I ask that you understand that this is a component of a work that is not yet ready for publication and that it is being edited. What you will see here has already been through the majority of the editing process but may change between this and the final, published version. It is also important to note that the characters in this work are fictional, that the main characters are not any more than loosely based on either myself or others that I have encountered in my life. This page contains a large quantity of text. I highly recommend noting that this could be several dozen or even more than a hundred pages if you were to print this. Please enjoy.
[ Edits last updated January 2019, publication release date unavailable. ]
[Wednesday September 5]
Can’t breathe. Air comes and goes out but my chest pounds as I scrape the air and my lungs burn. Can feel my body shutting down, my hands already numb, fingers bend of their own volition, toes curl. Can see them but they tingle with the pins and needles, not enough oxygen, blood pumps with a vengeance but bringing nothing of value and burning up what little is left in the process. My head splits open yet looks somehow intact. Stare at my eyes glaring back at me, trapped animal, shake, shiver.
Don’t know if it’s panic or real.
Am safe. Must be safe. Can’t be anything but safe. Don’t feel safe. Must run. Escape. Disappear.
Can’t run from myself.
Can’t escape myself.
Close my eyes and disappear for a moment but know I will come back the second my eyes spring open with another spasm of pain through my head. Not disappeared at all.
Am not safe. Can’t be safe. Would feel safe if I was.
Can’t cry. Tears won’t come.
Know I have to fight this.
But can’t be only fear. How can fear tear my body apart like this? Numbness is real. Pain is real. Head can’t hold in the pressure much longer.
Am going to die.
Die of fear. Impossible? Don’t know. Wish didn’t care. Wish anything, just not this.
Can’t fight this in my mind. Only possible through the body. Move. Stand up. Dizzy.
World spins around me but don’t move, everything unstable, shaking, walls shiver with me.
Freezing skin, melting inside. Can’t tell if too hot or too cold. Probably both. Skin freezing to the touch but can’t get my body to cool down. Shivering continuously now but head painfully hot and swollen. Really swollen or just feels like it? Can’t tell. Don’t know if matters. Don’t know if anything matters. Don’t know anything.
Scream but can’t hear. Silent screaming inside my head or ears simply not working? Don’t know. Same thing?
Darkness is everywhere but inside. Attack has passed, feel drained, sore all over like past fever, ran marathon, muscles scream in pain of exertion from stretching, pulling against imaginary objects that seemed all too real. Panic is life.
Panic is death.
Will be, have no doubt, no misapprehension, no way to communicate certainty. Basically truth but without reason. Don’t need reason, though. Have knowledge without doubt even when completely calm. Panic is death, heart attack, stroke, whatever, will be panic underneath.
Wish it were now. No point waiting. Some days death would be better.
All days, death would be better while panic.
Can’t end life but wish life would end me.
What causes panic? Fear?
Fear of what? Not afraid of something, anything, not like that. Not afraid of anything, even death. Just afraid. Afraid not afraid of. Afraid in, in me, in world, in life. Fearless but consumed by fear. What is this life that when not afraid of anything, become afraid constantly of nothing.
Fear only fear itself.
Can remember no days this year without at least one attack. Some days more, three, four, five. Sometimes an hour or two, sometimes ten, twelve, from waking until collapse late at night from exhaustion. Sometimes two hours enough to knock me out for two more hours of blackness, can’t tell, unconscious or asleep, not sure if different, not sure matters at all, often wake after hours of blackness, still panicked, still can’t breathe, another hour, two, five and back to blackness.
Not a child. Eighteen. Adult. At least in numbers, age, years filled with increasing panic.
Was calm at thirteen. Outcast, alone but calm. Different. Knew it but not why, not then.
Parents knew but was the only secret we had. Asked why but answers almost as difficult as questions sometimes — was different always, grew quickly, too quickly, couldn’t control my mind. Learned how to think, to discover, speak, write, understand everything but people. Know what they think only in books but can’t tell in real life. Do other people understand humans or simply pretend?
Always pretend for me. Usually they don’t notice but still mostly alone. Can’t relate, can’t empathize, can’t feel what they feel — they can’t in reverse. Friendship, fleeting, cold, distant.
Think if could stop panic, pretending would be easier, more realistic. Could have friends. Still difficult, still effort, still pain but not so distant, warmer, lasting. Would be nice. But panic is death.
Don’t remember the beginning but was occasional at first. Ten or eleven, first time, always remember first time, was Christmas morning. Happiest day of every year but not sure which year. ’10 or ’11. Doesn’t matter. Sitting under the tree with Joan in front of me, Eric standing by the bookcase, iPod in hand, aux cable dangling, Christmas music suddenly starts, warm, happy, Carol of the Bells, King’s College, one of Joan’s favorites. He sits, give each of them small boxes, red wrapping, ribbon perfect — Joan’s took me eight tries but finally feels right.
She opens it. Small bracelet in links. Silver, not gold, but her eyes water. Cutting grass all summer, shoveling snow on days when it falls, we don’t have everything but have everything I need. Not much money, though. She knows it took saving but her usual don’t waste your money on me is silent, slipping it on, Eric fastening the clasp while her hands too limp with emotion. Not sure what she expected in the box. Eric carefully removes ribbon, tape, unfolds wrapping paper as if precious, as if reuse were possible, as always, every time, without fail, beyond careful, like me, or I like him, must be the second, being his daughter, he’s much older.
