Jeremy Denk, Think Denk
Subtitled “the glamerous life and thoughts of a concert pianist,” award-winning classical pianist Jeremy Denk’s popular blog recounts the trials, travails, joys and sorrows and the innermost thoughts of an exceptionally talented musician. Here is an excerpt from Immortal Schubert, posted in April, 2012:
After the day of manic joy and sunshine and desire, the last thing I wanted was to go into Carnegie Hall with all the Schubert and the syphilis and death. But Mitsuko is a genius, what’s more a generous genius, and to hear her play the three last Sonatas in the storied hall—a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That’s what I told myself. These once-in-a-lifetime experiences can really play havoc with your schedule.
I arrived at the perfect moment, almost too late, congratulating myself for my artsy tardiness, and found myself in the front row of a box. As I peered over the edge of the box and (as always) contemplated pre-concert suicide—would my plunge attract more publicity than Yuja Wang’s dress at the Hollywood Bowl?—I suddenly, desperately craved ten minutes to decompress, to come to an understanding with the dark lush carpet, the gilt proscenium, etc. The event felt impending, like a tornado.
My neighbors to left and right were friends, people I could be an ass around, but behind me was a charming Japanese woman, an innocent bystander, and I knew in my fluttering spring heart that I dare not, must not ruin the concert for her. The lights dimmed; Mitsuko walked on; with all the theatre of the crammed stage seating and rapturous ovations and extremely low bows, I found myself frozen rather publicly in a scene I had no business being in, like Jennifer Aniston wandering into the Ring Cycle. The first chords came. I tried to sit calmly; but all day Nature had been telling my body to take counsel from the breeze.
42 hours earlier: Brooklyn 1 AM, on a quiet stretch of 5th avenue, South Slope. A bar, of course; some light, not much; my eyes were drawn to a row of retro figurines on an impossibly high shelf, before swerving towards the inevitable chalkboard, listing hipster pub pies. I’m reaching down in the dark beneath my feet for my bag. Everything is falling out. The bag, structureless, my life. As multiple notebooks go flying on the floor and a few receipts and maybe my Kindle I think, yes, this has all happened before and it signifies and it is inescapably comic slash tragic.
The soft leather of my bag on the filth of the bar floor is eloquent. At some point after I ordered and consumed the Thai Chicken pie and then coated it with a red slathering of sriracha—the chronology is uncertain, collapsing—certainly after the third gimlet, I was pulling Roland Barthes out of my bag: Fragments of the Discourse of Love. A book X (my companion) knew and loved. I always have urges for Barthes fans. My idea is that they will follow certain pleasures to the end, to the last nook, comma and cranny.