no. 3 | On gratitude…

my apologies for the silence lately–struggling to balance midterms and music does not lend itself to creative output. nevertheless, I wanted to include some bits & bobs from the past two weeks, as they have been filled with gratefulness, which is the theme of this post.

here, I also share the third stop of my hackneyed devices fall 2017 Prokofiev tour, in Toronto. related posts in the series are at the end of this one.

Since I wrote you last, life has been an odd yet powerful mix of the familiar wrung in unfamiliar ways: a pianist I’ve admired for a whole decade (and counting) playing in a way that she has never played before, and maybe never will again. Stepping off the plane into fresh, polished Toronto, a city just quirky enough to cast a warmer glow on the comforts of English speakers and herb-encrusted French fries. Watching another passion project, one that melds music with fashion, play out right in front of me, surreally, with all the eeriness of déjà vu. I hope you enjoy my ramblings about the above + more below.

  • …for Martha Argerich

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I had to include this force of nature of a woman here. One of the friends who joined me for Argerich’s triumphant return to Carnegie Hall remarked, “that was my first really transformative concert experience,” referring to just how many times he’d heard Prokofiev’s Third Concerto before, and just how far those renditions fell from Argerich’s. Another friend exclaimed, “her sound…it’s a sound that shouldn’t exist,” at the sheer breathtaking ring of each note, even those marked pianissimo. One of Argerich’s most uncanny gifts is the way she outsmarts herself with each performance: she tinkers with her touch, she adds a dash of color, very subtly, but with enormous impact, and always with utmost emotional devotion to the piano. As another friend put it, “listening to her makes you grateful just to be in this moment. In this place. We can say we heard Martha Argerich live. ” All hail the queen.

  • …for friends

Self-explanatory. They keep me afloat. They ask me to think, to accept. They inspire me to give, to create, to persevere, and most of all, always, to love. They bring cough drops and spectacular books and write beautiful cards because they just know. They cry with me, in front of me, then laugh in spite of themselves. They listen. And they do it all with so little fear.

  • …for Canadians

If my 24 hours in Toronto taught me anything, it’s that I’m terrible at processing. Even as fabric was draped and pinned along every crest and dip of my body, even as I shook the hands of every impossibly-polite Canadian audience member (that trope will always hold true), there was a part of me, considerably alive, that did not register what was happening. It was not merely the novelty of donning what was first merely a sketch, now realized in black satin, as my couturier snapped her well-manicured fingers in satisfaction. It was not just the sheer departure from anything remotely quotidian, as pattern makers and technicians weaved around me like bees mapping out the path to their next pollen haunt.

As I introduced my pieces, gestured far too much during interviews, and toasted my designer ten times over, I began to truly understand what it means to watch one’s passion become tangible. That sense that the very air is pulsating, and this is perhaps what refused to sink in, for processing would mean ridding those 24 hours of their magic. I saw it in the smiles of the audience, which were almost more affectionate because they belonged to strangers. I realized it in the kindness my designer and her husband showed me as my hosts, kindness no contract had to solicit. There was something profoundly, simplistically human in the way music, and very little else, created that magic. How it weaved disparate modes of being together as seamlessly as a thread fastens button to cloth.

  • …for creativity

Another thing I cannot process is the great fortune of working with people I deeply admire for their discipline, their humor and charm, at a company I deeply love. Who knew there could be such happiness in sitting down and answering emails? Who could have predicted the sheer delight of researching orchestra programming or drafting a marketing plan for Joshua Bell’s upcoming album release?? Those open ears and inboxes, ones willing to entertain the non-sequiturs and unfeasible ideas, keep me grateful for the chance to be creative with virtually no ill side effects. Talk about magic.

  • …for culture

Debut modernist choreography at the Ballet, hearing Leonard Bernstein’s bombastic-in-the-best-way Arias and Barcarolles for the first time, downing a flute of Krug way too quickly at Bell’s penthouse (this is NOT a drill, you guys). And for New York, with all its curbside trashbags, panting subways, kaleidoscopic inhabitants, and clogged avenues.


other posts in this series
On Prokofiev’s second sonata
On Prokofiev’s Toccata
On Prokofiev’s sixth sonata
nos. 1 & 2 | On performance anxiety


“I detest imitation. I detest hackneyed devices.” – sergei prokofiev


more on the tour: hackneyeddevices.com

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