He looks in the box, realizes what he sees and misunderstands for a moment. School tie from his college but was ruined years ago — three year old accidents are always excused, but understood almost immediately it held special significance for him so managed to, with Joan’s help, purchase a new one. He almost cries. Hugs. Smiles. Laughter. No more tears. Joan rushes off to make breakfast. One piece of chocolate, only one, make it last. Whisper of taste still on my tongue, scream suddenly in pain, sharp, piercing, shot through my head but no blood, Eric stares, paralyzed, Joan runs from the kitchen but stops two feet short, eyes wide, real fear, don’t know until later it’s reflected in their eyes from mine.
Heat radiates from my body, liquid flowing through every vein burning, acid, hot and cold at once. Hours of waves of stabbing, only five minutes, maybe six, eyes wide open, can’t blink, fingers so straight but muscles pull them backward, don’t know if they will break, can’t hope they won’t, can’t hope, can’t think, mind racing, thousands of miles an hour, breathing harsh, ragged, suffocating, what happened, can’t tell, can’t understand, can’t think, can’t think, blackness.
Woke up seven minutes later. Silence. Pure silence. Can’t hear, everything still, no voices, vision blurry but no longer black, nothing dark, pain not gone but different. Completely different. Now feels like exercise for days, no rest, exhaustion, drained, muscles burning but haven’t run anywhere, haven’t played soccer, haven’t gone to gym class. Not for days, not since school closed for Christmas. Why, worst exhaustion since was six and down with chicken pox, fever, but feel healthy, just sore, aching, but no more heat, no fever, a little cold. Lying on couch, Eric, must be Eric, can’t focus but getting better, he’s there holding something, phone? Remote? Staring, concentrating. Joan speaks from behind me. He’s on his way up the street. Who, can’t have visitors like this, please no, let me sleep, sleep, forever sleep, why so tired, can’t think, not impossible now, just too tired, sleep. Her eyes are open. Has she said anything? No. She hasn’t moved but she was looking at me. Dad? What’s happening? Think the words but can’t hear them. No sound. He doesn’t respond, couldn’t hear my thoughts.
Try again. Dad, what’s happening? Suddenly turns, looks at me, voice from behind my head. Don’t try to move, you passed out. John’s coming over to see you now. He’ll be here in a minute. You’re going to be fine. She’s still in her nightdress, Eric in his cotton pajamas, dressing gown over his shoulders but the belt hangs loose, must have fallen as he lifted me onto the couch from the other side of the living room by the tree. Doorbell rings but door opens before the echo begins, Eric sits by my feet, in my line of vision but barely, easier to focus now, little less tired but still drained.
Voices, too quiet, can’t understand, know they talk about me, Joan concerned, John, family doctor, lives across the road and down a few houses, sounds annoyed but not concerned, probably tired, is only eight thirty and his three kids all home for the holidays but two at college, Toronto and Chicago, and one working in Sierra Leone, wonder what his wife thinking now, emergency? Is it? Joan would know. What’s going on, Pam? Passing out on Christmas morning, I hear. How do you feel? Tired. Word comes out this time. I’m tired. I’m sure you are. Can you tell me what happened, what you felt?
I got a sharp pain in my head, felt weird, everything was spinning, body was all tight, got dizzy, confused, couldn’t think, tried to move, then black. Woke up here. That’s all I can remember. There was chocolate. Still tastes like chocolate.
He looks at me. That’s very succinct. You’re sure she’s not pretending, I suppose? Yes, John, she was unresponsive. Couldn’t wake her up. She was limp, not even reflexes, didn’t respond to touch, not even a twitch, with her eyes closed, like she was drugged.
She hasn’t taken anything, has she? I think we’d have noticed. She was perfectly fine, six thirty this morning she came in and woke us up, woke me, Eric was still asleep, waited until seven and woke him and we came out to do Christmas, she’s been up almost two hours, no sign of anything before this. Alright, she seems stable enough. I’m not going to give her anything. Not much I can do for her. She’s conscious, breathing, able to talk normally. Looks like she had a panic attack and it just got too much for her, unless she’s faking it. Up to you, Eric, what do you want to do? Should we take her to the hospital? Christmas morning, you’ve got to be kidding. If she’s awake and alive you’ll sit out there all day and never see anyone. Just hope it doesn’t happen again and if it does, guess you’ll have to call me. If not, bring her in next week and we’ll get her an appointment with someone. Let me have a think about who but she’s not in any danger. Thank you for coming up so fast. Not at all, Joan, not at all. It’s Christmas, can’t be turning away our neighbors, can we?
Saw a therapist, thought was all pretend, didn’t understand. Didn’t happen again until summer. Seven months, then five, then two, weeks turned into days, sometimes hours. Now every day, at least once, whole life consumed by fear, panic. They know it’s real now, hope, at least, they see it, feel the muscles strain, oxygen levels drop, breathing difficult, heart rate through the roof. Sometimes tranquilizers but they don’t help, slightly shorter attack, more exhaustion later, not worth it. Don’t want to get addicted. Wish it would stop.
