On the Road

As if the glamour of a touring pianist’s life needed any further confirmation or evidence, I am now blogging from a Denny’s in Lubbock, Texas. Outside, Lubbock’s wide, dusty Ave. Q bakes in seemingly endless sunshine, while inside, and particularly backstage at the concert hall, one freezes in extreme air-conditioning. I just left the piano technician safely behind in the chilly hall, a friendly man with a gentle west Texas drawl, and asked him to remove some of the metallic quality from the upper octaves–though I have to admit that asking any technician to do anything to a piano fills me with fear, with second thoughts and self-remonstrances… the devil I know so often seems preferable to the devil I don’t. I will have to drown these unnecessary, futile fears in spicy chicken and fries.

Anyone could imagine that after weeks and weeks of just Bach, leaping into the Tchaikovsky piano concerto could be a shock… perhaps only paralleled by the cultural sea-change of leaving Manhattan for Lubbock. As I sat on the floor in the Lubbock baggage claim, awaiting my giant gray bag, beneath an advertisement for irrigation pumps, my face made wan by the inevitable banks of fluorescent light, I charged my phone at a lone necessary socket, and chatted with a dear friend back east–lone, necessary comfort after a long trip, and he seemed to recognize this, and his voice warmed in response. I was grateful. You never know which plane trips are going to be tedious.

Outside, at the curb: the airport emptying for the night, crews heading home, parking vans congregating, spewing diesel fumes; but against this: a wonderful Western breeze, reminding me of On the Road, Kerouac and co.’s constant sense of the call of the West, its vistas, promises, adventures. Endless rambling sentences, endless rambling journeys… (the endless rambling structure of the first movement of the Tchaikovsky concerto?) But when I arrive at the hotel, I realize my time here will be circumscribed by the short walk across the street from the Holiday Inn to the Civic Center, and further it will be circumscribed by the usual: serious practicing.

Frustrated with these limits, I imagine myself disembarking in Lubbock as a non-pianist, perhaps as a cowboy. I get a delightful care package in my hotel room from the nice symphony people, which includes a cowboy hat. I sit in my hotel room, and put it on, pose for the mirror while I check my email. Ridiculous but pleasantly so. Coincidentally, the other day, in the wake of all 6 Partitas, I envied a cow I spied from a car, half-immersed in a muddy pond. I guess this envy was a symptom of the intense mental effort of all that Bach… a desire not to play melodies on demand but, rather, to moo at leisure… but I cannot be that cow for now, nor may I herd cows in my new hat … I must simply corral the notes I have to play tonight…

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  1. Nils
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Herd them notes, boy, and git outta Texas. There’s a storm a comin’.

    May happiness be Lubbock in your rear-view mirror.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, seriously though, you’ve heard about the storm, right? Well, have a great concert and be safe!
    Glad you’re back, by the way. We can all go on with our lives now.

  3. Rose
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Great blog. I agree with nils and anonymous- be careful about that storm.
    The last time you blogged was on my birthday!
    Happy concert!

  4. Bryant Manning
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Denk –
    I’m curious if you play any of the Rachmaninoff preludes — Op. 23 in particular. Alexis Weissenberg’s recording has brought them to life for me, and inspired me to learn them. I’m afraid they’re looked over, given the lack of recordings on the market. What’s your opinion?

    Op. 23 #4 is a miraculous creation.

    -Bryant Manning

  5. Monty Bradshaw
    Posted September 24, 2005 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I attended the symphony last night (Fri) and I want to say “Thank You” for providing me a wonderful experience from the music. A great concert in my opinion! I began taking piano lessons about a year ago at the age of 38 and I am reminded again by your effortless performance on the piano how beautiful the music is. Thanks and safe journey home!

  6. ramashka
    Posted September 24, 2005 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Look at all these lucky people getting to hear you live! I guess I’ll just have to wait until April 8th…

  7. Erin
    Posted September 24, 2005 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I know you didn’t, but I kind of wish you played your concert wearing the cowboy hat.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted September 25, 2005 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I was going to say the same thing as Erin: I bet people would pay big bucks to see you playing Tchaikovsky in a black cowboy hat. (Or is it white?)

    I’ll bet people don’t know you actually spent your boyhood on a horse, out there in the canyons of New Mexico, ropin’ and herdin’ and wrasslin’. Git along, little doggy.


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