Friday, June 03, 2016

The Labyrinth of Klavdia Klangfarben: Installment #2

In the first installment of the novel (beginning with its introductory short-story), the narrator, Dr. T. Richard Kerr, has set out on a bus ride to the nearby town of Marple, to attend the world premiere of his new piano piece, "Labyrinth," commissioned by the dePaula Escher Foundation for the pianist Carter Ericson-Torres, at St. Sisyphus Community College. It proves to be a circuitous journey, by swerve of shore, as he recalls attending a composers' symposium with his friend, the late Sebastian Crevecoeur, one which quickly morphs, as happens in dreams, into something else. The Intermezzo: In the House of dePaula Escher continues...
= = = = = = = = = = = = =


"The whole concept that certain personality traits can be controlled by the left side of the brain or by the right," the tall bearded man seated on the panel explained, peering over his glasses, "is just another way our more modern counterparts have relied on scientific research to explain the workings of the human mind." Noted scholar Ross Erlachen was delivering his paper at the symposium's musicology panel, discussing approaches to creativity in the modern era. Like many new theories, he discovered it was already regarded as hopelessly passé. With his easily recognized pinc-nez, Erlachen was regarded as one of the 19th Century's foremost experts on music in modern times, though, like many, still confused by the newest trends of the New Millennium. "If you were habitually late or preferred to think lying down could make you more of a Romanticist than a Classicist."

Embarrassed chuckles drifted across his audience, amused at such quaint notions that anything so obvious needed scientific research to explain it. It wasn't that his discoveries were anything new but this perspective was intriguing. References to some disembodied muses or which Greek god controlled your creativity aside, was science as good as any other explanation? If you were a neat and orderly person, clearly you're influenced by Apollo: Haydn and Mendelssohn were perfect examples of this. If you're a mess, like Beethoven or Berlioz, then Dionysus ruled your heart.

During the lunch break held on the lawn – a perfect afternoon for it – juggling plates of food served from the buffet, various participants at the symposium quizzed each other about their right- or left-brainèdness. Most of them considered it an amusing diversion like any psychological personality test where you made deductions from seemingly arbitrary questions. For many of these composers, whatever their personality, the fact that modern people were so fascinated by such things was "amusing," but unlike much of today's technology, they didn't see this as particularly useful.

"I can't understand the distinction," one composer I didn't recognize said to another. They were both enjoying something called a hamburger. "You compose the way you do simply because that's the way you are."

"Brahms writes like that because he's a bag of old-fashioned traditions," another quipped. "We, quite naturally, are so far beyond that."

It was fascinating to be here, of course, tagging along with Sebastian Crevecoeur at yet another one of those composers' conferences, only the third time I'd seen him since he died thirty years ago. He had been one of the chief organizers behind this decade's Universal Symposium, quite pleased with how well it was going. Despite that business about crossing over with his Piano Quintet three years ago (*1) – something illegal by Harmonia-IV's standards: what a ruckus! – they allowed him to take over some old English estate for a weekend.

"Sorry I can't tell you anything about it (for security reasons, you understand) but there's been a portal here since 1885 – locked up most of the time, of course – but such an unusual place." We're too close to the back of the house to view the exterior but this great lawn stretched away for acres.

"Well, this is another fine dimension you've gotten me into, Sebastian," I joked. "It was nice of you to invite me" (not like the previous time when instead he lured me into a trap). It's probably for the best the only way I'd remember anything about my earlier visits to Harmonia-IV is in my dreams.

He'd warned me that's how Parallel Universes worked: the memory wears off more or less quickly. "After all, who'd believe you?" Cameron and I had vague recollections of things but nothing that made sense.

Brahms was particularly intrigued by something called "pizza" despite the fact his beard made it difficult for him to handle it.

"How can you eat such a thing without a fork?" he asked Pergolesi.

"It's unlike anything I ever ate, growing up," he laughed, licking his fingers. (Dead at 21, had he ever 'grown up'?)

