10 February 2012

Leif Ove Andsnes in Nighttown

This is last night. I am once again sitting in a darkened room (this time it’s Herbst Theater) once again listening to someone play piano (this time it’s Leif Ove Andsnes, and he’s playing Haydn – the Piano Sonata in C minor, Hob.XVI:20, to be specific). No introductory talks this time, for which I am as always grateful, since I’ve already had to wait until 8:00 for the performance to start – thank God it’s Thursday, and I can wander through the Asian Art Museum beforehand. The lights dim as always and he comes out, looking youthful and self-possessed. He is fairly slight of build and I wonder how many times he’s been described as “boyishly handsome.” I wonder how old he is. I’m enjoying the Haydn, of course. The program said he had just become a father, but who knows what age that is. I wonder if I’ve heard him before – wait, I am pretty sure I heard him with I think Christian Tetzlaff, also in Herbst, but a few years ago, and I was up in the balcony because G/S gave me his ticket and I mostly remember the seat being so narrow I was very conscious of not moving so I didn’t disturb those around me. Disturbing – there is an awful lot of coughing going on, much more than usual. SF Performances audiences are usually fairly well behaved, though there was that guy who moved behind me for the second half of Maltman who cleared his throat constantly, while his friend kept kneeing the back of my chair. What is wrong with people. I wonder how many times a day I think that, or have it thought about me. What is going on in the back of the theater – it sounds as if some woman has dumped the entire contents of her purse, not once but twice. Andsnes barely reacts but I see that look flit across his face. Yo-Yo Ma, back in Boston, in Jordan Hall, playing the Bach solo cello suites, when what sounded like a handful of coins fell out of somebody’s something and rolled down the floor – that look of frustration repressed on his face. I wish I always remembered the music sounds as vividly as I remember the interrupting sounds. Like that horrible woman a few years ago here at Herbst who brought her nasty little dog (what was the performance? I wish I could remember that and not the dog) and claimed it was a helper dog so no one could stop her. So rude. Since that little rodent fit in her purse I wonder what vile thing it “helped” her with. Sick. What is wrong with people? There is an epic amount of coughing tonight. I wonder why the concert season is in the winter, when people are sick – remnant of a past way of life, perhaps, like the idea of not starting until 8:00 in the evening, as if none of us have to work, though that’s probably why most of these people look retired. Pretty full house tonight though. The coughing is not letting up! Now Andsnes is back with the Bartok. My program is put away but I glance at my neighbor’s. It’s the Suite for Piano, Opus 14. At least his program is far enough away for me to read. I need new glasses. It’s always so dim in theaters now even before the concert starts – maybe a cost-saving measure? Zellerbach in particular. It is always great to hear Bartok. A man of integrity as well as a great artist – an argument against the whole trite notion that great artists are always “bad” people. Like Verdi that way. Though I only know anecdotes about Bartok, all admirable though. I did read that massive Verdi bio, which I foolishly carried on a plane. I don’t remember where I was going. The occasional lull in coughing. Concentrate! Andsnes plays so beautifully. I probably won’t post anything, though. I don’t really have much to say. Some of these people should have grabbed some of those lozenges from the bowl at the table in the lobby. It’s like a concerto for piano and bronchial tubes. Debussy now, Book One of Images. I think this is one of the reasons I got the Piano Series. Also someone is doing Kurtag, I think. Later. Epic coughing! It seems to be one woman in particular, sitting in the back. I’m trying to ignore it. Are her neighbors glaring? Why isn’t she leaving? I’ve heard several others leave with their coughing fits. They could at least have tried to leave quietly. Can she possibly think her hacking cough is not disrupting the entire auditorium? It sounds like a woman coughing – maybe it’s a countertenor, haha. Debussy – hard not to think of clouds and water, clouds passing reflected in water – sounds trite but he asks for it. Nothing wrong with clouds and water – why should I think they’re trite? They’re elemental and arresting. Wouldn’t have many haiku without them. Oh, intermission. As usual, the coughing stops as soon as the music does. John Marcher comes over – I didn’t know he was here. He goes back to his seat when the bell rings. I wonder if I