Feel like writing about music today. Maybe it’s the ROLLING STONES fault. Drove into my neighborhood a few moments ago while “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” played at a subtle, but understandable, volume inside my salty gray, tired Honda. (As an aside here, I should consider a mid-winter wash of the exterior just to ease the expected rust expansion come spring). Inside I sat listening, feeling satisfied about some things: the year is off to a new start, nobody won the Powerball the other night – so I have a chance again Saturday, and I learned how to do a load of “delicates” last night. In these things, I can be pleased.
To be clear, I am – at the same time – content in other details of my life … and, of course, dissatisfied with some. Trying to balance out all the bads and goods is so hard.
A small part of my dirty laundry was managed last night, so, I won’t hang a shirt-load of it out for you to look upon and admire my lack of smack in facing it head on. I will not take this time to write a laundry list of praises I think I deserve. Time is a cradle, today, to gently hold music’s “naissance de satisfaction” as it was for a performer years ago who melted into the moments …
Late 1980’s. “One” with a grand instrument – a young man exercised his right to tame the demons and call out the angels. Nothing came alive until a key was struck, graced, or summoned into submission. As so many before and since, I felt honored to perform on the very stage where virtuosi and amateurs brought to life their interpretations of the great Masters’ music. This did not need to be the great Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center. It was a stage, piano, and me … a triangle of satisfaction.
The flip of my tuxedo tails off the back edge of the black polished performance bench always added a touch of elegance. The automatic head tilt upwards, as if to say “I have arrived”, while doing so was always a moment of pride at the end of a grueling few months of preparation. Stretching nine feet ahead, a twisted, organized harp of strings and hammers awaited instructions as small beads of sweat ran down behind my well-pressed ruffled shirt. With one well-polished shoe (on the damper) at the end of a slightly nervous right leg, and another comfortably under the bench waiting to employ the una corda, I was almost ready for Mozart.
The time was near. House lights so dark. I sat alone on stage, but among so many who reclined in darkness with eyes upon me. Silence ruled the moment as seconds demanded attention.
These seconds were the eternal pillars through which I’d pass into the magnificent concert hall of echoing satisfaction. Placing my hands on the keys in silence at the very beginning of this, or any, concert was the most magical gesture for me. The audience was anticipating. I was complete. Everything necessary in order to please the piano gods was at the ivory altar awaiting their nod. Approval given, I began.
Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Chopin … all friends by my side for the next hour and forty minutes enjoying, as I was, every uplifting phrasal draft coming up from the keys. Save the occasional applause pause, each moment a respite from the rigors beating on the drums of everyday college-life stress: The anxieties and pressures of a GPA bearing down on future resumes causing fissures in my already fragile mind, unease tilting the scales of personal relationships, and the hunger for acceptance in a starved wilderness of blind self-ambition to name a few.
Shirt sufficiently soaked. I finished. A final bow as the house manager slowly brought attention to the audience I forgot was in attendance. With a quick glance to the light wooden stage near my feet, one would notice (with a bit of imagination) a few wrong notes left there in Beethoven’s Sonata #23, “Appassionata”, Allegro ma non troppo – Presto movement. I’m confident the janitor would have swept them up in a pile – along with some other mistakes I made – that evening.
All said, there was no greater satisfaction in my life. The request for a picture came minutes later after I shed my tux tails coat and tie. No cummerbund did I wear. I struck a pose, froze, and the picture became one of lore to be framed among others and hung, innocently, in a hallway I pass by everyday. Satisfied, on that day, I gave music what it deserved:
“A place among the magical, invisible places where we can go, as fallible, hopeful beings .. to live, briefly, when we want, satisfied in ourselves, and eternally thankful for the gift of being there.” – THIS is my essence and grace when I place my hands on the keys. My triangle of satisfaction.