There was a small group over by the punchbowl I did not recognize whom Sebastian explained were Cannabich, Muffat and Graun, court composers little recognized in our day (the 'university composers' of the past?).

Joined by Johann Nepomuck Sauerbraten, another composer I'd met during my first visit, we talked about how good the attendance was, though I was disappointed my friend Robertson Sullivan, recently deceased, wouldn't be here.

Working in acquisitions at the Harmonian Central Library, Sauerbraten mentioned the Russian files contained over 200 composers just in the K's.

"Well, it's not all Glinka, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich!" Then he launched into a sparkling rendition of Kurt Weill's tongue-twisting song 'Tchaikovsky' from Lady in the Dark but using only names that began with K. In fact, many of them were present and a few in ear-shot sent up a cheer when they heard their names.

The piano trio, set up under a tent, featured Mendelssohn at the piano, the violinist Joachim with Schoenberg playing the cello (Boccherini, the original cellist, couldn't make it, so Schoenberg agreed to sit in).

"I'm sorry we had to cancel one of the panels today," Sebastian mentioned. "We'd prepared an overview of Elliott Carter's music."

"What happened," I asked, "couldn't they finish it?"

"Carter died last year, remember?"

It turned out on Harmonia-IV, musicologists were no longer interested in dead composers: "Well, he's one of us, now," he explained.

Then I said they should've had someone do a presentation on Howard Zenn who, I told them, turns 100 next year.

I hadn't understood the look Sebastian gave Nepomuck as he changed the subject.

Meanwhile, Brahms was trying to talk Haydn into having a slice of pizza but he declined after not seeing any utensils. Tchaikovsky liked it so much, he thought he just might write another Capriccio.

Sebastian excused himself to go back inside and get the next panel ready. I wandered after him, looking for a bathroom.


"The second door on the left," he said, finally getting to the hallway, a long corridor lined with several gloomy paintings, which felt, considering the size of the house, it took forever to reach. Without a word, my guide turned and left, disappearing back down the hall, his footsteps muffled by the thick, maroon carpeting.

"The place is full of shadows," I thought as I took the old-fashioned iron key and slipped it into the keyhole. I pushed back the door, heavy and creaking, opening a room equally dark.

It wouldn't surprise me much if someone told me Escher House was haunted and I'd be met by a dank chill. Instead the room, once I turned on the lights, was warm and pleasant. Perhaps spending one night here wouldn't be so bad after all, I thought, the sense of foreboding I'd felt deflating considerably.

A stately four-poster bed stood opposite an ornate stone fireplace and tiled hearth; a large drum table, over by the window with an old-fashioned heirloom oil lamp probably dating back to the Civil War. On the nightstand were two collections of short stories by Edgar Allan Poe and one of the later volumes of Proust. The bed, with its deep red and gold comforter, may be too comfortable, not as firm as I would usually prefer, but once the ordeal of the concert was over, I wouldn't even notice.

When I absent-mindedly began taking my clothes out of the suitcase, it occurred to me I didn't recall packing a red-and-yellow Hawaiian shirt, turquoise burmudas, a red fleece jogging suit or a lime-green thong. In fact, after holding the red fleece jogging suit up to the light, I didn't recall ever owning any of these. Perhaps in my haste, arriving at my destination two hours later than expected, I was more distracted than I had imagined. Had I inadvertently picked up the wrong suitcase? Meanwhile, what happened to mine?

This presented a problem, as I looked deeper hoping to find the suit I was planning on wearing for the concert, the dark blue one with the powder blue shirt and pearl gray tie. I could hardly attend the premiere performance of my "Labyrinth" – speaking of left-brained – dressed like I'd just returned from surfing Waikiki.

Nothing else was in the suitcase – no suit, shirt, no change of underwear, not even my tooth brush and shaving kit. I looked again at the suitcase and, yes, there were my familiar initials. There was hardly time to call up the bus company and see if they'd located another suitcase with the same monogram. Meanwhile, what else to do but hang these things up in the wardrobe so at least they wouldn't be too wrinkled. Maybe, by dinnertime, they'll have transformed themselves back into my suit and shirt.

