“Il y’a un truque que m’a frappé: Tu a quatre-vingnt ans, il y’a des vins que tu ne boiras jamais.”

(This is the thing that struck me: You’re eighty years old, there are some wines that you’ll never drink.)

This afternoon I was digging through my collection of digitized cassette tapes as part of a journaling / diary project I’m looking into. One of the more precious things I stumbled on was this song I made during a music composition course while I was a sophomore at Northwestern University in 1993. The professor’s instructions were to “compose something of personal and emotional significance.” You can hear the song I composed below.

Nineteen-ninety-three was the year in which I was saddened to learn that a close family friend had died, Monsieur Du Serf. This was a gentleman I had known and loved since early in my childhood. During summer visits to my grandmother’s home in France, Monsieur Du Serf and his dog — a high strung Daschund named “U.F.O” (but prounced “ooh-foh”) — were regular visitors. He always treated me with great kindness and generosity.

A few years prior to this music composition assignment, I had started making sneaky recordings of conversations people had around me on a tape recorder. So as it turns out I was able to find a fairly recent recording of Monsieur Du Serf for the project.

The voices you hear in this composition are primarily those of my grandmother, Lucienne Bert (1912 – 2003) and Monsieur Du Serf (19?? – 1993). This pair liked nothing better than to sit around the dining room table and argue about wine and food. Discussions even about seemingly small things inevitably rose to fever pitches punctuated with table-slapping and disgusted exclamations of “baaaah!” and “ecoutez! (listen!)”. If the conversation got too quiet, Monsieur Du Serf would slip a bit of sausage or cheese to U.F.O I think just to elicit a grunt of disapproval from Lucienne.

Listening to this song again today (for the first time in the 17 year interval since it was recorded to a 4-track cassette recorder) I was moved by this conversation in which these two old friends, now both dead, were discussing what it meant to be eighty years old and buying wines that wouldn’t be ready to drink for ten or fifteen more years. In recent holidays, my mother and I have enjoyed drinking some of the very wines they discussed in this conversation.

Du Serf: This is the thing that struck me: You’re eighty years old, so there are some wines that you’ll never drink.

Lucienne: I bought some yesterday. I bought some yesterday because it gave me pleasure. I know I won’t drink them either.

Du Serf: When you’re old… when you’re old you buy wines for your <<héritiers>> (those who will inherit from you.)