Panic is death.
Start college today, thankfully first class not until afternoon. Wednesday, an odd day to start a semester, class at two, English. Hopefully no more attacks today, please not in class, maybe nobody there will know.
At least it’s safe to drive. Attacks last ages, easy to feel coming on, not sudden blackouts, not seizures, just fear, as if just were the word. Perfectly safe, just pull over, pass out in locked car, wake up eventually, drive home. Drive short distances, to school, home, stores, rarely feel it when driving. Spend most time at school and home, happens mostly there, especially at night, home, panic is a nighttime thing. Easier to fight, be rational, be calm in the day. Harder when tired, half asleep, panic takes over. Don’t know how many nights panic instead of sleep, blackout not rest, wake up, morning like day continued, still exhausted, that’s when it happens at school, morning just an extension of evening, too dazed, tired, drained to fight against panic, fear, just overwhelmed, collapse.
Not sure if excited to start college. So many people talking about it, always, constant. Can’t tell if excitement to learn, meet new people, simply easier to get high, be drunk, more parties. They forget, more work, but less class time, far less. Don’t they worry they’ll die? Just me, perhaps. My death will be panic, though, not booze. No drinking, not ever, not when already blacking out. Panic doesn’t always cause blackouts but often, too often. My decision, no drinking, no drugs. Tried pot. Twice. Relaxing, maybe, but strong smell. Not worth the money, not to me, feel out of my body already, for free. Wish could stay in it. Keep your high.
If panic is death, music life. Cello. My refuge, calm island between panic storms. My DZ Strad still feels a bit large even after four years playing the 4/4 but used to it, my best friend most days. Listen, practice, panic, supper, sleep, most days endless repeat, practice the best part, some days a couple of hours, some days five, six, more. Not always fun, always relaxing, not always feeling worth the time, but know it is.
Scholarship to music school. Sure my parents would have found a way to pay, would have worked part time, still might have to, but now can concentrate most days on practice, progress, not just playing for fun, playing for school, starting today.
Audition was tense. Knew could play everything, practiced with Faith, endless hours making sure timing perfect, expression, sounds right, feels right. Tense in case panic. Can’t stop thinking, what if death comes in audition, even blackout, but death, can’t stop thinking. If blackout, no scholarship, no admission, no music, have to do an arts degree instead, can’t be a music teacher. Blackout, blacklisted. Only one college here, only one music school, could go away but expensive, plus, living alone with panic, far worse than living with Eric & Joan. Parents, safe, loving, caring, never give up, not like everyone else, never mind giving up, never start, really. Sure, friends in theory, but not real, not there when bad things, pass out, friends out, friends gone. Back when stable, gone when bad, bad every day, gone every day. Maybe new friends through music, could be more accepting, maybe, not likely, run away, too, won’t understand, won’t accept, will say it, won’t stay, feel more alone with every friend who leaves, better not to have than to have and lose.
Panic is death, alone.
Better than life, alone? No. Have loving parents, can’t leave. Can’t tell them even thinking about leaving. Won’t leave. Will think, won’t say, better as secret, only secret left, better for them, happy to hide if they feel safer this way. Their imperfect daughter, broken but alive, better than broken and dead? They think but not so sure. Panic is death, anyway, will come on its own, don’t need to help it. They will cry eventually, wish could stop it. Keep wishing, failing, trying, failing more. Won’t give up, will still fail.
Eric calls it doing my civic duty, always terrible puns but still funny. Joan has newer one, ’14, four years old, nearly five, but my Honda is ’05, thirteen, should be going to junior high now but driving it to college. Bright red. Can’t say is great but don’t care much about cars and big enough for me, good in the snow, fits cello in passenger seat, all can ask for, really, plus free, too old to be worth much but thought would have to work hard to afford car, save up, insurance, gas, came out day after got license, Joan had washed it, sitting there, like she always did but somehow more thorough, every surface, inside, outside, purely clean, as much as twelve year old car can be, a year ago, just before grade twelve. Didn’t drive it to school every day, often went with Eric. Sometimes his car, sometimes mine, saving gas, easier, nice to talk in the mornings but too tired in the evenings, just listen to music, orchestras, organ, sometimes modern music, just always music. Eric loves as much as me, Joan, too. Music is life for all of us. Life in spite of darkness.
Pull into parking space, feed meter, not far from music school but English class up the hill, have to walk but here with time to spare, not a problem. Will find class but easy enough. Only one of these not about music, not in the school, outside, but have to do it. Speak English fine, read English fine, not sure why but have to take, no choice, if necessary to teach music, will do it, maybe even smile, like books, like reading, like writing, could be worse, could be chemistry, could even be gym but thankfully not, not at college, last gym class over, no more team sports, no more locker rooms, no more hazing, teasing, enough, plenty, done, gone, can’t forget, wish could, won’t, but over.
Welcome, frosh. Sign bigger than me. Been taking classes here for three years now but a first year, how does that work? Just wanted a challenge, talked to people, evening classes. Had to come in and sometimes missed them but still passed in papers, got grades, got credit, so much writing but not much different from high school, a little less boring, maybe, but just as simple. Music school will be refreshing, practical work, writing music, learning to improve, playing concerts, preparing, practicing, a real welcome without froshing.