was coherent. I often wonder that after I have conversations – I mean, not the ones in my head. I’m pretty witty there. L’esprit d’escalier. No coughing during the intermission, of course. Maybe she left? Andsnes comes out. He is imperturbable! I wonder what he thinks of the audience. Are we worse than usual? Better? God forbid. Does he pay attention to what’s going on out here in the dark? Are we encumbrance or inspiration? I find us an encumbrance – Hell is other people. There’s a reason that’s a commonplace. I do pay too much for concerts, considering how chancy they can be – we all have our ways of gambling, I guess. This part is all Chopin. I recognize the pieces but wouldn’t be able to name them – composers should always give names like Moonlight or Appassionata or something, not Waltz in F minor, Opus 70, no 2 – really, who remembers that? Outside of professional pianists. And show-offs. Hum the tune and I'll know it, I guess. . . .OK, now he’s standing up. Less coughing this time. I’m just listening. I just listen. I don’t know how many waltzes into the program we are. He stands and bows and we applaud. Also Named Patrick next to me says to me, bewildered, “Where are we?” Oh, good, I’m not the only one who doesn’t know! I don’t know; no breaks are indicated in the program for this half. Maybe this is now a Ballade? Very nice. Less coughing now. Also very nice. Just that one loud one at the start of the second half, like a warning shot letting us know – you’re not at peace yet! Like so many of those horrible neighbors I had in apartments. Hell is. . . . I’m very sleepy. I zone in and out. Goddam, who thinks 8:00 on a work night is a good time for a concert? So ridiculous. Well, let my body fold into the music. Maybe it sinks in – and gets lost in thee, like that line in Tennyson. Sinking in thee? I should memorize more poems. Something constructive to do with my brain, instead of obsessive circling. Beautiful encore. He perseveres. I wonder how I would feel about an audience like this, if I were up there playing. How much can they hear or see? The lights must be shining in their eyes. But he couldn’t miss that coughing woman. Beautiful encore again. Sure, I’m happy to stand. Now I sit, now I stand. It’s like a mass! The church of Art. Lights are up. Oh my God, this crowd is even slower than usual: move, move, move! The side aisle is less crowded – oh, I should stand aside, here's an old woman. I don’t think I stood aside quickly enough. She’s nice. She smiles. I smile. I say, “Excuse me.” Thank God I was raised right! And am so repressed! Otherwise I’d probably be in jail by now. Free room and board, along with the occasional rape, I guess. I wouldn’t like it, probably. OK, I’ve never seen the bathroom so crowded. Everyone is so so so slow tonight. Only two stalls – ridiculous. Another line to wash our hands. I hope I don't miss a train. I love walking through the streets on a cool uncrowded night – wish I could stroll, but the trains. . . . twenty minute wait if I miss it. I’m so tired. 8:00 is an idiotic start time. Maybe I should tell them again? They always send those “please give us feedback!” e-mails. OK, kill that coughing moron – a coffin for the cougher. Coffers. Do I alliterate too much? Quite the trap. Start at 7:30. My God, isn’t that obvious? 8:00? Bad on both ends. Hours before with nothing to do, and then a late night – I’ll feel this tomorrow. That last piece – what was it? It keeps going through my head in snatches. But it’s starting to bleed into recordings of it I’ve heard, whatever it was. Over and over. Whatever it is. Pink lights along the side of the Asian Art Museum. Yellowish lights on UN Plaza. Greenish lights going down to BART. At least the woman blocking the escalator was nice about moving aside. Sometimes they aren’t – why not? What is wrong with people? A rush of wind from below – a train coming? Like after that play at the Aurora (what play was it?) when I felt the wind from the tunnel below and rushed down just in time – twenty minute wait otherwise. That’s a long time late at night when you’re tired. I’m very tired. Lawyers bill clients in increments of fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes is longer. By a third. There’s a train, it’s not my train, I’m very tired. Seven minutes until the Dublin train, not too bad a wait. It’s a four-car train. Motherfucker! I hate BART and that is the worst thing about BART – short trains. Of course it’s packed even before Civic Center. Loud bad music, chasing out what's left in my head from tonight. Like coming back from vacation – airports undo any good the vacation has done. Oh, here’s a seat. I should have gone into the first car – no bicycles. Three of them are crowded in here. People are standing. No one I need to give a