Every relation that matters – that is,
every relation in which your heart has an investment – is peculiar: peculiar to
you. Not that other people may not really like the brand of Romanian kumquat jam you love, but constitutionally they won’t/can’t bring the same constellation of
responses you bring to it. Their taste buds aren’t the same; their references
to Romania aren’t the same; the way grandma dropped a dollop of it on their cream-of-alfalfa wasn't the same; the whole monumentally complex inimitable thing you
are instantly makes any response you have to anything as inimitable as it is.
This can be exasperating when – or if – what you want to do is to share
the exact same love of something with somebody else. I’ve become more circumspect about revealing what amount, I suppose, to fixations on Henry James and Judy Garland
because I’ve yet to meet even anyone who admits to being similarly powerfully drawn
to them (and their numbers are legion) who sees, thinks, hears, feels what I do
about them. When I am (as I
always am) in Garland’s or James’ company immersively as who- or whatever “Guy
Kettelhack” is, especially in full-tilt reaction, I am
Hardly news, I guess, that love can’t be explained: its effects
may be sensed and shared, but not the love itself. Why would we want it to
be? Well, there’s a question. Perhaps because the love can seem so consuming as to frighten us? That we feel somehow
we need ‘help’ with it? Or is it just the sheer dumb (not stupid but
inexpressible) hunger we have as social beings to feel united under the flag or
umbrella or sky of something ecstatic? (Think of 13 year-old-girls in 1964 &
the Beatles.) I hasten joyfully to add how wonderful it is to listen, say, to
the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto, as I’m doing right now (Sviatoslav
Richter the wonderful soloist), with other people who love that concerto or who love Brahms and feel
for great long moments that we are all in exactly the same ocean: there’s a
huge commonality to be enjoyed here. But my private experience ends up being
the one I’m most vitally and movingly left with. Movingly perhaps not least
because I must contain it: only I can know it. There’s poignancy in that.
Latest reminder of this was coming upon
this ‘swatch of Bach’ as I call it which I recorded and posted last June, a bit
of a Bach violin & harpsichord sonata more of my love for which I think I
may have conveyed here, listening to it again, than I realized. But that’s of
course for your inimitable eye and ear to decide. Part of what entrances has to
do with stuff I’ve suggested about Bach in these videos before, and tried in fact
to demonstrate playing him and then reading Henry James aloud: James' subordinate
clauses especially in his late writing have often seemed to me like Bach’s
pulses in his own “subordinate” musical phrases – turning the prism to reveal
yet another angle, yet another angle of an argument, somehow with a comparable weight of cadence.
But Bach can probe so
tenderly, too, arguably more directly – as in this swatch from his 6th sonata.
Reed confesses to an impatience (here I go trying to paraphrase Reed again,
always a mistake) with the perpetual motion effects of his uninterrupted keyboard
etudes or movements of the Cello or Violin unaccompanied sonatas, suites,
partitas which in form never deviate from 16th notes, beginning to
end: a rush that can feel automated, almost soulless, at least in insensitive hands.
However I so love getting on the rapids of one of these 16th note
rides, trying, although never anywhere near achieving the goal, to reveal their constant
emotional evolution and surprise – but I also love, oh how I love, the different
intimacy of what he manages here.
Perhaps you’ll hear it, too. Though who
knows what (or what else) you may think of it!