Mahler 9, Not to Be?

14 March 2013 in Heather, Music

I wrote this piece two weeks ago in anticipation of tomorrow’s SFSymphony performance of Mahler’s 9th Symphony at Davies Hall. The orchestra musicians went on strike yesterday, and I half expect that Friday’s concert will be cancelled. All is not lost if it is, however, as I’ll be able to join my fellow Grotto writers at the Book Passage in the Ferry Building for an evening of three minute readings. Mahler in March reminds me of Mahler in September and the last time anyone wanted to see the symphony with me. In all honesty, the symphony is best à seule. No one talking through the warmup. No one asking pressing questions at intermission. I will wear blue silk and the
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Slip 2

6 September 2012 in Heather

My memories of performing are always from the piano bench. The gaze is outward, framed by the length and curve of the piano case in front of me. I can’t leave myself. I see my fingers reflected in the glossy black fallboard. They move over the keys in a slow-shutter blur that obscures the name of the piano manufacturer embossed in gold behind them. I can make out certain letters, but the names merge in the way the names of past lovers do: Steinway, Baldwin, Yamaha. In the composers’ names, though, I find focus. Bartok is the day I pinched my brother in church. Bach is winning the playoff for first prize on account of “just having style.” Schubert is
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Memory Slip

25 August 2012 in Heather

After the concerto competition, I fell in love. “Finally!” clicked my heels as I paced the Conservatory hallways looking for an empty practice room. Hearing a clarinet, I’d stop and peer through a small window to see Pi, his back to the door, practicing long tones. I’d tap our secret knock and he’d smile in the mirror at me. Then I’d return to my hunt for an empty room. Practicing took priority, even if I was in love. Those were the days of the 4th Chopin Ballade, a work said to contain “the experience of a lifetime.” Throughout the piece, Chopin evades expected tonalities yet always, eventually, surrenders to them. He hides melodies he later reveals. The opening measures of
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Slip 1

6 August 2012 in Heather

The first time it happens, I am playing Bartok in the sanctuary of the Presbyterian Church on Main Street. The finale of Bartok’s Sonatina is a reeling gypsy dance, and I play it fast and straight, with zip. I slip on four little measures right before the B section, repeating a phrase where there is no repeat written. Like slick cassette tape, my mind folds backwards to the precise spot where a musical loop would be imperceptible. I continue on to the end of the piece without reacting to what is the best of all possible errors. I smile, bow, and return to the pew where my family sits applauding. “Mistake!” my little brother hisses. “Mistake!” I pinch his arm
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Time, Alla Breve

1 August 2012 in Heather

Growing up on a farm meant growing up with chores. Plant the garden. Pull weeds. Pick up rocks, “—but just the ones bigger than a doll’s head; they make it hard for things to grow.” The rhythm of any given day was constant yet varied, and my dad knew it so well that he didn’t even need a watch to measure the passing hours. I remember standing on the tops of his boots, my fingers hooked in his belt-loops. “What time is it,” I asked. He turned his face to the sky, and my personal slice of shadow shifted left. “What time is it!” “It’s 11:30.” With an exasperated half scream, I might then let go, falling fast to the
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