excerpt from 'Over the bridge : an essay in autobiography' pp. 107–108 (381 words)

excerpt from 'Over the bridge : an essay in autobiography' pp. 107–108 (381 words)

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Over the bridge : an essay in autobiography

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 Then one day a gaunt young man with long hair and a nervous cough came to tune the piano...  

Jack and I were vastly interested.  We stood side by side watching him that Saturday morning…

During a pause, after the tuning was done, [Jack] produced the Beethoven sonata, and asked the tuner to give him an inkling how it should be attacked.

The result was like that of opening a weir.  The thin, bow-backed figure of the piano-tuner shook with latent energy.  He tossed his hair back, cracked his bony knuckles, and began to play the sonata in G major, Opus 31, No. 1 (published in 1803), which … opens with a startling statement, a running gesture, and then the assertion of a theme whose dogma is beyond all doubt.

The tuner emphasised that dogma with the vehemence of a Savonarola castigating the pleasure-loving Florentines.  Jack and I swayed like water-weeds in the flood, making the same mesmeric movements under the invisible punches of the music.  Then, after the violent assertion and running to and fro, the second part of the sonata, heard by us both for the first time in our lives, came out with a long, rapid melody that tore us up by the roots and flung us downstream; the mainstream of the art of music.

The musician was equally touched by his own magic, for as he played this melody, he leaned over it, watering it with his flowing hair, which almost touched the ivories.  I was deeply impressed, as much by the spectacle as by the music.  All was new to me: the performer, his odd manners and appearance, the nature of the music and the fluidity of the performance. That is why I have never forgotten that half-hour …

When the performance ended, the pianist sat, nervously working the muscles of his cadaverous face … Then he turned to Jack, and looked at him.  But Jack was lost.  He stood before the keyboard, staring at the notes… suddenly he looked up, quietly thanked the tuner, and left the room.  He must, however, have gone to Mother and spoken to her, for when she appeared, without Jack, to pay the tuner, she asked him if he would give the boy some lessons, a request to which he agreed.


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excerpt from 'Over the bridge : an essay in autobiography' pp. 107–108 (381 words)


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