Second floor, still a maze in here after three years, never gets better. Designed by people with no sense of sense, common, otherwise, whatever. Classroom not bad, though. Fifteen chairs, mismatched sides, does anyone else notice, care, think? Doctor Pat Dunn. New this year. Never met him, from Montreal, don’t think he’s French-Canadian. Woman walks in, maybe he’s not arrived, don’t recognize. Hi everyone. Noise continues, same as always, every classroom, even if thirteen students around long table, noisy even after teacher starts. Hi, I’m Pat. Stunned silence. Can’t be more than thirty, woman. Hadn’t thought. Books, covers, as guilty as anyone. What, were you expecting an old dude? Silence. We’re going to be spending the semester talking about literature in translation, translation to English, that is, and this is the area I just finished my doctoral research in two years ago at McGill, so now I’m here. I’d welcome you all to the university but you’ve probably been here longer than I have.
Forgot what this class was going to be about. Just remembered English. Most classes taken in English but always felt like high school. First time a seminar class, could be different, maybe real challenge, better books but doubt it. Same work, smaller room. You may have noticed that there were no books at the bookstore for you to buy for this course but that doesn’t mean you won’t be reading. I didn’t give them a list because there was no way they’d get them in in time. I only found out I was teaching this course here a week ago. Was supposed to be teaching a class in graphic novels in this slot but I taught this before at McGill when I was a doctoral candidate and there was more demand for this but nobody here they wanted to get to teach it. So I’ve got links to the ebooks and I’d like you to either buy them or however you like to get books and bring your phones or tablets to class, which you probably do anyway. No point in having a lot of dead trees when we’re all carrying around books on our phones, anyway. It’s where I do most of my reading now and I doubt most of you have anywhere near as many paper books as I did ten years ago as an undergrad.
If you could all take out your phones and send me an email with the subject line English 3175, I can reply to all of you with an invitation to the closed Facebook group for this course and in there you’ll find the links so you can get the bulk discount — they’ll be about four or five bucks each — and, you know, you can post stuff if you want to and we’ll all have a chance to keep in contact between classes. If you’re against Facebook for some reason, just send me an email and I’ll get the links and reply to you but I’ve never known anyone who was actually off Facebook for anything other than taking a break. Don’t take a break. This isn’t for your grade but hey, if you can get extra time to discuss the material for class, consider it free tutoring time, ok?
Nods. Like it’s the first time they’ve thought about social media in class. She must think she’s so progressive. Guess she is compared to most of this department, wouldn’t know Facebook biting them in the ass, amazed no typewriters anymore, ancient pcs, though, some as old as me, probably, windows xp, dumb phones, saw department head last year screaming into Motorola flip phone, amazed still turns on, thing is pre-snake.
Plugs laptop into projector, turns on, book on screen. Didn’t need to get department secretary to help, at least she’s not a luddite. We’re going to be working our way through two books a week. Gasp. Don’t worry, the last two weeks will be a chance to catch up on anything you didn’t quite manage and you’ve got fall break to read, too, so I’m putting the longest books at the end of the term to give you more time to get through them. The first class, Monday, every week will be on the first of two books, the second will be on the other, Wednesday, and the Thursday hour will be a comparative look at the two books, what’s similar, what’s different; it should help you to understand whatever you didn’t pick up in the first two classes of the week. We’re going to spend this class talking about the idea of translation of literature, culture, not just language. Friday this week will be spending maybe five minutes looking specifically at each of the different writers we’re going to look at so you’ll have an idea what to expect. It might be useful to know these books are all no older than the twentieth century so no classic lit. This is modern lit in translation.
The first book we’re going to be looking at is Murakami’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Anyone read it? Silence. Anyone read anything by Murakami? Silence. 1Q84. I can’t be the only one, though, can I? Maybe am. She stares at me through the complete lack of response. Like it? Sure, it was a book my father gave me to read between classes a couple of years ago. A lot better than 1984. Had to read that in grade ten and I fell asleep almost every class. Thought there would be laughter but nothing but a smile from Dr Dunn. Miss Dunn? Pat? Yes, I enjoyed it in parts and other parts I didn’t but we don’t always teach books because we loved them cover to cover, often it’s because they’re important, writing style, content, timing; this is a book that I believe everyone should read in whatever language. I don’t speak Japanese so I read it in English, like we’re all going to do for next week. It’s not all that long and you’ve got plenty of time to get it out of the way before Monday. If you’ve never heard of Hard Boiled Wonderland, although I doubt you’re here taking an English seminar class without at least having a passing familiarity with Murakami even if you’ve been a bit lacking in actually reading him, it’s two stories put together, one of them science fiction, cyberpunk, and the other a fantastic dream. It’s cheaper than acid so you’ll thank me next week, I hope.
