Kind Of BlueSunday, November 09, 2014
(Del lat. melancholĭa, y este del gr. μελαγχολία, bilis negra).
1. f. Tristeza vaga, profunda, sosegada y permanente, nacida de causas físicas o morales, que hace que no encuentre quien la padece gusto ni diversión en nada.
Real Academia Española
As a child my family called my usual demeanour and the expression on my face, the Alex face. They said that the ends of my mouth always pointed downwards.
For years I have preferred to use the Spanish word (similar to the English one but much more musical) of melancolía. I am often melancólico or melancholic. It seems to sound more poetic and softer than saying, “I am depressed.”
I had a visit today from my ever favourite photographic subject, Bronwen Marsden. She had a smile on her face, one of those soft ones that she is so good at showing. I always discern just a bit of melancholy that makes her smile that much more achingly lovely. She had a copy of Richard Lewellyn’s 1938 novel How Green Was My Valley. Marsden’s mother had given it to her citing that one of the main protagonists of the novel is named Bronwen (and not Bronwyn as many sometimes write Bronwen’s name).
I have been awfully melancholic these last few weeks. I believe it is partly a seasonal maladjustment to the dark afternoons. I explained to Marsden that in my past I have sometimes delved into extending my bouts of melancholia by listening to appropriate music. My ever favourite is Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and in particular the long sad tune All Blues.
It was a cold, wet wintery Buenos Aires evening in 1966. I was doing my military service as a conscript in the Argentine Navy. I was living in a pension run by a retired Nazi officer and his wife. That evening his wife summoned me to the phone. It was Susy and she told me, “You are uncouth and uncivilized. I will never talk to you again and don’t try to contact me. I am now seeing a talented violinist of the Teatro Colón Symphony. Good bye.”
That was that. I suddenly felt alone. I went up into my room and placed on my little portable record player the Davis Kind of Blue. I could feel that melancholia dragging me down and it sort of felt good.
A couple of months before I had been listening to Astor Piazzolla live at the Teatro Florida. The seat next to me was empty because Susy had decided to stay at a party when I told her it was time to go to our concert. I left without her. I was completely depressed and Piazzolla’s Milonga del Angel was making it all worse. Suddenly a hand was placed on mine and there she was. To this day most of Piazzolla, and in particular that exquisite Milonga del Angel, take me back to that terrible evening when I was summoned to the phone.
What I found comforting is that when I told this story to Marsden she said, “I understand.” I asked her to pose in our guest bathroom and as I was taking the picture she said, “This dress is kind of blue.”