Guest contributor: Thierry Kauffmann
categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Jukebox
Rachmaninoff was a minor composer. Not minor as in of no importance, he just composed a lot in minor scale. Depressed third if you wish. I feel it, that’s why I don’t play too much Rachmaninoff. Except when I’m depressed, but then, it’s roll over Rach, you want to hear what depression sounds like, I’m the undisputed king, I get free depression just from waking up. I know, it’s unfair, why me. Because someone has to give. I get all the blessings, but the blessings mean nothing, if they’re not shared, that is given. I give, so I can live. My name is Anxious Bode, professor of panic and sleep disorders. I teach at night, when I can see more clearly. It’s also the time at which I wake up. I have Parkinson’s disease. My nights are short.
Rach, as he is known, his concertos, wrote four. The most difficult pieces of the entire piano repertoire. Think the four knights of the Apocalypse. I play the third. At my speed, with my understanding of it, but that, even, is just the beginning. A beginning.
Sit back, grab a program, today I play, I’m the pianist, but you need explanations, so I’m also the director, film director. We’re shooting a documentary on art and Parkinson’s. And I’m your host, here, ready to give.
When I wake up, at 3 AM, my brain scrambles to restart after the disconnection that the night is. It must restore everything, power, time, memory, space, my brain is a wreck, my mind, the cleaning crew. It’s not always bad, but it takes time. And while this takes place, while I pull myself out of the hole I’m in, talking to myself like the captain of a ship to his team of one, behind the brouhaha of voices, I hear music.
It’s a concerto. It begins with the end, my birth, third movement. Tempest of sound, tumultuous strings, until the clamorous eruption of light, the real one, that of the sun, presiding over a Vermeer sea. I call it the restoration of love.
Before I can speak, before I can return to who I am, or thought I was, music, a music as complete as one written by a composer, has played in me, on command, on autopilot. I run to a piece of paper or to my portable keyboard and key in all the notes I can but this is music of the mind, it’s internal monologue. It can be heard, but not interrupted. There remains one solution, and if you know me you know which one it is. If it can only be heard once, I will play it. There will be no composing, I will wake, at the piano, come to life and let my hands tell the musical story.
That was the story, the plan. I had decided to improvise this concerto out on the keys, skip the page, burst into joyous collisions of strings, hammerfest, Anxious style. That was two days ago. Yesterday, my second wake up, dayshift, I heard Rachmaninoff. Concerto number 3.
I had not played it, nor even attempted to play it for at least a year. To prepare my concert, my daredevil “so you think you can improvise a concerto”, I had worked on lifting my left hand, the depressed side, and free it from the bonds of unresponsive muscles, an awkward fighting for grace hand, which my right hand helps, across the keyboard. I’ll show you. I have pictures. I can show you right now.
Anxious steps to the piano. He looks like he’s stumbling but there is order in his fall. He lands on the piano stool. His hands spread on the keys.
Hi this is me Anxious, sorry I lost the mic. I’m back. Let me turn the volume down. Here we go.