Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Being Where

When Chopin's Opus 10 #3 played on the radio, I took it as a personal invitation from the universe to leave my taxes for yet another day.

(Sorry, if prefaced with some jarring ad or another):

I didn't know this was Cliburn at first. As you see, we're missing his great presence on the video. By the time Cliburn recorded Chopin, he had stopped playing in public. Eventually he stopped playing in studio, eventually he stopped playing at all.

Cliburn started big, as big as a New York Ticker Tape parade, bigger, for a moment, than the whole Cold War. And that was the problem. Critics who made a living living off of him, found they'd spent all their superlatives. And they got paid by the word.

So what was left but to bring out the other half of their vocabulary. That Cliburn's Beethoven couldn't part the Red Sea or turn water into wine. How disappointing the Schubert. And a few years later, they said, maybe the great Cliburn isn't great after all; maybe he just had one exceptionally good day in 1958, Moscow.

Cliburn left the stage and studio for the next twenty years, though close personal friends say he still played every day, for himself.

On his last tour, this century, a comeback, he collapsed on stage. Paralyzing stage fright, according to some reports, as this probably made better copy than cancer.

As for Chopin, Chopin said of this piece which he wrote in his early 20's, "I don't think I'll ever find such a beautiful melody again."

That's the thing with artists -- they have to go find things; even when it's dark and they're all alone. Find what they're looking for and then find a way back again. There's no help for them, really. No one knows where they've gone. And until and unless they come back, no one knows where they've been.

35 comments:

  1. Maybe artists do that to rejuvenate themselves? Makes sense doesn't it? Or is it that we take those brilliant minds for granted and only realize that after they have gone?Somehow, it seems = to when we hear about a friend or relative that we haven't heard from or seen...U would mention taxes!. Still awaiting one K1 and my poor accountant may have to file an extension for a bunch of us!.

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  2. I love that he played everyday for himself--a life filled with music.

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  3. So beautiful! I remember so well that my mother used to play that piece on the piano...

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  4. I really love your last paragraph. Melancholy, yet hopeful.

    I haven't been receiving your feed updates on my blog roll and see that I've missed a few episodes of The Bachelor. I'm off to catch up...

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  5. Critics hold sway but only if we listen - I try not to. What a lovely gift Chopin, Cliburn and Bugge have given us.

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  6. Sometimes the universe aligns itself with you, and sometimes you have to do the aligning. Not sure what is happening for me now, but this is the second "line up" in as many days (last paragraph). Referencing Banjo, I'll take that as a "gift" - the other was a line from Rumi

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  7. It's sad that critics have to be so....well, so critical, and that artists can be affected by them (or appear to be). I avoid them like the plague.

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  8. Paula, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's the first time in the whole history of the universe those three names have been linked together. I might frame it. Thank you.

    I was thinking yesterday, but couldn't find the words, that while critics may have a place in the art world, they've probably been the cause of more art lost than found. It's so easy to tamper with some sensitive souls, just plant a little doubt.

    PA, only heard of Rumi this week, through KBF. I'll go to the library and check him out.

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  9. Maybe I'm too far removed from what goes on but its hard to see the kind of excitement over a concert pianist being generated today. I dimly recall seeing all sorts of Van Clibun record albums and weekly magazine covers.

    Now I'm remembering "The Saturday Review"...and "College Bowl" with Allen Ludden....

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  10. That's mighty graceful, gracious prose, AH. I wish I knew Cliburn's work and life better, tho' it was apparently a sad life. I certainly remember his fame. I'll have to listen to the piece later, but I trust your judgment.

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  11. I wonder if it was sad. Knowing what I know now about neurological issues, maybe he was quite content, maybe what others thought was neurosis was just his way of being in the world. I mean, what's the point of creating art if you have to do it just to satisfy others. Performance isn't everything.

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  12. This brings back memories. It was one of my favourite songs in the 70s. My brother brought home a record, can't remember who the pianist was now, and this piece was on it. Critics can be anal and tedious (maybe I mean odious). I prefer to make up my own mind about art, food, movies, books and music.

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  13. I don't know why I'm so obsessed by melody, but there it is. When I discovered Cliburn, he'd retired decades earlier, and then made a return, and I thought I'll pay my last dollar (hyperbole) to hear him, live. But it was an aborted return, so ... You might be right, Paula. An early story about Cliburn: His mother had trained as a classical pianist, and she told him, "Listen for the eye of the sound."

