Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sweat and Art

Saw a great pianist, Daniel Barenboim, actually sweat last night, just like a laborer. It was cool! Too bad he was playing Beethoven—"Moonlight"—, who was doing his thing. Beethoven explores the outskirts of the instruments too hard. It is a small fault. But I suppose it is human nature. Test pilots call it stretching the envelope. Then it seems like Beethoven is working at stretching the envelope as an expression of ego, and the essential grace falls off. But the idea that the impulsive/compulsive/spontaneous part of Art comes with real sweat is worth thinking about. Then there is also the cool detachment. Think about the notion of doing hard things easily! I doubt Sprezzatura had much to do with sweat, but we are a democratic people who sweat in our labors beside the rivers and the roads, and yet Americans love Sprezzatura, too. In our athletes! Perhaps I am embarrassing myself when I admire sweat dripping from the nose of a great concert pianist. Perhaps that is something we should not notice, never mind think about. Some of us still are proud of our sweat no matter where we find it. Lisitsa plays "Moonlight" cool, detached, even the blown up third part. Barenboim gets into it with blood. Lisitsa has hands like an octopus; Barenboim has the thick fingertips, the muscular shoulders of my old sax teacher; he has to work at it. No time to comb your hair. The story goes that Jack Kerouac, when writing On the Road, the forever scroll, sweat through it just like a laborer in the sun. He spoke to his ancestors who worked from dawn deep through the high sky into the twilight. Maybe that is the definition of genius: the ability, the God given compulsion, to think so hard you sweat.

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