‘There is a room around this song.’
Shocked, she wondered who thought of that? She asked who put this room in this library of other rooms to hold all the songs? It is called a ‘college of music,’ but an original college was a partnership, like the word ‘colleague’ today, not a huge institution with a whole unique ethos, surging forward, attracting fame and sponsorship, competing with other such urban necessities. Walls within walls, never still.
First everything is encased, captured. Then we must build a wall around it to hold it still, to make it stay so we can perpetuate it. Even the strings of this magical instrument ‘the piano’ that I am permitted to caress only the black and white teeth of are secreted away beneath designed wood, constructed, boxed. Must I play with these limits? Must I be held back? But wait! Questions are also constructed, their answers filed away in drawers.
Then suddenly amidst all this obsessive division, we will begin the song.
I have seen your face once or twice appearing and disappearing through doors and mirrors, your wine red lips, the hushed eyes of others with voice, the mutterings of your reputation, your talent. The light of you switches off and on again as you perambulate through the banal between songs, eating and drinking of necessity, speaking if spoken to, but saying as little as possible. You have always known that speaking the mundane is the poison, and you have found the perfect antidote in song.
You appear in this room indicating with your paper mantras – your score, as a talking point to get started, holding on to it scarcely with singing fingers. My mantras stand upright on the music desk only touched at the edges, but yours are cradled against the opaque skin of your forearms. Both are heavily marked, pencil, scratches, another kind of mantra made with numbers and symbols in Italian.
Before we start, oh how I long to get started, must there be this kind of foreplay? We both know that the poison is slowly killing us. Should we prolong the suffering for the sake of others? Should we stay to be like those who have not taken the antidote? Comfort in numbers, not to stand out for fear of being condemned as arrogant, or different?
The poison of containment behind walls and below roof tugs hopelessly at the fixed anchor of time. The tyranny of the visible, the prolongation of object permanence well into adulthood. Close the door, the drawer, the coffin lid, and now it’s gone. And the demented denial of the invisible, the inaudible, the untouchable, all the time the clammy jacket of space squeezing us tightly, holding us still until we are certain we really exist.
They do not realize that the poison of our ignorance and blindness hold us back, confine us, suffocating because we monopolize oxygen and are terrified that it will run out.
But once the learned conventions have been delivered, we can concentrate on the mirrors, polishing them up, breathing on them, rubbing, and they soon start to reflect. No decision to make about which of these miraculous antidotes to apply because they all work. The pages of scores are vague references, tacit, of no more concern so tossed aside.
We begin. We breathe as one in gratitude for the loan of just this one breath, and then the next, one at a time: gratitude and breath are key conditions that will make the antidote work.
I will start the song with breath-placed bent fingers perched on the cool ivory. Their tips are singing and they are calmed by air which convinces them that their nails should not tear away the wooden confines boxing in the gorgeous strings.
Seated beneath you, I am thrilled to be the soft underbelly of our union. My legs and feet drive the pedals, operate the dampers, quickly ‘on’ and ‘off,’ to promote the resonance or stop it summarily. I must be master of the used air in this song’s room because breath is required between strings and dampers, one for each key, an airiness which keeps the vibrations regular, oxygenation of the felt pads. Breath is also necessary for the highest treble strings, fine, taught, connected to the heavens; and the lowest bass, thick, loose, connected to earth which I never need to dampen with my foot pressure.
The convention of vocal song says that the accompanying instrument will start to set the mood. But I fail to notice the start because the antidote is already working. I am no longer conscious. ‘I’ has disappeared, leaving behind only poised fingers and forearms to weight them down. Fingertips and joints ripple and pivot, merging with you even before you let out a sound. There can be no human insubordination now.
The ethereal kiss is a delusion in the showcase of romance. The poison of possession, of fixing each appointed victim completely still with lips and arms, of pressing body weight, of the burn of skin friction and static. Crude, abstract, a stab in the dark, mirrors filthied by the poison and no antidote in sight.
Separate humans jammed together, confined, last-ditch, crammed in drawers and behind doors.
Conversely, this airy kiss of fingertips on strings is the perfect reflection of yours on lips like wild geese. Air and sound are only an apparition in the visible.