With a great sigh, I opened up the wardrobe, a large, heavy mahogany case in the one corner behind the door, and carefully took out one of the old wooden hangers for the shirt. When I turned back to hang it up, there stood an old woman, her head slightly tilted and about to speak.

I of course screamed and slammed the door shut with a resounding thud, perfectly ready to rethink this whole 'haunted' thing, before wondering who she was or what she was doing in the wardrobe.

Wasn't it the same old woman who'd seemed so harmless on the bus with her knitting needles and her pink yarn?

Was she some nemesis appearing out of nowhere ready to do me in? Was she trying to warn me about something?

When I opened the wardrobe again and peered inside, she was gone – vanished.


Unable to believe what I'd seen, I shook my head and looked again, my brow knitted with extreme concentration and disbelief. No, my "Labyrinth" was over, its quiet ending drawing everything to a close. But then the page turner stood up, leaned forward and turned the page as if there were still more to come. She sat back down but the pianist continued sitting there, also not moving, as if, once rested, he'd start playing again. The audience, likewise reluctant to interrupt the silence, also sat unmoving, if unmoved.

Perhaps they felt there would be another movement after a duly thought-cleansing pause, that what they heard was only the first. The program hadn't indicated how many there were and it was a Sonata. Was everyone in the audience sitting there thinking, "Good lord, I wonder how much longer this thing is going to be?"

Ericson-Torres, the pianist, looked down at the floor, then up at the keyboard, with both hands folded meditatively in his lap, before glancing toward the ceiling and looking back down at the keyboard again. No doubt the page turner, continuing to sit there still as a statue, wished she could fade discreetly into the backdrop.

How many composers in the past had suffered bad performances of their music and wished they too could fade discreetly away? My eyes glanced toward the right, then the left: there was no escape.

Finally, the pianist leaned forward and closed the score with a broad gesture, as if to reinforce the piece had ended. But there was no change in the audience which continued to sit there. As the composer, the only one in the hall who knew it was over, I could hardly start the applause myself.

Then Ericson-Torres stood up, picked up the score, tucked it under his arm and bowed, pointing toward where I was sitting. In the silence, I stood and bowed back to him like a pantomime.

It was only then that, one by one, people around me began applauding, never more than merely tentative, realizing what happened, more bemused than liking or disliking my piece, about as non-committal as possible.

But the applause lasted less than the silence, ending as I sat down: people were clearly anxious to begin the intermission.

After I'd been identified as the composer of the music they'd just heard, people around me appeared cautious about making comments and most, it would seem, tried to avoid making eye contact with me, scurrying down the aisles and out toward the lobby as quickly as possible in search of fresh air and possible relief. While most people simply nodded, turning away before feeling compelled to say anything, unsure what they'd say to a live composer, one middle-aged gentleman glowered at me as if I had ruined his life.

Since no one had made any plans to have me hang out in the lobby to greet people from the audience – not that I had any CDs to sell – I wandered around looking lost. Whether it was because of my unusual attire or my deodorant had failed, most people were intent on staying well clear.

I scanned across what might pass for a crowd as nonchalantly as possible hoping to find someone from the pre-concert talk; nor did I see any students who might tell me they felt 'inspired.' Neither could I find any of the administrative types I'd been introduced to: had they all decided against attending the concert?

When I asked one of the ushers if she had seen Dean Wilsher who'd been so pleasant when I'd met her, I was told she probably went to the President's Reception at Escher House.


"Inspiration," I told them, "is where you find it – or, as my teacher used to say, 'is where it finds you' – and comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes as well as sounds." I mentioned how Messiaen was inspired by birdsong in much of his music, just as Beethoven was in his Pastoral Symphony.

