Full disclosure: Cary Chow is my godson, so this is not an unbiased report of his concert.
Even so, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life! Cary is a concert pianist with a difference. Not only is he incredibly talented and intense in his playing, he likes listening to heavy metal and sports tattoos. He has a passion for animal skin boots and I love to hear about his latest acquisitions. He played last night at the Alix Goolden Hall. I attended knowing that most of what Cary does would go over my head. I don’t really know how to listen to classical music – the explanations people give me about what the music is saying make no sense to me – it’s music and most of it I can appreciate with my mind, but not my heart. That’s especially true of the composers Cary favours – way too highbrow for me, and their music, while compelling, is something I don’t understand and can’t relate to emotionally. Well, I got a lesson in how to listen last night.
Cary’s playing was, as always, intense and focused. In his first piece, Brahms Fantasty Pieces Op. 116, I had my eyes closed for most of it – my eyesight seemed like a distraction. My mind, as always, was running away with itself, not staying focused on the music, but wandering here & there – thinking about the creative process and wondering how it differs between writers and muscians (have to ask Cary about that sometime), how the venu (which I love for its architecture as well as its acoustics) worked with and complemented what I was listening to. It didn’t slow down once I couldn’t see, but I entered what I can only describe as a meditative state – the mind kept running in the background but most of me was focused on the music. At the end of the piece, it was like waking, but I remembered everything that happened.
In his second piece, Rachmaniov’s Sonata#1 in D Minor, Op.28, I began to feel the music physically – by the Lento movement (?) I could feel the music pressing on my skin and tangling in my hair. I could feel the vibrations of the bass notes in the seat beneath me, on my thighs and the palms of my hands.
But it was the second half of the program that really got to me. In Liszt’s Harmonies du soir (Transcendental Etude #11) I began feeling the notes inside my torso – not the low bass notes but the higher notes – they slid in and resonated quite nicely. And then, in the final piece, Liszt’s Apres une lecture du Dante, Cary played two notes over and over – and I could hear them as both blurry at the edges and extremely sharp-edged at the same time (sharp in the sense of a knife edge, not in the musical sense of sharp or flat). I’ve never experienced that when listening to music before.
All through this, in each piece he played, I was in that meditative state – the mind running uselessly in the background, but most of me caught up in the moment, experiencing Cary’s playing as an entire universe in which I existed. The rest of the world had disappeared. That’s never happened to me before outside of my meditation and my writing. I hated coming back at the end of each piece, and I really appreciated the way Cary let the notes trail off into silence, and the way the audience waited a second or so before exploding into applause – it was such a shock to leave the music and what it did to me, that the silence helped the transition back into the world.
I’m not sure what I learned, but I hope I can repeat that experience – it’s a wonderful way to listen to music, and I’m so glad it was my godson who gave me that gift!