SHERMAN on MUSIC (excerpts
from his book entitled "Piano Pieces"*)
you have a passion for music and the English language, "Piano
Pieces" is a book for you. It is a unique autobiographical
accounting of Russell Sherman's life in music, his own "transcental
etudes" if you will - filtered through the prism of his
superb artistic sensibilities.
The thoughts and experiences of a lifetime in this most transitory
of arts (because it exists in time and space only at the moment
one hears it) are distilled in insights, anecdotes and aphorisms
that are both delightful and deep. The book is at once cerebral
(with numerous, comfortable allusions to literary, historical,
and scientific figures and ideas) and down to earth. And it
proves without a doubt that next to his wife of thirty-some
years, pianist and teacher Wha Kyung Byun ("Without
her I would not be."), music is his greatest passion.
"To play the piano is to consort with nature. Every molecule,
galaxy, vapor, or viper, as well the sweet incense of love's
distraction, is within the hands and grasp of the pianist. The
result may be a mess or a blessing...."
"To master the piano is to master the universe. The spectrum
of piano sound acts as a prism through which all musical and
non-musical sounds may be filtered. The grunts of sheep, the
braying of mules, the popping of champagne corks, the sighs
of unrequited love...."
"To succeed as a pianist, one's intelligence quotient should
reside on either of two distinct levels: an I.Q. of below 110
or above 140. The lively curiosity which distinguishes those
who are in between will militate against the focused tenacity
required to play the piano and to master its physical and structural
labyrinths. It is like looking at Mars through a telescope for
six hours each day while tracing the Byzantine network of its
grooves and clusters, lines and patterns. One has to be a little
inhuman or insane, stupid or brilliant."
"Music is the art to which all other arts aspire."
"Music is an illusion designed to embellish and deceive
"The charm of music resides in its indiscriminate appeal
to all the senses. A performance which has taste, vision, and
a beautiful sound fashioned by the appropriate touch will be
savored by the discriminating audience."
"Music is but one of the arts, but it lives in all of them.
Music is directed toward the ear but appeals individually to
all the senses and their mental counterparts."
"Music is a cake which grows as you eat it, which has seven
layers and seven more for each layer."
"Music dispels the fear of mortality and the need for rigid
and permanent identities. Music rejects the nine-to-five schedule,
the hunger for cash, the encroachments and limits of crass appetitite."
"Music is a science for survival in the face of uncertain
times and cosmic indifference."
"Music turns the mundane moment into a bower of infinite
pleasure and redemptive understanding, assembling its flowing
moments into orbits of mortality and complex time."
"Music is a revolt against Time - time as the chronicle
of equal moments and of mortal spans."
"Music, both as composition and performance, is a dissertation
on the meanings of time and the timeliness of meanings. The
timings and meanings of a work change from moment to moment,
while the internal and external variables are in such dynamic
play as to prevent the same performance from happening twice."
"Music aims for transcendence, for the gathering of rosebuds
and the rendezvous with eternity."
Pieces" - by Russell Sherman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
(NY) 1996, 244pp.
Photo: courtesy - ML Falcone