When his hands first caught hold of a clarinet, something in Peter relaxed, as if coming home. But it was a strange homecoming, as if to someplace forgotten from a previous life. The instrument felt natural in his hands, his breath filled it easily, but if he thought about it, tried to understand, it was fleeting and he'd fluster.

He soon graduated, moved to San Francisco, and met — as so often happens in one's wild youth — an accordionist. And they began meeting daily, to play tangos, Bessie Smith & Duke Ellington, ...and the klezmer music of the Eastern European Jews, complete with its flighty melancholy, scales with sharps & flats both, clarinet chirps and squawks and, oh, the glissandi. Slowly the rest fell away, and they soon became the Gonifs klezmer band, stalwarts of the late 90s San Francisco Bay underground world music scene.

Now when one finds oneself invited to .com parties full of people far richer than one, as an exoticized (& paid!) guest no less despite one's being a honky (due to the clarinet) Tennesseean, one may be tempted to feel like one has it all figured out. But then two things might happen, right around the same time:

  1. the tech bubble bursts (and not for the last time)
  2. your friend/mentor/occasional boss when he needs someone to wash dishes and iron shirts/fanatic 78rpm record collector guy makes you a tape of tunes you know from your klezmer rep, but by Greeks, and Turks, and Bulgarians of the 1920s & 30s. And you hear these tunes in 7/8 time, or with a totally different clarinet tone, or... in makam rast.

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