"For instance, when I walked through the Escher House this afternoon," I continued, "the idea behind my piece made more sense," though it occurred to me not everyone here would've been through the house. Images from prints by M. C. Escher presenting all kinds of optical illusions had appeared to me automatically by pure name-association – given the blank stares, I explained the commission from the dePaula Escher Fund. Any further lack of recognition may well have stemmed from the fact apparently no one knew who M. C. Escher was.

Along with my precisely written-up and carefully printed notes for this evening's lecture, I had prepared a CD-Rom with several images, various Escher woodcuts that I had looked at before I'd started any composing. But when I went to operate the classroom's computer to project these images, nothing materialized on the screen, my examples dead-on-arrival. It didn't matter that everything had worked earlier, just before the talk began when someone kindly showed me the set up. Someone explained the computer automatically shuts down at 7:00 – "They must've forgotten that."

The word was "Gedankenblitz," I believe – literally, "thoughts-lightening" – which we'd translated as 'inspiration' from that cryptic inscription on the Beethoven statue (*2) (how suddenly it all came back to me, now, from that earlier summer). And I certainly needed a lightening-storm of inspiration to figure out how to salvage this talk from the agony of defeat.

"But that was usually how inspiration worked, coming out of nowhere," I said, "often a response to necessity, some unforeseen challenge." A composer sets himself an intellectual task then awaits inspiration to solve it.

Perhaps, I hoped, mumbo-jumbo about episodic "moment forms," Knight's Tours, labyrinths, Escher's illusions and how I applied them to musical form was unnecessary to their enjoyment of the piece; the less said, the better.

"Trying to explain genius had little impact on those who couldn't comprehend genius," as Howard Zenn had only recently reminded me.


These days, people would call it a living room in a modern house but, given Max Pierpont Escher built the house in the 1880s with an eye toward impressing his friends and fellow businessmen, it was still described as the Drawing Room since most of the social functions at the mansion were usually held here. In a house that somehow appeared deceptively small, it was the largest room, stretching along the side perpendicular to the street, and could have been a ballroom had Mr. Escher been interested in dancing. Though not the president's house (that occupied more modest accommodations across the street), anything official with St. Sisyphus was held here, as long as it didn't interfere with the dePaula Escher Foundation's events calendar. In this case, an exception had been made, combining two events in one: the President's Reception and the Foundation's post-concert reception.

The more I'd walked, the longer it took, slowly crossing an empty campus, despite seeing Escher House clearly ahead of me, becoming more distant with every step I took, the house ablaze with light. I was half-heartedly considering bypassing the reception and simply disappearing to my room if I could sneak into the place unobserved.

It seemed like an unassuming back door, perhaps into the kitchen, surprisingly dark, but instead, when I managed to open it, I found myself in a brightly lit room, full of numerous well-dressed people.

Beside the door was the butler who recognized me from my earlier arrival – what was his name, something like Bernard White – and when someone by a punchbowl asked to see some identification, Bernard apologized. "This is Mr. Kerr, tonight's composer," he said with a slightly deferential nod, as if that would explain my unusual clothes.

"Carter has apologized for being unable to attend" – his statement surprised me: I'd hardly expected Jimmy Carter to be present tonight – "but says he has an early plane to catch to his next concert."

Of course, I told myself, Carter Ericson-Torres, the pianist – he gets to skip the ritual but I must suffer his consequences. Well, perhaps I would run into my old friend, Tom Purdue, somewhere here. When I asked Bernard if Tom was in the room, he looked around with a glance: "Not that I can see."

A tall gentleman with a shaved head – something he no doubt hoped would make him look younger than his obvious years – stood with his daughter not far from us, peering around with stylish indifference. Before I could retreat, Bernard introduced me to the college's instructor of Russian literature, Dr. Vivian Darkbloom and his wife, Lola. First of all, it surprised me that a community college like St. Sisyphus would even have an instructor of Russian literature, much less one who'd have a wife young enough to be a freshman.

