Art Is

2 October 2014 in Heather, Theater, Writing

You could park a big ol’ Cadillac inside Grandma’s walk-in pantry. To a child, the great windowless room stocked with jams and sauces and pickles and puddings was nothing less than a theater. The rows of metal shelving parsed the space into my very own backstage, wings, proscenium, and house. And on a shelf at the back, below the neatly indexed cake mixes, rested a simple cardboard box— the costume box. The pantry became an escape from chores—from pulling weeds, picking green beans, and hanging laundry on the line. Grandma, perhaps knowing the futility of wringing work out of a girl on Christmas or spring break, would allow me to spend hours playing dress-up. I made tiaras out of tinfoil
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Brahms Ballade, Op. 10 No. 4

8 June 2013 in Heather, Music

The middle section of this piano piece conjures a moment from one of my past lives. An early morning. Mist thick as cobwebs. I’ve wandered from the small stone house to the water’s edge, and in spite of the blindfold of vapor, I see it. A lake monster, moving as an alto voice in a murk of harmonies. It swims and sings against the current, toward me. The A section returns, resting an invitation on my shoulder, and I go back to it, leaving an outline of myself at the water’s edge, watched and watching. A long time ago.

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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