Monday, January 20, 2014

Piano Sings from Silent Decades of Neglect (Part I)

For now, suspend your disbelief. Suspend your judgment. Suspend your insistence to understand the reason for excessive neglect of such a sensitive persona that had been a life-long companion in several incarnations and was discarded twenty years in response to a different necessity and condition for existence. Two decades ago in a fit of despair, this brilliant instrument of imagination that had served without fail for generations, seeing me through from boyhood to maturity was abused by rejection and neglect---not as a deliberate callous act, but due to circumstances that could have no other outcome.
I was caught in a vortex of contradictions, and as conditions changed when this instrument could be embraced and nurtured, I was was too battered and traumatized to make any gesture of reconciliation.

You wonder how these things begin. How does breaking away from relationships reach such an impasse that there is no way back, no way to repair the damage? Time passes and you forget. You forget all of the tiny pleasures that created such a bond with another...moments creating memories, and memories becoming the substance of who we are and who we are becoming.

And yet I can see vividly how this perfect storm of events that led to conditions of reconcialiation literally exploded in my life on a Saturday afternoon. It was monumental. I arranged to meet a dear friend I had not seen for six months who was under siege in all aspects of health and spirit ... She came into Zuni, radiant, like light filling the dark corners of despair that grew out of the abrupt schism of my life.... And we had such a great inquiry into what could be possible trajectories for future work... And then we connected through a suddenness of need with another friend from whom she had been estranged ...  A few hours later, fresh from this reconciliation, I saw one of the greatest films of my life... Le Grande Bellezza... As though it had been created to reconcile me to life at this precise moment as I recover from a damaged perception... A lost soul wandering empty... alienated from those who had once sustained and nourished me.

I was transformed, renewed and reborn.... And then I stopped at the Mercer Street Bookstore and was drawn directly to a book of poems by Lucas Hunt,  Light on the Concrete, an edition that was signed by the poet... With poems that spoke directly to me ... I might have written them...the first poem was about reconciliation:
          Together at Last
We see the world with shadows all around
and rage to be more alive in the light
of love, thus our hearts, as nimble as  deer,
Pause before leaping the highest fence.
The next morning I had brunch with a former student who is a craftsman and whose passion is making music with analog synthesizers.... I had not seen him for six years, but he came tumbling into my life almost unexpectedly and I could feel the magnetism that aligned us at this particular time.

He was a person that worked with meticulous precision with his synthesizers, at one time having an enormous collection of electronic instruments. Recently he had turned his artistic craftsman skills to piano tuning with an aim not only to tune but to restore.... and as we talked I suddenly knew that I had found someone I could trust to reconcile me with a past that had bruised my sensibility and awareness and cut me off from my expressive companion.

He described how years of tuning oscillators had sharpened his ear so that tuning the piano strings fell into place. As we finished brunch, I told him that I had a piano sitting in my apartment that had not been touched for 20 years. I tried to explain why the piano had been so neglected... but the story is so personal and painful, I could only explain that circumstances in my life and situation conspired in such a way that the piano was blocked from my consciousness. The piano had been my constant connection to the exploration of sound and ideas.  My obsession on the keyboard was to improvise for hours at a time... and the sonority of this piano gave so much feedback to me that original ideas erupted abundantly expressive, powerful, a spontaneous communion as a musical interrogation, uncovering such exquisite constellations of musical ideas.

"I have no idea what you will find," I said, "if you were to take on the project of nursing this instrument back to performance... I am sure it may take four or five tunings, if the pin board will hold. The action will need detailed attention. It is an instrument that was once so proud and now through this neglect is a mere shadow of itself."

I paused.

"Is this something you would be interested in?  Would you like to come and at least take a look and assess the challenge?" I sensed in him a compassion and commitment to quality, the kind of quality manifest in Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In fact I discerned in him the kind of artist mechanic that would be needed for an adventure like this. If he was focused and sincere, he could begin the process of reconciliation that I so desperately needed.

These events led to my increasing awareness of the healing energy that was forming the essence of this new experience, of renewal of friendships, of renewal of commitments, of a creative renaissance flowing from these interactions. I began to see how connecting again with my friends, the experience of the film, the discovery of the poem, and the serendipitous background leading to new skills in this gifted young synthesist had converged into a pivotal moment that  could change my life.

He agreed to give it a try and made an appointment to come visit the piano the next day.

No comments: