I knew something was up. The sign next to the refrigerator read: “white wine in the frig”. (Perhaps: the frigging fridge? the frigate?) On a nearby shelf, my newly acquired Mozart action figure was lifting his left hand dramatically up to pounce upon a Quaker Oatmeal Bar, balanced cleverly upon a pair of Sunmaid raisin boxes to simulate a piano. Though unsettled by these backstage oddities, I went bravely onstage to deliver a delicate Mozart duet, and then an impassioned Piano Quartet of Joseph Suk. Well, not all the notes were there, but… something was communicated. Meanwhile, all my ill-sorted, bulging bags were outside in the car, saying take me! take me! check me in at baggage claim! And then, too suddenly, I was whisked–no, I whisked myself?–away to the airport, and without setting my head down again on a real bed I have managed to eke out 40 hours or so, split between Seattle and Vermont. A giant pair of plastic woman’s breasts stood at the gateway to my Vermont destination… as you may have guessed, now I am in a dubious dorm in Marlboro, in a warm dusty barren room, with nighttime’s bugs pressing at my window screens, and two empty suitcases, and I am sitting on a metal folding chair, at a student’s industrial desk, next to two army cots–and a copy of the Mozart Wind Quintet is lying open on the desk, like a reminder of civilization. (Outside, I hear “do you know where the hooch went?” And off the hooch-seekers go.) I am not tired, because Seattle is back 3 hours and I am still partly there… but I cannot address myself fully to Mozart either; he is too demanding.

I am thinking about my transition from place to place, and the whole summer already, and all the little things that strike the memory. Pitiful, hapless details: the detritus of festivals. In my bag, now veteran of several festivals this summer, I find:

1) a scrawled note (perhaps by Unabomber disciple?): “Tuned 7-8-05”
2) the business card of Cathy L., “Professional, Limo-Style Taxi Service”… the card does not mention her propensity for cannabis, easily sensed upon proximity
3) deodorant (thank goodness, that’s where it is)
4) USB and other adapter cables of unknown usage or origin
5) the business card for “Pho of Aurora” (i.e. Crazy Pho Lady of earlier post)
6) twelve wadded-up Starbucks credit card receipts
7) the email address, scrawled on the back of a program, of the lovely bartenderess from Boone
8) fifteen used boarding passes and a partridge in a pear tree

What a bizarre thing it is to pack up your mini-lives (for that is what festivals are, summer camps for adults, where your roots grow in and you tear them out), and set off for others… Enough uprootings in a row, and you have, voila! the monotony of difference. Somehow between hello and goodbye you should be able to say something different, to take another path. (Roland Barthes: “those who never reread are condemned to read the same story over and over again…”) How to tie it all together? How not to be overwhelmed by the accumulation of these bizarre facts, the history of your life?

This all sounds very overdramatic and kind of contemplative in a dark way, which is only understandable given my redeye flight and my long lazy swimming session in the afternoon and two beers and probably also the sun and heat which got to my head today… But the point being I have left Seattle and now I am in a whole other Petri dish of people and situations (Marlboro) and it will be an effort to dip myself in, commit myself, and get out while the getting’s good. I can distinguish certain brain states: like the totally involved, fairly carefree state when I am working on a piece –because you really NEED the whole brain to play the piano, to make a piece work… in fact you need more, you need at least all you’ve got… and then, when I come out of the glare of the work, my brain is a deer in the headlights of contingencies, of these bizarre, strung-together, random events, emergences and subsidences of people/ things/concerns… of “normal life,” which is so much less organized than music. The brain is underused, and prone to pick up on peculiar details. And perhaps I don’t have a strong enough balance right now of real, non-musical concerns, so that these transition moments and their salient details can make me feel odd, bizarre… my mind’s a bagful of neglected boarding passes… Right now, that’s where I am: I am one unmoored ship, heading off to crazyland, and I hope to drag my blog readers down with me! Hooray!