The second book for next week is The Star Diaries. Wave at me if you’ve ever read anything by Stanislaw Lem but I’m going to assume you haven’t. It’s short, quirky, funny. Science fiction but definitely not dystopian, not fantasy, and not cyberpunk. When you read it, try to think about how to compare it to Murakami’s book but we’ll get to that next Thursday in here. It’s like a diary that’s a parody of scifi cons. I’m sure some of you have gone to the one they have here every year even if you’re not prepared to share your nerdy self in here. I love scifi, fantasy, love the idea of worlds different from our own that we can escape into in our minds. If that makes me a nerd, sure, that’s ok. Even if that’s not your cup of tea, read the book and see what you think. If you can pick up the part that’s an alternative telling of Genesis, consider yourself smarter than the average grizzly. Before we move on to talk about translation, one other thing. I technically have office hours between six and seven the same days as this class so, since it is all going to be pretty crammed in, I’m going to spend those hours in here — I’ve checked and it’s free that slot — and you’re all welcome to come and continue with questions and discussion about the book from that day if you like. Not required and I won’t take attendance but if you’re free, there’s nothing like a bit of extra talking about it to make a book stick in your head.
One other thing, you will be writing a short paper due the day you come back from fall break and I’ll give you the question tomorrow in class and post it on the Facebook group so you can check back any time you like. That will be worth a quarter of your mark. The other seventy-five percent will be a term paper, which will be any topic you like, which you will clear with me first, ten thousand words on any two modern works in translation we haven’t discussed and won’t be discussing in the class — don’t worry, you’ll find the complete list online this evening so you’ve got lots of time to think, send me your ideas, and write the paper between now and Christmas break. If you have questions, just shout out hey Pat and I’ll shut up but if you don’t stop me I’m not going to keep pausing and asking so don’t be afraid to speak. Sure, today and tomorrow are mostly going to be lectures but the rest of the term is supposed to be discussion and if you don’t speak, you’ll get left out.
Culture isn’t complicated. It’s complex. If you live in it, it’s easy but there are so many moving parts. She thinks it’s easy to live in culture. Should try my life. Culture, the most confusing part of being alive, hurts head more than blackouts. Translators fit loosely into two categories, the ones we notice and the ones we don’t. In the ones we notice, we notice the bad ones and we’re going to ignore that because if the translation is bad, stilted, unrealistically written as if they don’t really know how to deal with the English language, put the book down — there’s more stuff out there to read than you’ll ever have time to do in your life so if you’re spending time working your way through something that’s not been written well, you could be enjoying something else and that’s a terrible waste. The ones we notice who do it well, we often notice because they’re putting themselves into the work. Politics, ethics, whatever, they are using the original to make a case for something, to communicate. Not just the author’s original words and ideas but their own.
I’m sure everyone’s seen Stephen Fry on television and some of you might even have read one or two of his books. I met him once and he was truly larger than life, exactly as I would have imagined someone with such a personality to be in the flesh — that’s unusual when you meet someone from television because they’re almost always more reserved, quieter, different personality from their on-screen persona. But he was probably even more what you see is what you get. Anyway, this year he released a very controversial translation of Greek mythology, a thick book that’s far funnier than I expected. Sure, he’s a comedian, but I never thought of Greek myths as anything to laugh about except in mocking them but the way he tells the stories, it’s funny. They come to life. But he uses them to tell a story, teach us something about the world we live in, a world where hatred is getting stronger, nationalism is tearing us apart, the planet is being destroyed, and we’re all being criticized for our snowflake culture. Yes, it’s literature in translation but there’s a reason we remember who translated it.
Then there are translators like Philip Gabriel, who translated 1Q84. He’s told the story exactly as it was in the original, I have to assume, as I can’t read the original. That’s what Murakami has said about it, though, so I’ll take his word for it. Of course, he might have chosen to translate it because he believes in what it is telling us; it could be a political act to make it available, not just to change something about how it’s told. But the ideas are purely the author’s and it gives us a way in to their culture, not the culture of the translator in particular. Most of the works we’re going to look at this term fall into this category, where the author’s work is translated as closely as possible to the original, only in fluid English so it doesn’t sound like a computer’s done the work. That’s a difficult challenge for someone, keeping one culture’s ideas intact in the language of a very different one. Sure, if it’s French to English, there are a lot of cultural similarities in spite of the differences. But Japanese, Chinese, Korean, all of which we’re going to look at, too, there is probably much more talked about that’s strange to a Canadian audience than there is that’s not. Try to keep that in mind. It’s like she thinks we’ve never read anything that wasn’t classic English lit. We’re not idiots.
Get up, smile, walk out. Before you go, I’ll be here this evening, think you could drop by my office before seven? Sure, I’ll do my best. Great. First day, already managed to be noticed, just wanted to stop listening. Why walked out? Idiot. She was right, just not about what she thought she was. Should have stayed. Always get myself in trouble. Always.
Still, will pass. Maybe better but really depends on if she likes me. Objectivity, myth. Not Greek, though, so not funny. Just as untrue.
First day, music school. Whole life so far leading to this. Thousands of hours of practice, hundreds of pieces. Back to the car for my cello, time to meet my new instructor. Never changed teachers before. Been with Kellie since three, Suzuki listening discs in the car, miniature bow, rosin blocks big as my hand, Twinkle Twinkle, Minuet in D. How many times did she listen to me massacre the Courante from the E-flat Suite before I couldn’t just play the notes but make it sound like real music? Feel like abandoned her but was so happy for me to move on, guess is ok, will keep in touch. First day, can’t remember, Joan tells me sometimes, though. Hi, I’m Pam. Pleased to meet you, Miss Step-an-o-vitch. Practiced that a few times in the car. Joan says a few times. Probably few hundred. Got it right, though. How Joan put up with me, never know. Perfection. Always perfection or disaster. Never in between. Please call me Kellie. Do you like to sing? Yes, very much! She does indeed, sings all the time. Good. I’m going to be getting you to listen to some music between the times you come and see me and I want you to sing along as much as you can; is that ok? Yes, Miss Kellie. Listen, sing, think, play. She was tiny, not even close to five feet and could disappear into the crack between the door and the wall, I’m sure. Thought she was middle aged then but probably no more than her early twenties because not even forty now. Born teacher with more musicality than I’ll ever have. Didn’t need to sing. Made her instrument come alive, more soul than most humans in those strings and pieces of wood.
Three thirty to fiveish, they said, every Wednesday. Professor Zhang Wei Leung, the university’s thirty-something star, rumored to be János Starker’s latest protege, been here three years. Seen every concert he’s played since he arrived, spoke to him once. Heavily accented but flawless English, good since don’t speak ten words of Mandarin. Never found out if born in China or here in the west but with that accent, likely not North America anywhere. Tall in China, probably below average here, maybe five-eight or nine, looks perpetually sad when playing but told am similar.
Knock twice, first time have seen him smile. At my audition but too far away to notice clearly, three rows up in the seats with two colleagues, Dr Jaqueline Tremblay, deputy head of the school, short, rather spherical horn virtuoso with a short cropped mane of nearly white curls and incongruously wearing a tuxedo without its usual bowtie for the occasion of meeting new candidates for the school, greeting each with her deep, rich French accent, sounding nearly like a well tuned horn herself, and Professor Berat Solak, towering Izmiri giant, head of the electronic music program who said not a single word but didn’t take his oddly emerald eyes from me for a moment.
Welcome to music school, Miss Ross. Please, Pam. Can’t make him exert this much effort with all the s sounds every time. Pam, then, please come in and take a pew. Tell me what you’ve been working on since your audition and where you’d like to go from here. I want to congratulate you on your scholarship, the first time since I’ve been here that it went to a cellist and the first time I’ve recommended anyone auditioning in my group for it. Thank you. No, please, I was not telling you this for thanks, only to let you know that you impressed me as no other candidate did but that comes with a level of responsibility to live up to that while you are a student. I was told much the same thing when I studied at Indiana State. Being awarded a scholarship my first year was a great vote of confidence but it meant that I had to keep up my end of the bargain and excel and I expect much the same of you, Pam. Yes, thank you anyway. I will do my best. I will try. Don’t try, Pam. Achieve, work hard, practice, perform. But don’t try. Do. I will do, sir. Please, no, call me Zhang Wei. I’m not old enough to be sir yet, I hope. Yes, sure, I’ll do that. Excellent. So what have you been working on? The middle movement of the Brahms E minor sonata, the opening movement of the Saint-Saëns concerto, and I’ve just begun working on the Boccherini A Major sonata but it’s no more than a couple of weeks so far. Good. Solid choices. I hope we can explore some lesser known works over the next four years but that is a good start. I want you to be prepared to play one of those sonatas in concert this year, up to you which of them you’d prefer, but it will make sense to continue as you have one movement ready and we will just work it together. And I’ll start you on some contemporary work. I hope you don’t mind the more experimental and modern sounding things.
Honestly, am a bit surprised. Every concert so far, he’s played fairly traditional sounding work, not well known or commonly played but nothing that screams avant-garde and experimental. I can see what you’re thinking, why have I got a history of playing and recording traditional fare for the cello if I’m so interested in modern work? I think the cello is an underrepresented instrument in the listening libraries of the world, people’s personal collections, and that when they do have pieces for cello, they’re the same six Bach suites and a half dozen other work made famous by du Pré and Rostropovich. Amazing work, don’t misunderstand, Pam, but the cello is so much more than a few dozen pieces. So many hundreds of well known works for piano, violin, flute, trumpet, but so few for cello, even among music lovers. So I have spent most of my career trying to push less well-known works into the public consciousness. So many musicians don’t even realize that the cello is so versatile, has been written for in as many different ways as the violin or classical guitar, and people love the sound but have no idea what to listen to when they’ve heard the same few pieces on endless repeat. I hope, though, that with streaming music meaning people don’t need to commit to buying whole recordings to be able to listen to a piece once or twice, the more of us who record unusual music for cello, the more it will get out there and break the dozen-piece mold. That means that new, young composers who don’t necessarily follow the traditional line have a much better chance of getting their work played and it’s time we had some concerts here that combine works that we all know and love with something unexpected. Sure, that makes sense. Had no idea he was so focused. Thought he just loved the music. Perhaps underestimated him. Dangerous thing to do. What was that? I said, to that end, I will be expecting you to write at least one original work and one arrangement of a well known work for another instrument, each month, to be played on the cello. In your end of term recital, we will select one each of what you’ve created and each of us will perform one of them. Two