Monday, November 21, 2005

Levitating the Furniture

Listen as you read:

Idil Biret - Chopin - Polonaise-fantaisie in A flat major, Op 61 (mp3)

...When he listened to music, he listened with his whole body, as longingly as a condemned man aches for the sound of distant feet perhaps bringing news of his release. When spoken to, he didn't hear. Music dissolved the world around him just as it dissolved the laws of artistic unity, and at such moments Konrad ceased to be a soldier.

One evening in summer, he was playing a four-handed piece with Henrik's mother, when something happened...They were performing Chopin's Polonaise-Fantaisie and Henrik's mother was playing with such passion that the whole room seemed to shimmer and vibrate...It was as if music was levitating the furniture, as if some mighty force were blowing against heavy silk curtains, as if every ossified, decayed particle buried deep in the human heart were quickening into life, as if in everyone on earth a fatal rhythm lay dormant, waiting for the predestined moment to begin its fateful beat. The courteous listeners realized that music is dangerous. But the duo at the piano had lost all thought of danger. The Polonaise-Fantaisie was no more than a pretext to loose upon the world those forces that shake and explode the structures of order which man has devised to conceal what lies beneath. They sat straight-backed at the piano, leaning away from the keys a little and yet bound to them, as if music itself were driving an invisible team of fiery mythical horses riding the storm that circled the world, and they were bracing their bodies to maintain a firm grip on the reins in this explosive headlong gallop of unshackled energies. And then, with a single chord, they ended...

...The Officer of the Guards...said, "Konrad will never make a true soldier."

"Why?" asked his son, shocked.

...calmly, with the assurance of an expert, he said, "Because he is a different kind of man."

-from Embers, by Sandor Marai (Knopf)

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