Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chopin's Nocturne in C# Minor

As performed by yours truly. You may listen to it here with this very handy link.

I spent about thirty minutes writing a short script to accompany this recording, and then hours and hours and hours of tirelessly trying to record a piano performance that was perfect. Sadly, that didn't happen, or maybe ever. I've been playing the piano for going on fourteen years now. Never have I ever played a single piece that would fit the standards befitting of a classically-trained musician. I always make a mistake somewhere (and that is not an exaggeration).

But I finally got a recording that I deemed alright, and I got set to recording the words to accompany it.

It was at that moment, I remembered how much I hated the sound of my own voice. Ugh.

Because of that, I completely scrapped the audio to my voice and decided to just forego the audio recording experiment.

But all that work and effort I did to try to scrounge something together. I decided to just shove the script and the music recording here to commemorate the moment that I realized that podcasting or storytelling verbally just wasn't my thing.

Here's the script (with mistakes and personal notes and all):

The basement was dim and musky. The wallpaper molding and peeling under its own weight. Footsteps of mercenaries rumbled above. Cries of captives pleading for their lives, for mercy from people they knew would not show them any. Captives that I knew were lined up with their backs to a row of firearms. Captives that I knew would die today.

I knew, because I was one of them.

I was singled out. Out of hundreds, I was the only one sent to the basement to meet the leader. I feared the worst. I feared a fate worse than death.

But upon entering that foul-smelling basement, I almost cried tears of shocked wonder.

In the middle of the room, untouched by the lawless, apocalyptic destruction above, was a piano.

Its glossy finish was pristine, the whites of the keys free from grime. A preserved relic from an age I knew I would never see again.

"I heard you know how to play," their leader said. "You were once a student, no?"

"Once," I replied. "It's been years since I've seen one, much less played one."

"For your sake, let's hope you still can," he said.

I took my place on the bench before the instrument. I played a few quick scales to get a feel for the keys. It astounded me to know that the piano was in tune.

I paused and gauged the faces of my audience. Attentive. Interested. Impatient.

I closed my eyes and tried to recall the pieces I used to practice, the sheets of paper that I was sure to never forget since they were burned into my retinas through hours and hours of practice.

And then. I began to play.

(play first line)

It was at that moment I realized that my heart yearned for this. It had been too long since I was able to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes. It had been too long since I heard music ever since the botched end of the war.

Each note I played carried the years of worry and fear and pain through my fingers into the instrument before me. Each trill marked the height of my emotions. Each run eased the ache of my soul.

Every note brought me back to a time when the majority of my worries surrounded my next exam instead of being captured by heartless monsters.

But then my hands felt unsure upon the keyboard. I had made a mistake in choosing this piece to play. Never in my life had I perfected this piece. I paused in places I wasn't meant to. Slipped in notes that didn't exist in the sheet music I practiced with.

I grew tense, fearing the inevitable moment when I would falter and create a sour note.

There.

I expected to be shot then and there.

But the deed was done. So I continued on as confidently as I could, the intense desire to continue the piece despite the risk of death due to making more mistakes.

The last notes were played.

They placed a bag over my head. Hurried footsteps escorted me from the basement.

They removed the cover and shoved me to the ground.

"He liked your playing. Start running and don't look back." they told me.

I did what I was told, expecting a bullet to strike me in the back.

It didn't come.

I looked down at my hands. Despite years of their lack of care, my hands still remembered how to reach out and touch an era humanity had long forgotten.

And somehow, it was enough to save my life.

I based it off of an actual story that is attached to this particular piece by Chopin.

Natalia Karp and her sister were saved by her own rendition of this piece during the Holocaust, the Nazi officer she performed it for impressed by her performance.

I guess in a way, knowing that story, I decided to nix the project. Sometimes, a story like that is better left told plain as day with no fanfare or poetic license. I've wanted to research more about the event, but as it is, all I know of Natalia Karp and her life-saving performance are only a few sentences in her wikipedia page.

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