Tag Archives: piano

The Fourth Gymnopedie

Photograph by Jose Padua
I just realized that when you play
Reinbert de Leeuw’s performances
of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies
numbers 2 and 3 at the same time
you get a fourth Gymnopedie
that sounds like the sort of thing
Satie might have composed
had he lived into the 1940s.
The music is still incredibly slow,
would probably put a lot of people
other than me to sleep,
and could never be used to sell anything,
which only adds to its beauty.
I remember in the 1980s going to bars
where there’d be live music upstairs
and hearing just slow bass notes
drifting to us drinkers downstairs,
a sound that made me think
of the slow sailing of boats
across vast expanses of ocean.
I drank gin and tonics then,
and the composition of bitter and sour flavors
would lift me like a fast arpeggio
played so lightly the musician’s fingertips
must feel nothing but thin air or negative space.
Now the sounds I hear aren’t
as loud as they used to be;
I don’t feel them in my chest
or on top of the steady running
of my pounding heartbeat.
The skin of my fingers
is weathered like old wood
in the late winter’s cold,
and my brittling bones ache from
the misdirection of my fingers
typing in spaces too tight to breathe in.
But like a traveler through space
I am grateful for the speed of light
and the grace of a wandering that subsists
without politics or purpose—
that delicate balance of sound and shadow
that moves me through the unmarked breaches
that exist among all living things.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Glenn Gould’s Search for Petula Clark

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Sometimes when I think of Petula Clark
I think the planets have stopped spinning
around the sun. That all of space is still
as the universe takes a moment to catch
its breath and pay homage to the simple
perfect sound of her voice. So many kids
nowadays have no idea who Petula Clark is
or the power that Glenn Gould could wield
with the pure touch of his fingers on the piano
keys. So many of us think everything should
be easy. That pomegranates will appear
like everyday miracles in the produce aisle
near the entrance to the grocery store, that
love will suddenly rain down upon the young
like summer thunderstorms, leading them
to seek shelter before their clothes get too wet,
the atmosphere too electric, as logic and
proper grammar get lost among the swirling ions.
I think if Petula Clark had the power to raise
Glenn Gould from the dead she would, and
if Glenn Gould were alive and Petula Clark
dead, he would do the same for her. This is
how we take care of one another; this is how
each generation builds upon what the last
generation left behind. And maybe this is how
once again I’ll see everyone I’ve ever lost;
when stepping outside into spring rain I mix up
memory and space, mountain and the brittle
pages of an old book as stones roll down the
mountain slope and paper breaks apart between
my fingers. Thinking of what might have been,
I save every piece of paper and take my time
coming down from the mountain, believing
in the wisdom of taking the long way home.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

All We Need Is This

Photograph by Jose Padua
This afternoon right before
my daughter stands up to play
at her piano recital,
I turn to her and say,
“If you’re nervous just pretend
that everyone in the audience has
six fingers on each hand.
You’ll feel better.”
Over the years I have been comforted
from nervousness and fear
and sometimes worse,
by the notion of my enemies,
rivals, competitors,
and audiences of varying size,
hindered by a useless, extra,
parasitic digit.
“It’s all about not having things
you don’t need,” I tell her later,
“because what we don’t need
won’t help us.”
Neither great wealth
nor unwieldy objects can hand us
the notes or words
or dexterous touch
to play or sing our songs,
because all we need is this.
So we lift our chins,
we hold our notes,
and together we sing
a song as we sit across
the table from each other
under the warm dining room light.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua