”I’m not sure if I would know how to write about music”, I told him. He looks at me silently, while the ash falls off from the cigarette and on the table. I don’t know if he heard me or if the words remained lost in a between-time of sorts, in that moment when one returns from his personal noise to the noise of others. And I don’t know how it’s possible for the ash to always fall so close to the ashtray and to never even graze it. But he doesn’t pay attention to it. Or to the bitter drops of coffee that slide down the cup and leave stains on the scattered papers. There are people with thoughts much faster then their hands.
“Nina Berberova, in that Tchaikovsky biography, says that she will write about him, but considering that she knows nothing about music, she will not devote a single line to it. Remember? I like that, it’s fair to Tchaikovsky, fair to the readers.”
“Well, there is music in her book, sometimes coarse, but it’s there”, he says and after saying it pauses for air. He always does that when he wants to explain something. Someone would say, just by looking at him, that he just started choking and that he is about to cough, loudly and strongly. However, those are just the words accumulating in his throat.
“I know you don’t like science fiction, but there is an interesting scene in the movie Equilibrium. In the future, all feelings are forbidden. Every day the citizens drink their daily doze of medicine which makes them numb on the inside. And one day the leading character – Prescot – accidentally skips that doze. At that very moment, his questioning starts and it ends with the breakdown of the system which he once was the most loyal follower of. Also, do you know when it’s the first time he starts crying? He enters the house of the “emotional violators” and plays a record, Beethoven’s 9th, First movement. The music starts, his eyes become different and he starts to shake from sobbing. That is how, in some imagined future, Beethoven conquered the Orvellian nightmare. What I am trying to say is, it is not just about music, it is about life.”
“Maxim Gorky wrote how Lenin admitted that he could not stand listening to Beethoven’s Appassionata because it made him want to caress people, instead of beating them without mercy, so the revolution would succeed”, I add. Also, the director Florian Henkel von Donnersmarc comes to my mind. He thought about that sentence for years – what if someone forced Lenin to listen to Appassionata every day? – until he made a movie “The lives of others”. For that purpose he asked Gabriel Yared to compose a piece that could in two minutes avert Lenin from all the crimes he has later committed. That is how the Sonata for a good man was born. In the crucial moment, the Stasi agent Wiesler is eavesdropping of the conversation between the scenarist Dreyman and his girlfriend. Dreyman just found out that his friend, who was under terrible pressure from the regime, committed suicide. The same friend gave him a piece of paper with a composition written on it earlier. Dreyman starts playing. Wiesler is eavesdropping. Wiesler’s face starts to change, from the rigidity of a Stasi agent there is not much left, everything in him is deeply shaken, moved, awaken… Then Dreyman says the words: “Can anybody who hears this music, but actually hears it can still be a bad person?” Later on, Wiesler saves Dreyman’s life, protecting him from the secret police of East Germany.
I want to say all of that to him… but before I continue, it seems to me like the silence between us transfigures in something else. And he awaits my words, while the coffee stains are making shapes on the written papers, the ash is crumbling down like too small flake… He waits, and I could swear I hear Tchaikovsky’s Fifth starting somewhere… and yes, it is not just about music, it is about life…