The Ghost Sonata, Op. 3

15 October 2012 in Theater

On a whim, I decided to go see Cutting Ball Theater’s production of August Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata, one of five chamber plays in repertory at the Exit Theater on Taylor. The venue is the tiniest of spaces (60 to 70 seats), which made for one of the most engaging, up close, and intimate performance experiences I’ve had in a long time. (Two days prior, I was perched away far away in the balcony at San Francisco Opera.) At the Exit, the size of the venue supports Strindberg’s style so well: there is an abbreviated quality to his storytelling, and though the characters do not lack emotional intensity, they seem sketched as if in outline with a dark pencil. There is
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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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Act VI

30 July 2012 in Music

An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house. — Maria Callas