I’m not much of a reader, but for some reason I thoroughly enjoy browsing the bookstore and thumbing through the stacks of best-sellers and new releases. This bright yellow book with a concert pedal harp centered on the cover caught my eye.
Contrary Motion by Andy Mozina is about a middle-aged, divorced man named Matthew living in Chicago as a harpist. Matthew is invited to audition for the St. Louis Symphony but is caught up in the recent death of his father, struggles with his six-year-old daughter, and with his highly successful girlfriend. I can’t relate to Matthew’s reality of being a divorced parent, but I can relate to his unique challenges of being a freelance harpist. These harp-induced lifestyle changes are subtly woven into the narrative, as if the author is a harpist himself who understands what we go through!
Maybe you can empathize: Matthew warns his upstairs neighbor that he’ll be ramping up the practice for this audition. He explains that a shining resume of experience in music festivals and orchestra sub positions means nothing when a rent check is due. In one scene, Matthew is late to his weekend brunch gig at a hotel. Mozina describes Matthew’s furious efforts to get there on time in great detail: the coiled up extra strings, the big black binders of gig music, propping the door open to wheel out the harp, loading it into an ancient Volvo, the gut-wrenching feeling when Matthew drops his harp, navigating the streets of Chicago to the loading dock of the hotel, and even that glorious moment when you sit down to a beautiful plate of brunch food in the manager’s office, in isolation away from the hotel guests. Later in the book when Mozina describes, in detail, the challenges of Symphonie fantastique and the method in which Matthew practices to get it right, I start to get curious. Someone is giving this guy insider information.
It didn’t take long to find that Mozina’s wife is Lorraine Alberts, a harpist in Kalamazoo, MI. I knew it! In my google search for Mozina’s source of harp knowledge, I found mixed reviews about the book. I’ll warn you that the beginning is depressing! I’m not even halfway through, maybe Matthew’s career and family life with take a turn for the better.