Friday, 17 July 2009

Music Room

Last week I did two things I haven't done for a little while.

No, not that. If only.

Hidden deep in the bowels of the conference centre are three music rooms. Not so far from the interpreting booths actually - the old disused ones that look out onto nowhere.
There's a lovely black Bechstein piano and a dog-eared copy of Bach's Woll-Temperierte Klavier as well as some Schubert impromptus on fragile leaves and as your fingers stumble over the keys all the chatter clears from your mind and you can really think finally.

You might think, for example, that you found and that you played from exactly the same ragged fragments of music last year and that this year it is somehow more difficult: the memory of the music moves your hands but in some way they are less agile, less accustomed to the exercise - they trip and falter under the sheer emotion of the melody and you cannot fill the notes with the expressive quality that you would like.

This week I bit the bullet and recorded myself in the booth. I won't go into details but - if I could forget just for one second that it was me speaking and pretend that it was some complete stranger - the comedy value would be immense.

As with the piano, I want to express the idea elegantly, I want it to sound smooth and pretty and legato but I am out of condition and it's more staccato, rubato and generally agitato with the odd note of vibrato where more than a hint of a doubt starts to creep in.

Why is it that choosing one way means missing out on something else?

I love living in Kraków, and I value the experiences of the past two years, but I wonder what I have missed by being here. Could I have lived for two years in Paris instead, spending Sundays at the market near Bastille or daydreaming around the Butte de Montmartre? If in two years I managed to learn enough Polish to stagger through a conversation in the back room of Kolory, imagine how much I could have improved and perfected my French instead! I could have travelled to Italy, lived in Florence, taught English and finally Learnt to Appreciate Art! Or moved into London and worked in a suit in the City.

Can't you hear the doors slamming shut all around you?

So you make choices and you travel and you run after one thing and neglect another. You forget that you are a musician, or a writer, or a lover, and you chase something else that you have never been.

Eventually you flit from place to place, trying to catch up with whatever essential intangible thing it is that you are missing. You avoid commitment to one home as you avoid attachment to one person. When you want to daydream, well, you take out old memories like photographs, blow the dust off them, and leaf through them, soothed by the fact that they are closed history and that you can just as easily slip them back into the album where they belong.

So what now?


expateek said...

How lovely and bittersweet. I know exactly what you mean. Where is home? What are we pursuing? What's missing? Who do we long to see again? And do they miss us the way we miss them?

Sometimes I think I'll never settle down. Enjoy the piano playing... some Chopin perhaps?

Unknown said...

You would make a great economist! You have an implicit understanding of opportunity cost - even of good things (only the dismal science could thing about what might have been even when you've had a great time).

Let me know if you ever want some training :)

Anonymous said...

Some people don't travel and Found the Whole World in the place when they live, some people are in neverending journey and run after sth that doesn't exist!

pinolona said...

Expateek - thank you for the comment! actually a few people dropped a line to say they feel the same way so I guess we're all in the same boat. I've been in the francophone zone for the past week though, so I can blame those pesky French existentialists for making me go all navel-gazey...

Simon: Damn! All those wasted years when I could have been studying economics! Another missed opportunity. Does the training involve beer?

Anon: I wonder about that. I think even if I had stayed in England and found everything I wanted there, I would still have wondered what it would be like to go somewhere else. I think most people do, even if they're pretty content in general.

Michael Dembinski said...

Pinolona on top blogging form. Searing emotional frankeness and technical mastery of English. This is what blogging should be all about. Moving from the everyday, via observation to profound insight into life and the human condition.

Way to go, P!

pinolona said...

Thank you Michael! *bows head and blushes*

Unknown said...

Why yes, my dear - economics can always be explained both with and over beer :) The training is very intense, but I think you could handle it. If you come to South Africa, I will show you the Joy of Economics in my new course 'Economics through Beer'

Fisz n Czips said...

iz you in geneve? go to les recyclables around plainpalais for books + cafe, or CALM in carouge, or cafe arts in paquis... also do lunch on a nice day at the roooftop manor restaurant

post was good but yeah that's life, thank maly baby jezus that we have these opportunities to live and work where we choose, we could be stuck making fish sauce in some factory in thailand if we pulled another card, let's save the sentimentality for post ingmar bergman film discussionsssss

pinolona said...

Simon, awesome idea, and if I tell my accountant I went to SA for an economics course then I can register it as a business expense!

Fisz - yeah yeah, I know, I got a pretty sweet deal really. Still, the more choice you have, the more discontented you are with life. Don't spoil the party!
Thanks for the tips - no I'm not in Geneva, I'm back in Kraków now. I wasn't actually in the city but in a conference centre in a small village about an hour and a half away (and up the mountains) so I didn't get out much unfortunately, although the walking was good :)

Unknown said...

I will even send you a formal letter of invite! A nice little tax-deductible trip to the Rainbow Nation :) -- I'm having one of those to Washington soon :)

Island1 said...

Blimey! It's like Sliding Doors.

rootvegetable said...

lovely post - you made me come over all wistful!