The Pianist’s Legacy

I’ve been busy a lot lately- school started recently and I am also preparing a sequel to my published work. It really isn’t easy; I wrote it three years ago and I can’t remember the little details and motifs I utilised in the novel. Besides, I guess I am kind of facing an existential crisis these days. I’m just hoping everything turns out fine. Also, I need a creamy chocolate cake at this moment. It’s 12:36 AM here in Singapore.

Today’s Recommendation: Bedřich Smetana- Moldau


I remember my first moments in the concert hall. I have admired every aspect of it–the soft orange glow that falls on the violinists as they play their cadenzas, the silent glances exchanged by the musicians as they hold their breaths and count their rests, and the way their fingers glide up an octave. The different notes of the stringed instruments conjure a symphony; a mesmerizing cadence which I had only yearned for as a part of the audience. Yet it remained as a dream that would not be satisfied in any ways–the sanctity it held–it was unreachable. And the sanctity held me back from ever stepping into the world; the glissandos and the pizzicatos, I had to turn around each time my imagination had barely allowed myself into the scene.

I have never dared to venture, or even attempt to reach out to the keys of a piano, or a string of a violin, since it happened. Something would pull me away from it. I love the idea of music, I really do, but whenever I attempt to let myself into it, I would get reminded of the very moment, many, many years ago. Nevertheless I visit the old concert hall often. I sit through the concertos, the sonatas, the symphonies, and I wait for the hall to be empty. This has become a sort of a ritual that has been repeated through the years. When I was younger, I thought that the silence that lingers in the stage was enthralling; the vestiges of emotions that could be felt through every inch and every step had a bewitching element in them. I still think so, just that sometimes the silence beholds a visceral feeling of loneliness within in. Now I would roam the hall listening to the symphonies which were no longer being played- often imitating the majestic gestures of the conductor, mimicking the fingers of a violinist, or even foxtrotting to the remnants of a waltz played earlier. When I had finished, I would sit in the concert hall, in the suffocating silence. Some days, weary-hearted, I would wander the halls like a lost traveller, a spook, a grain of dust hanging in the air. Then each time I would sink into moments of reminiscence that would bring me back to my past days, my thoughts descending deeper and deeper into a lightless, bottomless void…

——-

Father was a wonderful man. He was a renowned pianist, and he had always tried to pass on his love for music to his only child. He was gifted; his life had been revolving around music from birth, and I cannot say that my childhood was not influenced by it. One of my earliest memories is us sitting by the fireplace, listening to his old classical music collections, attempting to guess their composers. His favorite was Debussy; mine was, and still is Tchaikovsky. Debussy’s works are like snippets of poems, he would say under his breath every time his rusty gramophone played Debussy. He said things that baffled me as a child, and continued to do so until I was a little older. Although I was never properly taught in schools, Father taught me everything he knew- mostly about music. Even now I still believe musicians’ hearts beat to 3/4 time signatures.

Every Sunday morning Father brought me to the concert hall- he played for the orchestra frequently, and I would attend as well, and was even called the ‘pianist’s little assistant’. The orchestra was an impressive sight; everywhere the orange light touched seemed magnificent- the violists’ bows, the wooden fiddles, and the way Father rested his fingers on the ivory keys of the piano before he played. It was his habit, sending a short prayer before every concerto and sonata he played. Another habit of his was smiling at wherever I was sitting as the audience gave him a standing ovation. His eyes would gaze across the seats, finally resting at wherever I was, and he would slightly nod. I would nod in return, as if acknowledging his flawless performance. As I watched, I longed to be a part of the scene- it was so perfect that it almost seemed sacred.

It was raining before one of his biggest concerts. Father always favored rainy days- it was yet another inspiring day for him, as he would recite his opinions about how raindrops resembled notes scribbled on music scores. He was particularly excited that day, having to play his favorite concerto, and I told him that I would be supporting him in the audience, as always. And as always, I enjoyed every part of it, the split second he had to himself before his finger swept across the keys, the consonance unraveling its finery, and the glance he exchanged with the conductor. The concerto was reaching its climax- crescendo, forte, fortissimo– Everything happened so quickly, as fast as the concerto he was playing, and I almost imagined that the concerto was engulfing him into its endless depths of abyss, its unspoken promises of mellifluous melodies, as he took his last breath and played his last note on the piano. Presto, the piano spoke in response. And time stopped; the clockworks did not tick anymore. I still do not remember clearly what exactly happened that day- almost every scene is faded out, as if it had been deliberately blurred away. That moment as the curtains fell to veil the pianist’s abrupt unconsciousness, the consonance hushed into an awful silence, and so did my world of music.

Somehow the scene remains as an unfulfilled feeling of longing, even after countless years. He fell, surrounded by the music he loved, and I was in the audience, still yearning for something that could no longer be grasped. As I grew old enough to understand the significance of it, I began running away from it, from Father, from the desires, and from music, a sweet, morbid trap. I sit in the concert hall to ponder it from time to time, until the feeling of absence and emptiness bothers me so much, that I rise from my seat shivering from the nightmares it had molded into. Nonetheless the epiphany of my unrealized dreams would force me to return each time, and I can do nothing about it.

——-

I venture aimlessly, most probably to the same old concert hall. A familiar route- I could remember even without thinking about it. I turn around from a cobblestone street and tuck into a corner. By the time I reach the concert hall, a brick structure with a faded brown, coffee-colored roof, it is already four in the afternoon. As usual, the concert hall reeks of old peppermint and dried lemon. The air feels stale and preserved, as if it is from another era. As I open the door to the practice hall, I hear the dissonance of various notes; the musicians are tuning their instruments. It has been two years since I joined the local district orchestra with my old cello that had been enduring the years with timeless patience. Frankly speaking, I am still ambivalent about my decision of joining an orchestra, though it has already been two years, performing on the very place music died, and reliving it again with my own hands.

It definitely wasn’t an easy decision. I have thought it for days, months- even years, and on sleepless nights, I revived every bit of my past recollections, replaying it in my head like a broken radio with intertwined wires. Father would have smiled, his dimples folding into his cheeks, and he would have told me to relent on myself and ‘take every possible chance’, but I knew I was never an impromptu person as he was. As seasons passed, as I watched the brilliant colors carpeting the earth everywhere, I realized I was the only one living through the passing seasons. Time passes for me, and I was still lost, still yearning, and still hiding myself. I wanted to find it- and not eluding myself from an undefined fear of the past. I wanted to simply feel, without having to yearn for it, without embracing the presence of absence within.

I think of the ghosts of the past that reach out to me every night; I am yet to find the very thing I am yearning for, but now I have a feeling I will find it somehow. I no longer have to sit alone in the concert hall waiting. I am now a step closer to reaching to Father, and reaching to music, something that I have yearned for so dearly. I rest my fingers on the strings, lightly, and I close my eyes, as if falling into a reverie. I murmur a short prayer, partly for Father, and partly for myself. Then I press my finger as I move the bow around each string, feeling the echo within the wood. Each note is deep and resonant, embodying the sentiments that had been concealed in the hall for many days and many nights, and I begin my own concerto.

 

 

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