One of the more remarkable stories I've heard recently comes from a Fresh Air interview with Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez. It's about Lopez and the relationship that developed between him and a homeless musician named Nathaniel Ayers. Lopez was struck by the beauty of Ayers' playing, and was further amazed to discover Ayers was playing with only two strings on his violin. Next he found out that Ayers had been studying at Julliard, but had to drop out due to the onset of schizophrenia.
Lopez wrote about Ayers in a series of columns, and now has a new book out, The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music. The NPR link above features an excerpt, and the interview is just under 40 minutes long. It's riveting.
The Los Angeles Times has an article on the movie currently being finished that's based on this story (it's slotted for a November, Oscar season release). Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey seem well cast, but I'm a bit wary about Joe Wright (Atonement) as the director. We'll see. I'm pulling for it, and really hope it doesn't suck. There aren't many major studio films that depict the homeless, certainly not accurately, and the same goes for mental illness.
Regardless, give the interview a listen. I'd love to see the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities receive at least, oh, a few billion in funding. But Lopez and Ayers ' story explores a great deal about the importance of human connection and kindness, and the absolutely vital role that art (or more broadly, creativity) can play in sustaining us.
Since I've been riffing on Shakespeare recently, let me close with:
Where should this music be? i' the
air or the earth?
It sounds no more; and sure it waits upon
Some god o' th' island. Sitting on a bank
Weeping against the king my father's wreck,
This music crept by me upon the waters,
Allaying both their fury and my passion
With its sweet air; thence I have follow'd it —
Or it hath drawn me rather — but 'tis gone.
No, it begins again
— The Tempest, 1.2, 447-455.
(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)