"Yes," Darkbloom said, "I'd heard there was a recital of some kind tonight, but we'd already been invited here, you see." He looked lazily around the room, then paused. "If you'll excuse me, then?" With that, he took his wife by the hand – "Come, Lolochka, you must meet Sebastian Knight" – leaving me without another word.

"Ah, Mr. Kerr, so glad you could come," the sweetly dripping tones of a familiar voice sounded from somewhere behind me. I turned to face the Director of the dePaula Escher Foundation, Sarah Fuller. "So sorry I couldn't stay to hear your piece: did it go well? Isn't this a wonderful party," she added, beaming.

"I only just got here, myself," I added, "so I really can't say."

"Oh my," she said, glancing at her watch, "it must've gone on forever!"

"Well, the Schubert did run on a bit..."

Before I managed to figure out what not to say about the performance, Ms. Fuller went to see about the refreshments, apologizing for the decrepitude of the cheese tray which had been fairly depleted. The college's president, Roderick Ascher, saw me from the middle of the room and nodded with a raise of his glass. Then I realized, too late, that he must have been acknowledging his assistant, Philip Winthrop, who was standing just behind me: Ascher and I made eye contact, briefly, his expression one of mild confusion.

Between me and the stairs stood numerous people whose names I couldn't remember who'd probably forgotten who I was since dinner, none of whom, as far as I could tell, had attended the recital. I saw the room as a giant chess board on which I had to evade checkmate to carefully plot my escape.

Some man wearing some kind of ecclesiastical garb (was he an Episcopal bishop?) wondered if I had made it to the recital (he, alas, could not), subsequently wondering what I thought of Carter's playing.

"Unbelievable," I said without batting an eye, "the fingers never left the hand."

He nodded, agreeing enthusiastically, sorry he'd missed it.

The Dean of Fine Arts, Madeline Wilsher, came over to me and without apologizing hoped the concert had been well attended.

"The hall was about half full," I guessed, "whether that's good or bad...?"

Dean Wilsher, with a shrug of her shoulders, wandered away toward the punchbowl and I worked a path through the crowd, picking up a drink and a few pastries, always aiming for the doorway. Turning to avoid the black-clad Lila Rook, the Ravensmoore Professor of American Literature, I had a clear view of the staircase. But there was the old woman standing beside a ficus in the corner as if she were hiding from everybody else, yet when she saw me, shot me a warning glance, shaking her head.

After I'd turned back to see Dr. Rook, the old woman had disappeared, a few branches of the ficus wafting lightly.

A young woman who apparently worked for the Foundation was standing beside me.

"Excuse me, but does someone work here who'd look like an old-fashioned librarian?"

"Ms. Escher? No, she died forty years ago...!"


So close and yet so far, I thought, the goal almost in sight with only one piece left on the program though, being the last of Schubert's sonatas, it won't be over anytime soon. Always a favorite of mine, it amazed me how incredibly Schubert could spin out such "heavenly lengths" in these late pieces. It was hard to believe, only a few months from his 32nd birthday, he was nearing 1,000 works in his catalogue, what he might have accomplished if he'd lived even as long as Beethoven. I carefully turned the program over once more, still amused by seeing Dr. Madeline Wilsher listed as "Dead of Fine Arts" – was that a one-time typo or an unnoticed, self-replicating error in a template? Was it an honest mistake by someone not very observant (another spell-check failure) or something committed on purpose as a joke?

Even though it was, I thought, a small crowd, the audience was reluctant to accept that intermission was at an end even once the lights had been lowered a second time to near darkness. Several couples still stood about talking as the pianist rushed out on stage, flowing with self-confidence, to begin the second half. He glowered indulgently toward the one couple, waiting for them to sit down, emitting occasional coughs until they got the message. Then, silent for several seconds, he stretched his arms forward and finally began.

But it wasn't the last of Schubert's sonatas – the B-flat – he started playing. Had I missed an announcement about a change? This was the G Major, the one before the final set of three. Had he decided at the last minute to play a different sonata instead, thinking this one might make a better match? Maybe someone else had also scheduled the B-flat Sonata for a recent appearance, so they'd asked him to choose something else? Or had he simply forgotten which Schubert sonata he'd programmed for tonight's concert?

