bartok and books

Mikrokosmos Volume 4 (Pink) (2004, Trade Paperback) for sale online | eBay

I played my way all the way through volume 4 of Bartok’s Mikrokosmos yesterday. The Mikrokosmos are a series of pieces Bartok wrote for his son to learn piano. They are in order of ascending difficulty. They have been my companions for years and I have played and performed from them.

Volume 4 is pretty sight readable for me. Most of Bartok’s piano works are not this easy including some of the later volumes. I was tickled to see that I had performed the Intermezzo (no. 111) as a prelude on 3/10/02. This means it was probably for the Lutherans when I had a short period of serving a local Lutheran church as organist/choir director. Also, Bulgarian Rhythm (no. 113) indicates a registration on my electric piano with a split keyboard, Jazz Organ/Bass down an Octave. This means I probably performed it on the street.

I have played quite a bit of Bartok in local coffee shops and on the street when I was still doing that. I have arranged Bartok and other cool music for whatever instruments and instrumentalists I had handy. I was listening to the radio today and a dancer was saying that she and her troupe had quit dancing in public spaces because they didn’t feel welcome. I think that describes my ultimate decision to quit playing on the streets of Holland, Michigan.

But it’s not that big a deal for me to not have this outlet. My therapist asked me if I was planning any more public performances in retirement. I told him no, but I don’t rule it out.

I finished The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith last night before going to sleep. It is a fun romp. Apparently it is her second novel. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but the writing is virtuosic and the plot hilarious. Here’s a passage I particularly enjoyed:

“Alex, like everybody, held hospitals in the highest, purest dread and loathing. To come in with a bump and leave with the baby–this is the only grace available in a hospital. Other than that, there is only pain. The concentration of pain. Hospitals are unique in this concentration. There are no areas of the world dedicated to the concentration of pleasure (theme parks and their like are a concentration of the symbols of pleasure, not pleasure itself), there are no buildings dedicated to laughter, friendship or love. They’d probably be pretty gruesome if they existed, but would they smell of decay’s argument with disinfectant? Would people walk through the hallways, weeping? Would the shops sell only flowers and slippers and mints? Would the beds (so ominous, this!) have wheels?”

This morning I finished reading Lewis Raven Wallace’s The View from Somewhere: Undoing the Myth of Journalistic Objectivity and Ben Lerner’s book of poetry, Mean Free Path. After breakfast with beautiful Eileen, I jumped in the car and picked up some books I had ordered from the local bookshop: three novels by Hari Kunzru I haven’t read and a book of essays entitled Living Stereo: Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound edted by Paul Theberge, Kyle Devine, and Tom Everrett. The latter I think of in the same category as Popular Music in Theory: An Introduction by Keith Negus. I have ordered my own copy of this book but haven’t been able to resist reading the library’s copy while I wait for it.

Eileen and I are planning to skip another Great Performance Series performance scheduled for this evening. This time we have the will and I am feeling better, but the Pandemic rages and it seems silly to go into a public gathering at this point. Ottawa County were we live is surging more than any other in our state. No one was wearing masks at the bookshop just now. Lack of precautions are taking a toll not only in little old Western Michigan but world wide. I would not be surprised if we don’t have another lockdown before Christmas.

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