original works a month. Every month. Unrealistic. Can’t be done. Is this a test. Every month, not one a term? Yes. There is no better way to improve your connection with your instrument than to create new ways to use it. No, I don’t expect every one to be a beautiful polished gem of composition but they should be playable and we will work together on a pair of them to turn them into something worth sharing. I make a point of writing at least one short composition every week — I devote one day to it with only one hour of practice on the instrument and a couple of times a year, I take all of them and spend a few weeks polishing my favorites for performance. But I’ve never heard any of your compositions performed since you’ve been here. Where do you perform them? I go back and perform once a year at my Alma Mater and every summer, return to my mother’s home in Kowloon for a month, where I play a couple of concerts at the local conservatories. Much of what I write is loosely based on Chinese folk tunes, often not so friendly to western-trained ears, I might add, but what I play in Indiana is usually a bit more within the western scale. A broad smile. Was going to tell him would try. I’ll do it. Excellent. Now, please, sit here and play for me the middle movement of the Brahms. No, your instrument is lovely but we shall see how you adapt and broaden your playing horizons. I shall bring instruments in to let you play from time to time, from different periods, different craftsmen, different traditions, some may not even be what you’d call a modern cello, but for now, I’d like to see what your technique sounds like on my personal instrument of choice. Your own? Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard the story by now. Of course. You were awarded this as a young cellist but I never imagined I’d play such an instrument. Neither did I, honestly. I grew up with little money, my parents both being teachers, a job even more poorly paid in Hong Kong than it is here, my father having a great love of music but no training, spending much time playing his father’s dizi when he arrived home late from the school. It cost my parents the earth to send me for lessons and to purchase a cello from a Chinese factory that made them for export and sold off the ones with imperfect finishes and decorative imperfections to local families. I never dreamed I would come to the west to live or afford a beautiful instrument, not to mention a Stradivarius. But some of us surpass our wildest dreams when we stop trying and begin to work to achieve. So please sit. She has a soul of her own, the Pascale Cello.
Has anyone ever asked you to sing while you play? Yes, although it has been years since the last time it happened. Please, when you are learning a new piece, try always to do it. The lines of music should mirror the human voice. It is something many instruments cannot do. On a piano, once a note is pressed, it has already begun to decay, to die. The only way to bring it back to life is to sound that note again. It requires a certain type of touch to play a piano and have the music sound alive but we have an advantage. Only on resonating strings can the notes live with each subtle movement of your bow, with each minute change of pressure and movement of your fingers. You have solid, traditional technique but perhaps western teachers have something to learn from those of us who were children in the east, who didn’t grow up hearing piano and guitar but bowed strings and blown bamboo, music that swells in the soul, not just in the amplifier. Your lines must sing. The cello is the nearest thing we have to the human voice in our orchestras and chamber ensembles — fill it with your voice and it will answer you with the same. Never heard anyone so passionate about the instrument, not the music coming from it but the cello itself.
Nine Rhapsodies for Solo Cello on Traditional Themes. May be able to read but have no background in traditional Chinese characters, must admit. He translated the title for me but is written in everyday western notation on the staff more familiar to me than my own reflection. Not handwritten in ink on parchment, printed on his laser while standing in his office, preparing to leave just before six. Please try out the themes, sing them to yourself for the next day or two, then select your favorite and prepare it for next week, at least the first minute, along with what we have discussed for the Brahms. An original composition on my first day but no quarter tones or odd pitch notations. Looks intensely difficult compared to my audition pieces. Expectations. Don’t try, do. Sure but I may need help. That’s why I’m here. One more thing, before we begin next week with writing new music for the cello, which I propose we have an extra hour on another day some time in the week to work, I would like you to take one of your favorite pieces of popular music and write a short version of it for cello with piano accompaniment, to show me next week. You don’t need to prepare it to perform, only to print, but if you’d like to play it for me while I accompany you, I will be more than pleased to do it.
Thirteen years of school with barely enough interesting material in a month to consume my mind for an hour but a few hours here and my next four years look like won’t leave practice room to see the light of day or night, either bow to string or fingers on keyboards, both ones with notes and ones with letters. Don’t try. Do. Where is Pat Dunn’s office? Third floor, paper sign nobody’s bothered to replace with printed one. Pat Dunn, surrounded by pen and ink cherry blossoms in a distinctly Japanese style. Perhaps isn’t waiting for plastic sign, more likely plastic cover for ledger sheet before filling the door with hand-decorated posters. Mangaesque sakura spill from the sides of the paper and are terminated by the rough wood of the door, a western imposition on eastern nature, the solid and harsh underneath the flexible and living. Is more familiar with Japanese culture than simply reading Murakami in translation, imagine. Knock twice gently. Please come in but leave your shoes on the mat. Hadn’t noticed, her Doc Martin 1460s in what looks like a gradient pink and purple with a sketch overtop, sitting on a small tray to the side of the door with space for a couple of pairs of shoes beside. Take off my worn black and white converse, notice, same length but without the weight and purpose of the serious boots beside, step onto soft rug notice scent of strong green tea, look up she smiles. Tea, Miss Ross? No difficult with s for her. Please, Miss Dunn. Pat. Pam. Of course, slowly, it is not the weak tea you’d find at Starbucks, nor is it the weak temperature they’d serve it at and I don’t want to have lawsuits from students with scalded tongues. Laugh. Me or her, not sure, perhaps both.