seat to, I guess. I hope I don’t fall asleep. Maybe I should stand so I don't. No room to stand. Goddam short trains. They still charge full price, though. What was that last piece? It all evaporates so quickly. I try to read Barnaby Rudge. I’m too tired. My noise-reduction headphones are not reducing the noise. Whose device is that – three suspects, each likely to be listening to that shit music. A phone? an iPod? I don't even know what people use anymore. bonk bonk bonk bonk – so irritating. Can’t block it out; it's too regular. My other headphones were better. They broke. Cheap plastic. Maybe I need to change the batteries in these? I give up on Barnaby Rudge. New York Review: an article about Shia and Sunni Muslims. Sectarian violence. I’m so tired. I can’t keep them straight. I can't read this either. More time lost, and the words pile up to be read. I’ll stare at random sentences. Idiotic start times. Why do I keep doing this? That last piece – what was it? I know it. I’m getting worse with names anyway. What lasts? What’s lost? Lost, lost, lost . . . .Banal, but true. The music is already bleeding away, fleeting. What do other people hear? How do they hear? Why do they hear? I don’t think I’ll post about this, I love it but don’t really have anything to say. Beautiful, though, that’s worth something (I spend too much on music). But I’m starting to write in my head and it goes around and around and around. Write it to get rid of it. Should do that more often. That Hampson concert – two years ago? Three? Still stuck in my head. Still, good to have memories of what I spend so much time and money on. . . . Always a relief to get out of BART. Talk about spending time and money on. . . .The streets can be empty but a car will always show up exactly when I need to cross. What’s that white thing in front of that bush? A huge cup from one of our fine fast-food emporia. The nastier the food, the more likely people are to litter. Right in front of my house. WTF. What is wrong with people. How odd to place it carefully down, out of the way, instead of just tossing it – so I guess that’s good. I’m so tired. 8:00 – idiotic. I won’t be able to sleep if I know it’s out here, though. Leaves are OK, but I hate trash. That old man next door who got so angry about the leaves – attacking me on Christmas Eve, had to knock him down. Twice. Over leaves. He had a car rusting in his driveway, but was obsessed with the leaves. Little golden leaves. They are a bitch to sweep up though. God, I hope I'm not getting like him. He’s probably dead now. Kind of young to have Alzheimer’s, but it happens. I’m getting worse with names. The cup: it’s only half full. I don’t know what bin to put it in. I’ll put it on top of this one and hope no stray cats knock it down. That last piece – now it’s a recording I’m hearing. It’ll say tomorrow what it was, on the site. What did we do before the Internet? Is this cup Styrofoam? Plastic? Either way, it’ll last longer than I will. Or memory, or live music. Hey, a package! Must be my new camera. I can’t look at any of this stuff now. I’m so tired. I’ll feel this tomorrow, especially in the afternoon. Afternoons are a drag anyway. Siesta time! Live music – like a drug. For a clean-living guy: it’s gambling and drugs! Flip off the switch – it’s so dark. Oh, I didn’t go upstairs to turn a light on before I turned off the downstairs lights, that's why it's so dark. Empty pockets – lozenge wrappers, random receipts. Admission ticket to the Asian. OK, at least on Thursday I can go to the Asian. Goddam 8:00 start times. V always says she’s most tired on Thursdays. Is that happening to me now? I was tired all day though. Maybe because of winter? Should I turn the heat on? It's not that cold. PG&E bills too high. They'll go down in a month or so, but still, I do turn the heat on more than I used to. I don’t remember names as well as I used to. I’m tired, it’s dark. Lights now on upstairs, turned off downstairs, keys go here, wallet goes here, handkerchiefs here, undress, put on boxers, put on T-shirt, brush, floss – should I skip flossing? No, floss, piss (where was the moon tonight? it was so bright the other morning – that Larkin poem, groping my way back to bed and so forth, I should memorize more poems), wash hands, wash face, turn off the bathroom light, set the alarm, don’t turn on TV you’re already so tired, I should cancel cable, I spend too much, I’m so tired, I’ll feel this tomorrow, pillows just so, I'm in my room (those people who see the house and say, "Is this your room?" and I say: "All the rooms are mine. It's my house" – another funny expression, "your room" for bedroom like "language" when people mean swear words: "there is language in it") and now off go the lights, at last. And now I can’t sleep.


