Sunday, January 3, 2010
On Music, Magic, and Memories
Recently I went to the philharmonic orchestra with a friend to hear Grieg's piano Concerto in A Minor. If you're not familiar with it, I swear it's the reason the grand piano was invented!
The first time I heard the Concerto, I was 14. My mother took me and a friend to the Civic Music program they had in our small hometown in Iowa—a noble attempt to bring culture to our neck of the woods. We went that evening to hear a very young (27, I think) Van Cliburn play.
Our seats were third row center, eye level with his elbow. I could see his fingers hit every key. He played with such unleashed passion that he actually broke the skin on the middle finger of his right hand. It bled. I was horrified, and thrilled. He kept on playing, intermittently wiping his hand on the leg of his pants. The music built; my heartbeat quickened until I thought my teenage self would die of excitement.
We stood in line for half an hour after the performance to get an autograph. As he signed my program, Van Cliburn asked if I played the piano. My mouth hung open in awe; I couldn't speak. I nodded my head yes, then no (how could I claim to play the piano after what I’d just witnessed?), and then shrugged my shoulders.
Dumbfounded, speechless; that's the effect that particular piece of music has on me even these many, many years later. I am humbled by the creative force that wrote itself into existence through the composer and played itself so unforgettably through a young up-coming genius. Now I struggle when I’m asked if I compose music. Well, yes…no…sort of. Shrug.