I just plunked down a sizable chunk of money to "pre-buy" my heating fuel for this coming winter here in the northeast, and it makes me wonder how folks are going to handle the looming economic crisis, and what might change in how we live and share with others. And what does my life as an artist have to do with it? For instance, of what earthly use will my upcoming performances of Ives and Rzewski this fall be to the common good?
My answer is, probably not a lot, since at this point in time the majority of people aren't touched in their lives much by classical music. But what can I bring to people who are open to this experience, and by extension the family and friends they interact with? Will these performances be merely a diverting evening out for them, a wash of somewhat comprehensible sound play, a chance to admire or criticize my pianistic abilities? My hopes are otherwise.
Can the recitation/sound illustration of Oscar Wilde's searing letter from Reading Jail in Rzewski's brilliant De Profundis reach beyond its melodramatic surface to prove the radiant power of acceptance over the soul-crushing injustice and prejudice so rampant in the world today? Can the Concord Transcendentalists' courageous message of universalism speak across time to the modern day listener when she hears the thunderbolt of Ives' Emerson? Will the sensual strains of Thoreau remind her of the fragility and power of nature as we hurl down the path of ecological destruction?
Charles Ives asked in a slightly different context: "Can music do this?" Whether it can or not, I'm willing to go down trying. If my listeners leave the experience somehow transformed, moved to take some different action in their daily walk, then there is ample reason to carry on this tradition. Besides, I will need the money to pay the gas bill.