Nostalgia and Grace

My Musical Search for a Sacred Past, and What Became of It, by Carolyn Lee, Ph.D. - April 1990

When I thought of writing on the subject of Western sacred music (with which I was involved professionally for many years), it became obvious to me that I had a story to tell, a leela of nostalgia and Grace, the Grace of the intervention of Avatar Adi Da Samraj in my life, which placed everything I had done and thought and felt about music (and everything else) in a whole new perspective. What follows then, is both a testimony to what is great in our sacred musical heritage as Westerners, and a confession of my romance with all of that, an attitude that I would never have recognized for what it is without the Graceful Help of my Heart-Master Adi Da Samraj. I have also taken this opportunity to introduce and comment upon Avatar Adi Da's own observations on the Western musical tradition and its betrayal of the sacred at a certain moment in history.

My story begins when I was five years old, on the day my mother took me to the Sydney Town Hall to hear Solomon, the great piano virtuoso. I remember the vast wall of organ pipes and the stage beneath, empty save for a gleaming black beast, the largest piano I had ever seen. Solomon came in wearing a very strange suit. I had never seen tails before, but they seemed to match the piano. Graciously acknowledging the applause, he sat down to play, deftly smoothing the tails over the back of the piano stool. Then his fingers glided into the keys.

I sat bolt upright, tugged my mother's arm, and squeaked my patent leather shoes in delight (to the annoyance of a woman in front who turned around and gave me a stern look). He was playing a tune I knew from “Masters and Their Melodies”, my first piano book. It was by Mozart, and I loved it. As Solomon unraveled Mozart's variations on this simple theme I was spellbound, thrilled to discover what lay ahead of me in the world of music. In those days my family did not have any long playing records and I had never heard anything like it on the old 78s. It was a real live initiation, the beginning of my love affair with music.