As if the glamour of a touring pianist's life needed any further confirmation or evidence, I am now blogging from a Denny's in Lubbock, Texas. Outside, Lubbock's wide, dusty Ave. Q bakes in seemingly endless sunshine, while inside, and particularly backstage at the concert hall, one freezes in extreme air-conditioning. I just left the piano technician safely behind in the chilly hall, a friendly man with a gentle west Texas drawl, and asked him to remove some of the metallic quality from the upper octaves--though I have to admit that asking any technician to do anything to a piano fills me with fear, with second thoughts and self-remonstrances... the devil I know so often seems preferable to the devil I don't. I will have to drown these unnecessary, futile fears in spicy chicken and fries.
Anyone could imagine that after weeks and weeks of just Bach, leaping into the Tchaikovsky piano concerto could be a shock... perhaps only paralleled by the cultural sea-change of leaving Manhattan for Lubbock. As I sat on the floor in the Lubbock baggage claim, awaiting my giant gray bag, beneath an advertisement for irrigation pumps, my face made wan by the inevitable banks of fluorescent light, I charged my phone at a lone necessary socket, and chatted with a dear friend back east--lone, necessary comfort after a long trip, and he seemed to recognize this, and his voice warmed in response. I was grateful. You never know which plane trips are going to be tedious.
Outside, at the curb: the airport emptying for the night, crews heading home, parking vans congregating, spewing diesel fumes; but against this: a wonderful Western breeze, reminding me of On the Road, Kerouac and co.'s constant sense of the call of the West, its vistas, promises, adventures. Endless rambling sentences, endless rambling journeys... (the endless rambling structure of the first movement of the Tchaikovsky concerto?) But when I arrive at the hotel, I realize my time here will be circumscribed by the short walk across the street from the Holiday Inn to the Civic Center, and further it will be circumscribed by the usual: serious practicing.
Frustrated with these limits, I imagine myself disembarking in Lubbock as a non-pianist, perhaps as a cowboy. I get a delightful care package in my hotel room from the nice symphony people, which includes a cowboy hat. I sit in my hotel room, and put it on, pose for the mirror while I check my email. Ridiculous but pleasantly so. Coincidentally, the other day, in the wake of all 6 Partitas, I envied a cow I spied from a car, half-immersed in a muddy pond. I guess this envy was a symptom of the intense mental effort of all that Bach... a desire not to play melodies on demand but, rather, to moo at leisure... but I cannot be that cow for now, nor may I herd cows in my new hat ... I must simply corral the notes I have to play tonight...