This sonata begins with a long-breathed theme (if one can call it that) slowly spinning its way atop simple, sustained chords, the primary difficulty in keeping the duration of chords and pauses under control. Otherwise, there's no sense of tempo and it deteriorates into something more glacial, lacking any blood flowing beneath its dream-like surface.

And that's exactly how Ericson-Torres succeeded in failing, completely disregarding the printed music and making a complete shambles of Schubert's intentions. Ignorant of the underlying architecture, he destroyed the balance from which it grew. Musicians use something called rubato (*3) in 'phrasing' the music, helping it to breathe, but it's an innate understanding of the style. Here, stretching the sustained chords out even longer – 'feeling' them rather than counting – and rushing the connective tissue of 8th notes, it was a boat lurching rather than rocking, cut adrift by unknown forces.

Schubert is not a flashy composer, rarely writing for virtuosos out to impress, his roots classical even under its romantic surface, and this sonata in particular is one of the most introverted he composed. Also one of his longest, it is certainly one of the most subtle (especially in that deceptive labyrinth of a finale).

It soon became clear there were other issues – the plague of memory slips – forgetting where thematic expansion or modulations led him, forever returning to the beginning or some similar place hoping to find himself. He had wandered into a fun-house maze full of distorting mirrors, ever-repeating infinities, with no sense of time, direction or conclusion.

Instead of Schubert, intentions aside, it became a minimalist's hour-long deconstruction of Schubert though that was (mercifully) only the first movement. Yet the audience rose with applause and cheers, calling it "Breathtaking!" and "Awesome!"


As I was telling those few who'd bothered to attend my pre-concert talk, how composers create each piece is something personal, not only specifically personal to each individual composer but often to each piece, how often many pieces that composers set about writing take on the nature of a challenge in search of a solution. Considering the modern assembly line, listeners imagine there's a one-size-fits-all approach to creativity, boiling everything down to a few industrial procedures, how what inspires one composition will probably inspire another in a similar way.

Even so, since Beethoven might work on several pieces at the same time, we're amazed to discover how each one's different despite a certain level of obvious common denominators like basic harmony and form. Yet within the sense of how harmony works or what particular forms imply, there's surprising variety in how he realizes them.

Some seem to spring from completely unrelated worlds, different realities, moods or scopes, whether it has any bearing on real life, writing his exuberant 2nd Symphony in Heiligenstadt while experiencing severe symptoms of deafness. What else was he writing that same time, before he wrote his 'Testament' – the Tempest Sonata and the Op.30 Violin Sonatas...

What about the tempestuous A Minor piano sonata Mozart composed in Paris, that disastrous trip in which his mother died suddenly: what if it had already been written a month before she became ill?

"Form, how a composer handled his musical content," I said, "was only a guideline to a composer like Bach or Mozart, since the standard text-book definitions in form and harmony came after the fact: some enterprising theorist might examine a whole bunch of things called 'sonatas' to figure out what most composers considered a 'sonata.' While some composers stuck with one standard operating procedure they discovered worked successfully, others explored the infinite possibilities it opened up and still others decided to push the boundaries as far as they could.

"Otherwise, if every composer maintained the status quo and kept to the rules, it would be easy to plug different combinations of these same twelve notes into set patterns of melody, harmony and form. It would be the musical equivalent of 'paint-by-numbers,' programming a computer with rules that would develop some kind of artificial intelligence."

There was one dour-looking, middle-aged man in the back row who scowled at practically everything I said, working desperately to control himself from arguing every statement I made, whether it was fact or opinion. If I said something sufficiently right-brained to be entirely intuitive, he would grimace; something left-brained and factual, he would still grimace. If nothing else, was he disagreeing with me that I could use both intuitive and factual statements in the same talk? Or because I was being inconsistent by being neither one nor the other?