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  1. patty
    Posted July 27, 2005 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    I always enjoy reading your blog … but you have to fill me in please! What Mozart Wind Quintet?! Maybe my brain is just in a muddle, but I can’t think of one. There’s the Piano Quintet … is that sometimes called a wind quintet? Hmmm.

    Feeling a bit dense (nothing new) ….

  2. Joan
    Posted July 27, 2005 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Welcome back to the northeast! When I heard you were in Seattle I thought of that Jack Nicholson movie Five Easy Pieces, when he played a concert pianist from a family of musicians who lived in a huge home in the Puget Sound. Nicholson’s character was the ‘black sheep’ who ran away from the fold and then continued to run away from just about everything else because he couldn’t find any meaning in life, or some other psuedo-psycho-philosophical reason. It was the sixties, the time for that sort of thing. Anyway, it is an interesting assemblage of dysfunctional characters – one might think Chekhov wrote it – but then being dysfunctional was a sixties thing, too. Don’t bother to watch it-I just happened to think of it since it is a movie about modern day pianists in the Seattle area. If you need a cookie fix, let me know and I’ll bring some over.
    -Plattsburgh Mom

  3. ACB
    Posted July 27, 2005 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Truly, what is home for traveling musicians? If it is “where the heart is,” then we are always home, as our heart must live in our music. But that makes for a very unrooted life, does it not? I’m feeling a bit “overdramatic and contemplative” myself this evening, the result of two months away from Home and too many intense rehearsals, and your post added some more questions to my overloaded mind. Thank you… (I think.)

  4. Anonymous
    Posted July 27, 2005 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Before you got here, I heard Anner Bylsma compare the musician’s life to that of a flea. We play the last note of one concert and then *BOING* leap across great distances to the site of our next feeding. Bon appétit!

  5. Canadienne
    Posted July 27, 2005 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    ACB led me here. Fantastic writing. I am packing to return home after three months on the road and love the description of your bag – I always seem to end up with the Sbux receipts and boarding passes too. Good luck at Marlboro!

  6. ramashka
    Posted July 27, 2005 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Hey, I’ll take all this and more over cabin fever any day! Wouldn’t you?
    In fact, if I don’t escape out of this windowless prison cell… er, practice room soon, somebody’s going to get hurt. And I think this darn, stringless piano is just begging for it!

    Ahhhhh, much better…

  7. such stuff
    Posted July 28, 2005 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    ok then!

    but look out for icebergs…


  8. Cathy
    Posted August 4, 2005 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    When you say “my brain is a deer in the headlights of contingencies, of these bizarre, strung-together, random events, emergences and subsidences of people/ things/concerns …” I think you’ve given those random details a kind of musical importance — so much so that you are mooring your ship by writing about them in this way. It’s interesting — your blog ties all these random moments together with the vividness of your descriptions. A noble defense of blogging! Do you know the conversation with Elliott Carter, “Flawed Words and Stubborn Sounds”? He describes his music as “simultaneous elements having a direct and individual horizontal relation to the whole progress or history of the piece — that is, simultaneous elements, each of which has its own way of leading from the previous moment to the following one, maintaining its identity as part of one of a number of distinct, simultaneously evolving, contributory thought-processes or musical characters.” I suspect your “detritus” is fundamental and essential to YOUR musical character.

  9. Canadienne
    Posted August 4, 2005 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Just read about your filling in at Mostly Mozart, on short notice. I’m headed for the same fate Tuesday and Wednesday night. Congrats on a great review in the NY Times!

  10. constantsia
    Posted August 4, 2005 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Poor Manny Ax! How do you play with a fractured rib?!! It makes you appreciate the little things, doesn’t it?
    Congrats! Looks like Tommasini really likes your playing. But then again, who doesn’t? 😉

  11. Anonymous
    Posted August 13, 2005 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    zzzzzzzzzz…….crazyland’s pretty quiet so far.

  12. Anonymous
    Posted August 13, 2005 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, no kidding!

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