, to paint the musical storyline through each note and each rest. We would work together, we would listen to each other and I swear we would bond through the piece.
Now I played sports, was on student council and did many other team oriented activities, but there was something about band that made me feel like I belonged. Ever since then, when I gave up on a dream of playing music, because school and work became more important i’ve worked to see music in other aspects of my life. When I listen to music, or attend musicals I can literally feel the music in my heart and see the music in my mind picking out each individual instrument. A lot of the time my soul longs to be sitting in the front row on a stage with the conductor in front of me and clarinets and trumpets behind me simply getting lost in the creation of a beautiful symphony for the audience to listen to and indulge in. Yet, that was a dream of the past.
Sitting down to read this week’s chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban I turned that piece of beautiful music on, looking for inspiration once again. There within that chapter, I didn’t find a theme. I found music. Like sitting down to play a composition, writing a book takes bringing the right notes and rests, the right crescendos and diminuendos together. J.K. Rowling composes a beautiful opening chapter. She juxtaposes Harry’s past two summers with the one at hand. She paints humbleness through the letters sent to Harry on his birthday. She paints thankfulness through Harry’s thoughts about his friends. She paints wonder through the simplicity of Harry’s interactions with the Wizarding World. Yet, she also still paints a hunting doubt and wincing moments of foreshadowing through minute sentences hidden in Harry’s thoughts and treasures. Writing, reading and playing music can all be hard to do when the material is fresh, the excitement boiling over and the insecurities lingering nearby.
Reading this chapter, listening to music from my past, and trying to prepare for the finals ahead made me think of how difficult journeys can be. Harry is having a typical summer, a summer vacation that he hates and spends longing to now be back in school, the place he feels like he belongs. He sneakily does his homework at night as to not invoke the fury of the Durselys. He awaits to hear from his friends. He lives out his present in hopes that his future will be better. He dwells for small moments on the past, revisiting the school year before, looking forward to the school year ahead, all whilst knowing that Voldemort is still out there looking to kill Harry at any moment. He feels full when he hears from his friends, and he feels alone when he does not. Every summer is like playing the same musical piece, one he knows good and well until the end, when school is about to begin, then he starts sight-reading a brand new piece.
This past year, moving away from home, getting back into school, having to make new friends while trying to keep old friends, living with someone and learning how that works when I’ve lived alone for 4 years, not working then working, and learning the law and how law school works in general has been like one giant sight-reading exercise. There are section leaders and peers that come in and out of this exercise to help, but no one consistently throughout the whole process. The sections of flutes and trumpets and percussion have cycled through so many people and the second you think you’ve got it down, a few key players, soloists or full sections get sick and take leave.
Law school is the giant orchestra that never comes together to produce one song. There are too many rogue soloists, there are too many paid musicians who come in for an hour and leave to go be with their real friends and family, there is a lot of heart but it is all given to other motivations. No one is truly in it for the good of the music, for the heart and the soul full of passion.
After every huge piece, when we would perfect it, when we would accomplish something huge, as a group we would beg for something new, something harder to tackle as a group. The music, the challenge, the passion became addictive… the thing is we knew we couldn’t do it without each other. Band wasn’t always glamorous, we fought like families do, we were friends most of the time and enemies at other times, we hated seeing each other all the time, but missed each other when it had been too long. We were up before the sun together and still awake together hours after it went down. We wanted to kill each other at times. We were a family though, fueled by a love of music and a longing to create it together.
Law school can be that way at times… until finals. Everyone loves and hates each other up until finals… then we all leave each other. When the music gets challenging we dip out. We leave, lock ourselves away, stop communicating to most people, only talking to and reaching out to those key individuals who are on our level, who are part of our smart study group, those we deem worthy of our time. We cast away those instruments that were essential to us when we were no longer struggling.
Harry felt alone most of his summer. He realized that Ron attempted to reach out and then went on vacation and probably told Hermione not to call harry since Ron’s attempt went so poorly. Harry spent most of the summer feeling like an outcast again… until his birthday. Around 1 AM on his birthday everyone wrote to him, sending him gifts.
As we go into finals, as we sight-read a new piece of music together before heading off to let the music go dark for the summer, I think it’s important to take a moment and assess what’s truly important: the music we play together or the music you play alone. For me, there was nothing more nerve-wracking than playing a solo while every one else rested silently… I loved being part of the music, the build to end, with my peers. It’s where I felt I belonged. Hogwarts is where harry feels he belongs with his peers. Going into finals… where do you feel you belong?
Until Next Time,