Aware of a suddenly rising headache on the right side of my head, I stood aside, momentarily distracted by the pain, wishing I'd brought along a glass of water, flustered at losing my place. The room had become full of my shaggy-haired, dissenting know-it-all duplicated en masse, all peering at me from behind horn-rimmed glasses.

While headaches were nothing new to me, most often the result of stress, this one, given its suddenness, caught me off-guard, thinking how my last doctor's visit revealed my blood pressure was uncomfortably high. How does one tell the difference between what might be just another headache or the possibility I was having a stroke?

"Where was I," I wondered, paging through my carefully written notes, hopelessly lost. Already behind schedule, I had ten minutes left. Had I talked about the different ways people listen to a new piece?


In the background, I heard my own voice, either from earlier tonight or years ago when I was teaching in college, describing how an untrained, casual listener might hear music differently than a musician, and how a performer would listen to it differently than a composer would, especially the one who wrote that particular piece.

"The average listener listens for a general response – 'is this something I like?' – while the performer may focus on interpretive details. The composer tends to listen more technically, or how performers express composers' intentions.

"Composers today have no more an idea what Beethoven had in mind than you might know what I had in mind: it's how the performer succeeds in communicating between the composer and the listener.

"It's like hearing Shakespeare performed by one actor in one production, then hearing those lines with another actor in another production."

One composer may listen more to how another composer has put something together – the use of form, a modulation, the transformation of a set of pitches – like a painter appreciating another painter's brush strokes. The average listener takes in the whole painting, discovering the details only gradually, but a composer often hears the details first.

"A composer's detailed program notes explaining the techniques behind his writing the piece may only be of interest to other composers: you don't need to know how computers work just to surf the web."

Here I was, listening to a piece I'd written not too long ago – I'd begun working on it maybe last year – but had to check the program to make sure this was my piece, aside from the fact someone, presumably the pianist, retitled it Piano Sonata, "Labyrinth," when I had never called it a sonata.

The tempo was wrong and the pulse inconsistent, the dynamic range too narrow; too many notes were not the right notes. Plus the man clearly could not find a beat in a bushel basket.

I found myself sweating as this disaster over which I'd lost control unfolded, becoming more unrecognizable the more he continued playing. He'd placed the climaxes at the wrong places, completely ignoring the harmonic tension.

Sitting there with my fists clenched, I barely breathed, trying not to scream. This was how listeners would judge my work?

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

To be continued...

(*1) Piano Quintet three years ago: at the core of the first novel, The Doomsday Symphony, in which Dr. Kerr discovers a previously unknown work composed by his late friend in which the manuscript was dated long after he had died; Harmonia-IV is the famous parallel universe where dead composers continue to compose new works.
(*2) Beethoven statue: at the core of the second novel, The Lost Chord, regarding a coded message inscribed on the base of a small statue of Beethoven that would eventually lead them to the grave (but not the identity) of the Immortal Belovèd whom Beethoven regarded as his inspiration. 
(*3) rubato: basically, an interpretive technique where time (tempo) can be stretched to create an emotive response to a melodic line or within the anticipation of the harmonic direction

* * ** *** ***** ******** ***** *** ** * *

The usual disclaimer: The Labyrinth of Klavdia Klangfarben, which you've no doubt figured out by now, is a work of fiction and as such all the characters (especially their names) and incidents of its story are more or less the product of the author's imagination, sometimes inspired by elements of parody and others by actual experience. Many of the places are real (or real-ish) but not always "realistically used." The town of Marple in Pennsylvania (or rather, Marple Township) does exist though I've never been there and my use of it - aside from being a logical locale for a mystery inspired solely by the association of its name with a character by Agatha Christie - is entirely fictional. Any similarity between people and places, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, but then, as Klavdia Klangfarben keeps quoting a former professor of hers, "Perception is everything." Yadda yadda yadda.

©2016 by Richard Alan Strawser for Thoughts on a Train.

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