Friday, January 07, 2005

Stuffing my pockets at the bookstore ...

Last night's January twilight was glazed over with ice.

At the bookstore, I just couldn't spend that $35.00 on every last word packaged up so nicely into a new and attractive book
by Mr. Rosen .

So I spent $3.00 on a latte and strapped myself into these damn reading glasses (suddenly they're necessary) and began
stuffing his dry words into whatever pockets I could find in my over-burdened

Now on this brittle January morning I've checked my pockets and found that they must have holes.
I must have littered the parking lot with those well-chosen Charles-Rosen-words.

Maybe there are some in the car.

Some I still had. I found 1814-1819
and nephew
and suffering.
Opus 90 is caught up in that ugly time of deafness and mad desire to take ownership of the nephew.


It's the best of the words. It's always there in Beethoven. Imagine laying such careful plans to disintegrate. Imagine writing such beautiful undoings of beauty (that's not Mr. Rosen. He's better than that. And certainly more careful.)

I scrounged around and found that I still had Mr. Rosen's small and honest confession in one of my pockets. He admits that he's just not clear as to whether the end of the opus 90, having slowed, ought to gear up and move past its original tempo in that final cascade, and then retrieve the tempo in the last two bars ... or simply accelerate just enough to be back by the end.

It is a marvelous uncertainty set down boldly in a stern little font.
I found that reassuring.

And, as always, I again found my own confession. It kicks around in various costumes in virtually every pocket I own.
A nagging little ghost that scratches at the heart, claiming I've missed some elemental piece of knowledge.
Some essential wisdom which will prevent me from playing the music as they say it should be played ....

I just keep digging to see who they might be.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Small silver phones pressed desperately against the ear ...

Think of the depth with which we search the syllables, and each of their letters, and the nature of the breaths that surround them.
Think of the deep diving we do into the nuances of the vital voices that reach us by cell phone.

In a parking lot, perhaps, a call from someone deeply loved, whose voice comes but occasionally. A miraculous human.
I hear every inhalation ... each curl of the lip that darkens or brightens a vowel. (Might that be sadness? Could that slight sigh between words -- the one that teases my senses -- could that be some small resignation? a little motive that will develop later into difficult news? Is there a new distance? I clutch subtle accent, the audible smirk. Mundane words are given slightly new pitches and never-before-taken tempos. What are the secrets that motivate these punctuations?)

These, I thought, once I'd snapped the small silver phone shut ...
These are the questions I ask when practicing Chopin ...
When hearing a Schubert song ...
And while weeping through the ebb and flow of Schumann's Fantasy ...

How carefully we listen to our deeply loved voices on these small silver phones ...
What insightful listeners we are.

If only music could receive such attention.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The window and the Sarabande ...

It's changed.
It had been a darker affair. A single rectangle with a weakening sill and peeling paint. Brittle blinds with broken ropes.
(It seemed just as well ... only a cruel suburban crossroad to see. A house or two and a flagpole with its proudly clanging chain.)
There was, though, something right about
Its dimensions I think.
Maybe its darkness.
Its angle on the shrubbery below?
It did ignite a memory of me-as-child and my window back then, with its same proximity to the piano.

It's changed now.
Someone new has bought the house, and I keep renting the walls for the sake of the ceilings. And suddenly, here it is! A dramatic bay window. And there, too, is the sky!

Old men now walk at length. I can learn their gaits. I once followed the shuffle of an ancient man for the entire first page of the G Major French Suite ...
Now children in this sun-soaked frame have complete choreographies to unleash.
Bicycles float past ... I have light on my face and my hands.
I can see the seasons.
There is a tree, and I'm learning its branches.
Chickadees halt and stare in at my anguishing.

And I wonder.
Does this change the practicing?
Deeply in love with the random dances that waltz into this dramatic frame, I wonder ...
Does this change the practicing?
For me, who never imagines changing the space myself,
I admire the thinkers who envision these big panes of glass.
I wouldn't have thought of this.
I wouldn't have guessed it would cause this warmth.

But whether the French Suite is better ...
Because this bigger view keeps urging me to consider these unexpected dances, and allows me just enough time to absorb them.
The old man's arrival in the window frame ...
Strangely slow. Meticulous.
A purposeful trip across the glass. An elderly propulsion.
Never a change in tempo, but constantly new in his nearness to trees
and puddles of darkness and sunlight.
An occasional turn of the head.

Cruel suburban shuffle.
It's a lesson for a Sarabande.