I wake up in a hotel room with its shades drawn. Where am I? The only sound is the laboring vent, blowing way too much heat; when I move, I am a match, I strike static sparks. Sad Indiana fibers. From the gray glow around the shades, there is no way to know what time it is, time of day, and I am somewhat in doubt even of time of life … I can turn on the TV and escape into that selfless screen but instead I watch my own mind and when I figure out where I am and why the weirdness only deepens.

I’m in a bar, drinking Long Island Iced Teas, college drinks, and eating jalapeño poppers, following forgotten ritual. The current Jeremy looks on with bemused rolling knowing eyes, as if to say “what are you thinking, you idiot?” and “call me when you’re done, when you’re ready to move on.” The Jeremy that is drinking the drink is nobody, is unlocatable. College Jeremy is there as a consultant, insinuating the refuge of memory, traced from this same spot some ten years ago: stumbling back in the dark over broken sidewalks to a white crumbling house, playing incoherent ping-pong on a frozen porch, passing out on the living room floor, in the middle of a conversation about Expressionism and the Simpsons. Current J, bored with this often-watched movie, goes to to his/my overheated hotel room, wonders, am I, are you, a student, a teacher, an apprentice, an adult, an artist, a free agent, a question mark?

I’m walking down Kirkwood Street and the string of pieces I have played over the last month comes to mind, but in the form of names. Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Liszt: pompous referents, to be carved in Indiana limestone. All the stress and seriousness of those preparations is suddenly seen as a lump in the past, and there is no purpose in the past, only in what you mean to do, are doing at that moment. At the moment I am carrying coffee through the gray cold day, which seems like very little to be doing. The coffee is cold. The music itself is unlocatable, at that moment; what, then, is the purpose of all I have done?

I am in a dark cab. An orange low moon on my right, the city skyscape on my left, we whir along the Triboro bridge, in the curved barricaded cab, there, again, I’m feeling a prisoner in its lumpy bumpy back seat. Periodic potholes, and my laptop flies all over my lap. The person whom I would like to tell about this experience, which is nothing, is nowhere; I lift my cell phone but haven’t the heart. The History Channel billboard as always stares across the toll plaza. We curve around a ramp onto the FDR and there is the same jostling of lanes, the same contracting, expanding galaxy of brakelights. Same same self, same same ritual, but I’m a bit confused, I guess, not to find myself there in the same moving place.

I am walking out onto the stage of Carnegie Hall and find myself in the geometric center of everything, at the crux and focal point of both the orchestra and the audience and staring at the arrayed symmetry. Everybody’s eyes crossing the space diagonally, in every direction. There is just the piece, that’s all. I have to find it, that evanescent miracle of notes and thought, that culminating encapsulating text of human history, at that very moment, at 8:32 pm, on that bench, at that very place; that is, after all, the job. It is there, I am radiating it out, but while I am playing it, does it stick to me? Only a few moments later, it seems to be done, I am on and off stage at once … the moment flickers, flares like a match. Only afterwards in the eyes of a friend, only then time becomes event, the flow circles, centers around itself, the piece comes back into view, and those eyes hold me in place long enough to know who I am.

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted December 9, 2006 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    one of the most poetic descriptions of Pre-concert Existentialism i have ever read. Story of my life (sorry tosound so egocentric)…but, it sounds so familiar, even without the crying in the hotel room, and in the cab, and in the Green Room.

    love you~

  2. hari
    Posted December 9, 2006 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    i saw your performance at carnegie hall. when you left the stage after your exciting performance, the music definitely stayed with us.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted December 10, 2006 at 12:48 am | Permalink


  4. Anonymous
    Posted December 13, 2006 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    What a bunch of crap

  5. Lane Savant
    Posted December 13, 2006 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I am so glad that someone else appreciates that Bobbie Burns switcharoo joke. My wife never laughs.

  6. Matt
    Posted December 15, 2006 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Lovely. We’re so lucky to be a part of something that can be so meaningful we literally forget who, and when, we are. Thanks for writing about it.

  7. kris
    Posted December 15, 2006 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    hi Jeremy,

    I often have similar thoughts…the process is circular, really, but I find a little solace in some words from E.L. Doctorow’s City of God, who describes a scene in which a member of the polish resistance berates a group of rabbis for not evacuting his people from a ghetto (pardon the impending paraphrasing). he mocks them, saying that their prayers will not be enough to save their people, then leaves. One rabbi, silent the whole time, finally rises to leave, and says, half to himself,

    “That’s not why I pray. I pray to bring Him into being.”

    I’m finding that, ultimately, this is really the only reason why I play…

    Looking forward to seeing you perform again. All the best,


  8. alan Montgomery
    Posted December 15, 2006 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Wait till the chemistry people see this!

  9. R J Keefe
    Posted December 19, 2006 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Your Bach was superb! How abashing to consider that the eternal present of a virtuoso performance would leave you with the impression that you were on the stage for a few minutes only.

    You appeared to have fun with the Hartke, way in back on the harpsichord.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted December 20, 2006 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    I’m moved to submit a quote from Andor Foldes: “Da alle Reisen, die ich im Leben unternahm, ausschliesslich Konzertreisen waren, bei denen für mich nur eines wichtig und entscheidend war: dass ich meine Konzerte in Topform spielen konnte, bagatellisierte ich alle unvermeidbar gefährlichen Reiseerlebnisse. In der Tat verbrachte ich die meiste Zeit der unzähligen Stunden, die ich im Laufe von Jahrzehnten im Flugzeug sass, damit, in aller Seelenruhe und ganz unhabighängig vom Geschehen um mich herum, die Werke, die ich i8n meinen nächsten Konzerten im Programm hatte, Note für Note in meinem Kopf durchspielen. Die Noten, die Klänge, waren ja in meinem Gehirn, in meinem Herzen, tief eingeprägt.”

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