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  14. What a wonderful, wonderful tribute, Karin. Truly moving. Have you seen the two films about Glenn Gould? The documentary, "Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould," and the intriguing "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould" beautifully tell the story of a complicated giant talent.

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  15. I am new, and late, to Cliburn, although I, too, remember hearing his name a lot. I was busy focusing on sopranos and orchestras, and missed out. Thank you for the gift.

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  16. Karin . . . What an exquisite sound, what a beautiful touch of the keys. Thanks for sharing it. If it wasn't for your posts, I wouldn't have reflected on Van Cliburn, and now I have another world of music to explore.

    Maybe we artists and artists-at-heart, by some terrible mistake, were misdirected from our proper world into this one, in which little people known as critics can bedevil one of our fellows. But here we are, and thank goodness there are others of us around for solace and support. What a gift of a post!

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  17. Granny used to say, "show me a true genius and I'll show you a very troubled soul." I think granny was pretty close to being right. I'm glad I'm not even close.
    I LOVE the closing paragraph of this great post...

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  18. Beautiful post!

    yes, do check out Rumi.

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  19. Adele is so right. Thank you for this gift in a post. It is artistry in its own right.

    My understanding is that artists must create. If they don't they become stopped up (tapado).

    Oh, do read Rumi, I believe you'll love the works. Here is a link to a site with the show On Being where the focus was on rumi, at least in part.

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  20. The link
    http://www.onbeing.org/gsearch/Rumi

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  21. Blue Kitchen, maybe you can plan an elegant dinner to the tune of Chopin. Yes, I have seen those docs. Gould is my Bach go-to.

    Adele -- sopranos? Orchestras? Tell me more.

    John, Cliburn goes perfectly with the Big Sur landscape.

    Pat, grannies know stuff.

    Ms M, Rumi, yes. KBF has sent me further info, and as you can see, so has LH.

    Roberta, "tapado." I've written that word on my wall. (I really do have a wall in the house where I write words I want to think about and remember.)

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  22. I think Chopin is the one who solidified my love for piano tunes.

    Btw, have you accounted for all your artists?

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  23. Only you could have a highbrow excuse for standing up your accountant

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  24. I like it when you talk about classical music.

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  25. I have always loved Chopin, perhaps because I was able to play some of his pieces. Not like Cliburn, of course. Thanks for introducing me to him.

    I listened to a podcast today; Alec Baldwin's "Here's the Thing," where he interviewed the adult children of Leonard Bernstein. Berstein will be remembered as a composer and conductor, but was also a great pianist. There are many stories about him, his fame, his choices. The main story, though, is his art.

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  26. When I was at PCC, I majored in music (voice), and planned to go further but changed direction somewhere along the line. I spent a lot of time listening to sopranos in every form, but loved symphonies, too. Seems like I just never advanced much beyond that, so I'm enjoying all the education you are providing us!

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  27. "Adult Children of Leonard Bernstein" That's either a self-help group or a Doo Dah Parade entry.

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  28. You've summed up the artist's life perfectly. Oh so true. And thanks for the Chopin; wonder if Bird dug Chopin?

    Back at my joint, that old funky giant is still industrial, in a part of town not far from Times Square that retains its grit. For now.

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  29. A Very Happy Easter to you and yours!

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  30. Damn, I wasn't going to cry today. Not to worry ~ to borrow from Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember, that's what beauty does to me. I'm glad Cliburn still played every day, sad as it is that those who loved him didn't get to hear it. And at the piano, Chopin is still my biggest love. This is one of my favourites. Thanks, kb. Happy Easter.

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  31. That gave me chills: the music, Cliburn's sad (or maybe just misunderstood?) story, your last paragraph. You do have a way with words, and with dogs. Tommy adored you.

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  32. Kenny Mac, I think Bird did a variation on a Chopin melody, attributed. Will look that up.

    Shell, only Chopin could break a heart in a major chord.

    As for Tommy, the feeling is mutual.

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  33. Sad. Another prodigy bites the dust.

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  34. As I listen to this, I want to cook something simple but decadent; sole meunière perhaps. Beautiful music. Beautiful food. Exquisite company. Nothing better.

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