Steinways and sonatas

I had the wonderful opportunity to be in the same room with a new Steinway this afternoon. The Indiana Landmark Center had acquired a Steinway thanks to the generosity of donors. Now the Center is able to attract top pianists who prefer to only play on a Steinway. As the owner of Meridian Music, who helped the Center acquire the Steinway explained, a Steinway is like a pianist having the larger crayon box with more colors to play with. (Think of those Crayola crayon boxes you had as a kid. The coveted box had 64 colors. You were a real artiste if you had those.)

Spencer Myer, who seemed to be known to many in the audience, christened the Steinway this afternoon with selections from Scarlatti, Schubert, Debussy, Copland, and Bolcom. It was a sheer delight to hear him play. I love watching musicians perform, seeing them engrossed in their art, as if they have been transported to another realm. They are in flow, a concept about creative enterprises coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Another artist being in flow gets me in flow, as if I am orbiting their world and sucked in by their world’s gravitational pull.

It is the same feeling I get when I wander through art museums, soaking in the art, the creativity, and the energy that pervades it all. At those moments, I am not personally creating but I feel the gates open and creation wanting to happen. To be in an art studio surrounded by paints (never mind that I don’t paint). To be engrossed in a photo outing. To be ensconced in a writing project with words swirling around me.

But, I pondered, watching a musician perform is a bit different from looking at art, at a finished product. Listening to a performance and watching the musician is more as though I am participating, albeit passively, in their creation. The act of creating isn’t finished. It is being done. And I am in the middle of it.

The concert at the Indiana Landmark Center couldn’t have been in a more physically and acoustically beautiful venue. The Center was a former Methodist church from the late nineteenth center. It is a truly gorgeous space.

I found myself a free space in the center four rows back (the first three rows were reserved, for sponsors, I presume) next to a delightful but quirky (I’m being redundant) couple. A bit of hippy in them, I thought. After the reception, I was invited to knock on their door if I was ever in the area. (And I think they really meant it.) The guy had a quirky sense of humor. Had they been on the catacomb tour? No, he doesn’t brush cats. Or the comment he whispered to his wife about Schubert before the Sonata in A Major started: Schubert is after dinner music. Kind of like sherbet.

In between the pieces, Spencer would relate a bit about the next piece. I mentally clapped my hands in delight when he mentioned that to him, playing was painting with music. (I had recently posted a blog about how writing is painting with words.)

Memories and images floated by as I listened to Spencer paint. Rolling hills of the southern European countryside. A past concert when I was introduced to Rachmaninoff. Sitting on a piano bench listening to my childhood friend play the Maple Leaf Rag, swept away by the tune.

…and now I have a hankering for some sherbet…


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