(With apologies to Frank Miller)
Two hours out of prison and all I can think about is a steak and some cold brews. I spent twenty long years away from the world, away from activity, laughter and hope. I picked up a thick porterhouse and a case of beer on my way home, home being the apartment that the state set up for me in the seedy part of town. I drink two beers while my steak fries in the pan. And then I hear it. Through the thin walls of the studio apartment I hear the most beautiful music that has ever poured through these cauliflower ears. The sound of a melancholy piano, the first moving musical sounds I’ve been exposed to in twenty years, nearly breaks my heart. It jars me, the music, and as I’m trying to cut my steak, I miss and nick my thumb. Clumsy. I have to find out where the music’s coming from.
I head next door and knock. A young girl stands in the doorway, disheveled, distressed, mascara running. I stare. Not so much because she’s beautiful, even in her dour state, but because the music is louder, clearer, even more captivating now that the door is open. She sees my ugly old mug and decides to shut the door almost as soon as she’s opened it. “Wait!” I cry. “What?” she asks. “What is that music?” The question makes her pause.
“Do you like it?” she asks.
“Very much,” I manage to utter, still glassy-eyed and distracted, “what is it?”
“It’s Radiohead,” she replies, and then elaborates upon my puzzled expression, “well, sort of. It’s a classical pianist named Christopher O’Riley. This is his second album of songs by the band Radiohead that he’s interpreted into classical music. I listen to it when I `m sad. There’s just something about Radiohead’s music that touches emotions deep inside of me. I thought that no other music could make me feel this way. But then Christopher O’Riley came into the picture and turned my whole world inside out. It’s just him and his piano, no lyrics, no other instruments. Just him and his piano. He takes the voice of Thom Yorke, the guitars of Jonny Greenwood, and the miracles they create, like “Polyethylene,” “No Surprises” and “The Tourist” and blends them with one intense instrument. The piano has always made me cry, especially when playing Beethoven, but this CD, I don’t know…it’s funny I guess, the biggest thing missing is the lyrics. I can still hear them in my head, but they’re not there, and the funny part is, I can’t put into words how this music makes me feel. Now, whenever I’m sad, I just listen to this album. Sometimes it makes me feel better. Sometimes worse. But at least I know that there’s something beautiful in this world, and it fills me. Sometimes it even gives me strength to do things I don’t really want to do….I’m sorry, I’ve been rambling.”
I haven’t heard much of what she just said. She goes on about the woes in her life, her boyfriend who left her, her problems with her parents, her job, life in general. I hear, but I’m not listening. I’m still entranced by the music coming from the speakers and I can’t seem to break its spell. Now I know what was meant by music soothing the savage….I get confused. I don’t remember whether the phrase ends with `beast’ or `breast’, or maybe even both. I’ve heard it both ways. I just don’t know what’s right anymore. Between songs I look at the girl. She’s distracted herself, sitting on the floor with her arms wrapped around her legs, knees at her face. She mutters something and saunters to the bathroom. The music starts again and I lose myself anew. It’s not just that I haven’t heard music in the last twenty years. I still remembered what music sounded like, and in my recollection, it never sounded as beautiful as this. A loud crack interrupts the scene and I head to where the girl went off to. I find her in the bathroom, a bullet to the chin, and up through the brain. My instincts tell me to get out of here, to get out now. But the music. The music still holds me. I listen.
I keep listening to song after intimate song. I don’t even care that there’s a dead girl in the next room, a victim to suicide that has been a long time in the coming. I keep listening to the one instrument that seems to fill the room. I don’t even care when the sirens come. I stand in the center of the room, trying to find the best place to hear from every speaker. I don’t even care when the cops knock on the door. I look at my hand, blood covering it from missing my steak. I listen to the music. I don’t even care when they bust down the door and tell me to freeze. I have to keep listening, it’s filling me with such emotion I can hardly stand it. I don’t even care when I hear the hammer cocking on the cop’s gun. Just let me listen a little while longer. I just want to listen. Don’t you hear it? Isn’t it wonderful? I don’t even care when I feel the barrel against my forehead. Just a little while longer. Just a little while….
Christoher O’Riley- True Love Waits
Craig Armstrong- (Piano Works)
Brad Mehldau- The Art of the Trio, Vol.3