Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How I Experience Music or, McDonald's and Peanuts.

This is Georg Friedrich Handel's Chaconne (Theme and six variations).  I played it last semester for my piano class.  It's a lovely song, really, but I also believe is might be a hallucinogen that spreads through the eardrums.

The first thing I learned about this piece, before even the notes, was that it was supposed to be a classy song.  Downright royalty-worthy, you might say.  My teacher explained it like I was supposed to be playing Versailles, like the idea of that city was supposed to flow from my fingertips.  That is not quite what happened.

At the beginning, the Original Theme, everything was okay.  I could feel the kings and queens walking down the stairs to the ballroom.  I embodied class.  From there, it got kind of weird.

At 0:22, Variation One, it begins to diverge.  Instead of posh France I suddenly found myself in a physics lab.  I was the size of an atom, a nucleus, and for the entire first variation I was trying valiantly and against time to split the nucleus with a large, high-powered laser.

At 0:40, the Second Variation, I find myself at a rally.  The only people at this rally are...cats.  They are hosting a campaign against breast cancer.  I am obliged to offer money.  Some felines wave signs, others pass out pamphlets.  I wander between tables full of information.

The Third Variation begins at 0:53, and I also begin to taste peanuts.  The nutty flavor pervades my senses and the taste will not leave me.  It is a ridiculously awkward flavor to have unsuspectingly hoisted upon your tastebuds.

The Fourth begins at 1:10, and once again I am in a hall full of mirrors and princes.  The peanuts still grate against my senses, but the pure opulence kills it a little.

1:30 begins the Fifth Variation, and I walk straight from the classy palace into McDonald's. I work behind the counter, serving petulant customers to the hiss and pop of cooking oil. The taste of fries joins with the still-lingering taste of peanuts and it is not a very pleasant combination.  I find myself refilling ketchup dispensers and I have visions of pickles.

At 1:45 the Sixth and Final Variation begins.  The uncalled-for nastiness of McDonald's is replaced by a chilly mountain top, not unlike the commercials for almost every mint-and-chocolate based confection you can think of.  I am climbing up the side of the mountain, ankle-deep in snow. In the middle of the variation I find myself on the same mountain, but in a wooden cabin.  I rush out the door and into a snowstorm, and the last thing I see is myself, sliding slowly to the bottom of the snow bank.

Somehow, all of that happens in only two minutes.  Don't ask me how.

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