An Antidote for Insomnia


As a writer and dancer, I've been a bit apprehensive about writing on the subject of classical music. Forgive the absence of pertinent vocabulary here. I've abandoned all attempts to incorporate words such as "adagio" and "tempo di minuetto" in the hopes of offering an honest portrayal of today's music, and how it made me feel as an audience member. This afternoon's performance made me want to put pen to paper. But even more so, it made me want to get on my feet. The performance was charged with movement. The musicians dance: they stand upright as herons and float like balloons freed from their bouquets. All of the pieces this afternoon illuminated the physical grace of both music and musicians. 



Beethoven's Piano Trio in B-flat, op. 11 performed by Soovin Kim, Deborah Pae, and Gilles Vonsattel

The musicians draw their first notes to life, and smiles bloom on the faces of the audience. It's as though we have stumbled upon a conversation, a vibrant dialogue between friends. As the piece gathers energy, we move from conversation to song. The strings live and breathe and are poised on the brink of some beautiful discovery. At times, the musicians seem to surprise themselves and one another with the suddenness and the playfulness of their performance. We almost want to laugh. To listen to this performance is to surrender to synesthesia. The tentative afternoon glow through the windows gathers strength with the music. The room and the audience take on a dusky hue. 



David Ludwig's Aria Fantasy performed by Robyn Bollinger, Wenhong Luo, Deborah Pae, and Gloria Chien

David Ludwig describes his piano quartet Aria Fantasy as an "antidote for insomnia... a floating in and out of consciousness." For this audience, the piece was not an antidote for sleeplessness as much as a call to wakefulness. Aria Fantasy's most somnambulistic moments are also its most jarring. Like a dream, the piece lures us into one understanding of reality, and then immediately reverses it. We sleepwalk and fall down the stairs. Notes fall like blind moths knocking against a screen door. The rare moments in which the musicians are unified also offer moments of discord, reflecting turmoil onto the harmony of the piece. At one moment, Ms. Chien stands and plucks the strings inside her piano, delicately reaching through the physical door of her instrument.

Ludwig's piece knocks on the door of our consciousness, and wakes us up to the beauty in the unremembered moments of restlessness in our own lives.