The Sound Track


I rarely carry a camera when I travel and when I do, I don't take a lot of photos. But I retain a good deal of what I've seen as vividly as though I were looking at photographs.

Even more vivid is the music I've heard, the soundtrack of my travels. Often, after the rest has faded, I remember the music.

A few weeks ago at the ASTA congress in Las Vegas, our group sat on the terrace of the Prime restaurant in the Bellagio Hotel at a British Airways dinner.

As we watched the spectacular fountain display, the soundtrack played Andrea Bocelli and Frank Sinatra. The music, generated by what must be one of the world's most expensive speaker systems, sounded as if it were coming from the sky.

The soundtrack of my travels includes a wide range of music in many places, from a jazz band playing "Sentimental Journey" in a smoky nightclub in Bucharest to "Don Giovanni" at the Sydney Opera House, "Tosca" in Berlin and "The Tales of Hoffman" in Vienna.

Sometimes the juxtaposition of the music and the place was memorable. On a long-ago evening in the Mikado nightclub in Tokyo, a troupe of Japanese singers performed "Hava Nagila." On another evening in Estoril, Portugal, a trio of harmonica players, a man and his two daughters, played a relentless medley of American pop hits from the 1950s.

The settings for the music have included the concert hall behind the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, the Victoria Arts Centre in Melbourne and, perhaps most memorably, the amphitheater at Caracalla in Rome, where "Aida" -- the Verdi version, not Elton John's -- was performed.

At times, the music was by street musicians, from the samba at the ASTA congress in Rio in 1975 to guitarists in the London underground. The universal appeal of American music has been both reassuring and unnerving.

On occasion, far from home, I would be warmed by the sound of an American tune coming from a cab driver's car radio or piped into a hotel room.

At other points, hearing a familiar American song only intensified the feeling of being so far away, prompting me to count the hours until I would return.

Like the pictures I didn't take but see clearly, the soundtrack always is there somewhere and needs little stimulus to begin playing. All it takes is hearing a song on the radio that I remember hearing somewhere else.

It's a rich, eclectic collection that could never be put together on a boxed CD set. It just stays there in memory, accompanying me as I move about.


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