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Lera Auerbach, The Trouble Clef

The Trouble Clef - Konx om Pax [by Lera Auerbach]

Last night I dreamt of the film Crooked Mirror. “This film is by Kurosawa,” my nanny said, “you should watch it.” My nanny, in real life, most likely never saw any film, let alone a Kurosawa. She believed the cinema was the Antichrist’s creation, either that or the Bolsheviks must have invented it. She said (back to the dream) she liked how the film’s simple black-and-whiteness made her feel nostalgic for the times she was alive.

Marianna My nanny has been dead for 20 years now. As she lay dying, I was playing the piano in the next room preparing for an upcoming exam. I did not know she was dying. She was ill for a long time and the last few days were a mere nightmare. She didn’t recognize me and kept on screaming, screaming and screaming senseless words. I didn’t know she was really dying. Death seemed convincing in the books I was reading, but not in life, even though I had all the evidence of what was coming. I was fourteen and should have known better.

I chose the piece she always liked to hear – Chopin’s Mazurka in a-minor – her favorite. She always asked me to play it several times. Sometimes she quietly cried while listening. Chopin was Polish, so was she and proud of it - even though she could never visit Poland. As I was playing the mazurka I felt her touch my shoulder. At that moment I suddenly knew – she had just died.

“Don’t stop, keep on playing...” I heard her say gently. Her presence lingered next to my cheek, as if caressing. And then – she was gone.

listen  Listen:  Rachmaninoff plays Chopin Mazurka, Op. 68, No. 2 in A Minor

I did not feel sadness. I kept playing, thinking of her and feeling a strange blissful peacefulness I had never felt before. I finished the mazurka. I went to her room. My father was sitting beside her bed. He had returned that day from a trip. He hadn’t known how ill she had become while he was gone. I was alone with my nanny during her last days. I was at that age when one is doubting everything.Yet, that moment in that musical turn, I knew for certain what had just happened. It was her goodbye. It was her blessing. It was beautiful and it did indeed happen.

My father saw me approaching the room. “Wait” he said; his face showed panic. He was not ready for this. “Don’t worry, I know she just died”, I answered. He looked at me, lost, his face distorted. I glimpsed into the room, but already knew: Marianna, my nanny, was no longer there. It was only her body, emptied, disfigured by her illness and age. I knew I was supposed to feel the sorrow. I was expected to cry, but strangely all I was feeling then was this peaceful gladness, a release of some weight, and comfort from knowledge: I knew she was peaceful, I knew she was fine. I knew she was free.

(The guardian of my childhood - keep watching over me...)

Last night I dreamt of her and of the film Crooked Mirror, which she advised me to watch.This morning I searched the Web and its counties – everywhere I could – there was never such a film made by Kurosawa nor by anyone else. What was she trying to tell me? What’s in that mirror? Why is it important? And why did I awake with my face wet from tears (she’s been gone for so many years), and could not stop crying for some time, even though I could not comprehend why I was crying, now, 20 years later, while the a-minor Mazurka keeps on repeating and repeating and repeating like a broken LP somewhere between my skull and my eyebrows?  I will never be able to play it again in concert.

(Are you sure you are still watching over me?)


Brain-teaser [Day 4] Answer: It's secret is to say what you see on each line and what you see becomes the next line. For full answer see below.

Line 1 is (1)
Line 2 is "One one" (1 1)
Line 3 is "Two ones" (2 1)
Line 4 then becomes "One two, and one one" (1 2 1 1)
Line 5 therefore is "One one, one two and two ones" (1 1 1 2 2 1)
Line 6 is "Three ones, two twos and one one" (3 1 2 2 1 1)
Line 7 is "One three, one one, two twos and two ones" (1 3 1 1 2 2 1 1) 

Brain-teaser [Day 5] : What logic was used to develop this list of words?Screen shot 2009-12-03 at 8.37.56 AM



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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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