Maniacs in My Audience

It crossed my mind that if I publicly signed off on blogging for a spell, I’d immediately have something to write about. I went to see Mark Morris’s dance Looky, set to my Disklavier studies, at Jacob’s Pillow tonight. The Jacob’s Pillow people treated me with breathtaking graciousness. Scholar and Mark Morris biographer Maura Keefe gave a preconcert talk that quoted liberally from my blog entries about Looky, making my vernacular prose sound rakish in so dignified a setting. Ella Baff, the surprisingly young director of the place, welcomed me, and, standing in the theater, suddenly said, “Maniacs is here. Do you know him? Do you want to meet him?” Her mispronunciation of “maniacs” nonplussed me, but something about her gestures forced my brain to gradually reconstrue the word as “Manny Ax,” and ten seconds later I was shaking hands with the pianist Emanuel Ax. (I maintained enough presence of mind to enjoy her dancer’s assumption that, since I’m a musician, I must know Emanuel Ax, and by his nickname, yet.) For his part, Mr. Ax did a lovely job of seeming to know who I was. I assayed to run back to my car and return with a sheaf of my piano works, but he was gone before I could make the suggestion. The dances went splendidly.

I tried to remember whether any other famous classical musician (not counting John Cage, Robert Ashley, and the postclassical crowd I hang out with) had ever been subjected to a public hearing of my music before, and I can’t think of an instance. I’d love to know what he thought, but it’s been my experience that my Disklavier pieces make pianists nervous.

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