John Marcher said...

This is my favorite post of yours, of all time. Brilliant!

And thank god for 8:00 starting times!

Civic Center said...

Wow, I'm amazed you ever leave your home at all after reading that.

For some reason, I've always thought of Leif as a tall, large-featured character rather than "slight of build," but I suppose it's all subjective.

I'm going back to hideous work days with too little sleep this Monday for another two weeks, and your stream of consciousness account unhappily limns the feelings of sheer exhaustion and bizarrely disassociated thinking that entails. I was about to say that I'd never go to a concert on a work night, but I'm actually going to the Chicago Symphony at Davies this Tuesday, so pray for me. I don't see how you do it, to tell you the truth.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

@JM: Thanks! I know you like 8:00 start times. I understand why. But, as I've spelled out at length elsewhere, I remain unconvinced that they work for the majority of working people.

I do appreciate your tactful silence on the subject of whether I was coherent during intermission.

@SFMike: Well, sometimes I do have to force myself to leave the house. It's probably a good thing I eliminated my more grotesque and violent extravagances of thought and language.

Maybe "trim" is a better way to describe Andsnes than "slight of build"? He looks good. But yes, it is all subjective.

I wish I could attribute my bizarrely disassociated thinking purely to exhaustion, but. . . .

Yes, I am praying for you constantly, Michael. I will probably skip the CSO on Tuesday just because of the factors you mention. (And you live much closer to Davies Hall than I do.) But there is that feeling that I don't want to live in a rut determined by the need to earn money, and that I don't want to miss out on things I'd enjoy just because I'm not independently wealthy. But how do I do it? Well, I'd say it's amazing what you can do when you have no choice, but I'm increasingly realizing I do have a choice, and I am in fact skipping more things because of the start time, so I guess I'll just have to go with "because I am a man of steel."

Ms. Baker said...

This is so great. I kept wanting to throw in my useless slightly upbeat comments that I tend to say when you're saying these thoughts out loud.
I'm wondering at what point during the evening you decided that you were going to record these thoughts. If the thought or decision happened during the performance, did those thoughts also intrude into the other thoughts?

Patrick J. Vaz said...

You make slightly upbeat comments? Huh. Sorry I've (apparently) been missing them. Maybe I think they mean something else?

I really wasn't going to post anything, because (as is often the case with instrumentalists or quartets) I enjoyed the music very much but didn't really have much to say about it that wasn't boilerplate. But then I guess it was on the train when sentences started running in my head and I realized this was the only way to get rid of them. Rambling and incoherent and tangential come easily to me, and I was mostly selecting among actual thoughts, so this was much smoother and easier to write than most of my long entries. As always I went back and tweaked a few things (I can't help myself), but I did remove some of the tweaks later, when I realized that I can expand tangentially endlessly, so I just had to declare a stopping point.

So to answer your question, thoughts of recording my thoughts didn't really enter my head during the performance, but later, at some less conscious level, I just started tracking what I was thinking in a more regular way.

By the way, my working title for this was "Leif Ove Andsnes deserves better."