You have lived in Japan? Yes, but only one year, not enough to have any real command of the language, still can’t read the books but gave me an appreciation of the culture that I could only have partially acquired from the outside. Tea is an integral part of the life. I did a year at the University of Tokyo, comparative literature. I didn’t graduate from there, which is why you didn’t see it on the department site when you registered for the course, but I did a year of research. Because it was Tokyo, there wasn’t the same motivation to learn the language or starve but I do honestly wish it had been there, such a beautiful language but I’ve never had much talent for learning them. I speak French like I learned as a child but only conversational Japanese, enough not to get lost and read road signs but nothing useful from a literary perspective. I see. Please, breathe deeply, the scent of the tea will make you feel relaxed, alive. I’m not tense. I used to say that, too, but I had no idea what kind of stressful lives we live until I experienced the force of progress juxtaposed against the peaceful calm of relaxation in Tokyo — two extremes but both far outside the spectrum we typically feel here. I imagine there is a calmness that is possible that you’ve never had the pleasure of in your life. Curtains drawn, small lamps at the floor level supplemented by the glow from what can only be candles on the desk. Unlike other offices. A plain table, four soft chairs, two decorated clay vases with similar brushwork as the door, more blossoms, each with a tall plant, can’t identify but delicate, bamboo? No clutter, no paper, thirteen-inch MacBook Air, iPhone on a dock, cables carefully hidden away beneath the plain wooden table. Metal kettle on charging platform, clay teapot, clay bottle for water, clay pot, all undecorated, four cups set neatly next to the bottle and teapot ready for use. Not an office, a sanctuary. Beyond this, a single pen and a plain ring bound notepad, perhaps the size of a postcard, nothing more. Her purse hung from a hook behind me but compared to the usual cluttered academic maze with barely a place to sit and grade papers, hard to believe the same building, the same profession, even. You are surprised at my decorating style? To put it mildly. I could never have worked in the mess they called an office. Told them to empty it completely, brought my own things. I can see that. They would never have done this. No, they believe a cluttered mind is a sign of a productive academic and an empty office reflects an empty mind. I find clutter distracts from thought and there is no need for many things when you select the few things you have carefully. I would imagine you are right. I have very little at home but a few books, my laptop, and my cello. I see, you are a musician? Yes, my first day of music school today. Congratulations. You are enjoying it? Not sure enjoying is the word, haven’t had time to think, reflect. Yes, truly. I’m glad to hear it but why today, why not two or three years ago? I’m only just starting here now, before I was only a guest while I completed high school. Ah, makes more sense why you are in my class as a first-year. I wouldn’t have guessed. The youngest student in the room and you’re the one who got bored and left. I wasn’t bored. Yes you were and that’s fine. I was wondering who would be the first to get up. As it turns out, you were the only one and the rest didn’t feel talked down to. It’s really the only way to discover who your audience is. Hadn’t thought about it that way. Not trouble, passed a test. You shouldn’t be bored as we go forward but you may indeed be the only one who can keep up with the workload some weeks as the others fall behind. I won’t push them to fail but I have high expectations and they won’t be able to spend their weekends partying when they should be reading and it may take a little time to realize that this is a school and not a waypoint on the way to the bars. You are rather judgmental. I thought you said you wanted to help us to love literature in translation, literature in general. Too far. Shit. Not at all, Pam, it’s not judgment. I love to go out and dance, spend the night with friends, although I don’t do it as often as I did when I was twenty. My point is about making choices — I made the same mistakes as everyone else, went out when I should have studied another night and got a bad mark as a result of a paper I finished barely and that simply wasn’t any good. I just scraped by one of my seminar courses in fourth year, critical theory, not enough commitment. But we learn quickly if we have a chance. I doubt I need to teach you about making the right choices for a better future, though, do I? Perhaps not. I don’t drink. Don’t go out, really. At all. Not in a while, at least. That may be a good way to live, although I admit I do love a glass of wine in the evening — perhaps more than a glass if I’m grading papers, I’m sure you’ll understand. Yes, I’ve wanted to be a teacher all my life but what I will be marking scares me a little, as I won’t be able to just tell them how fucked they are and hand it back without losing my job. No, although the desire to do it never leaves, I assure you. Comforting that you don’t lose your ability to think just because you gain the ability to assign marks, something I worried given most of the people who do it. Present company excepted? I hope. A broad smile, twinkling eyes.
I wanted to thank you for being the one person who understands enough to want to leave when you’ve heard all the useful content and isn’t so confined by the social niceties to feel you must stay. Me, confined by a society can’t begin to understand, every day but not in the way she means. Take no shit but can’t relate, either. I understand but I’m not exactly a socially normal person. Neither am I. Normal isn’t just overrated; it’s always an act. Yes, I suspect it is. What did you really think of Murakami? Stare into the tea, academic thoughts, could this determine my grade or is this harmless conversation, does that exist, can it, she’s teacher, me student, she grades me, judges me. His style confuses me a bit but that may be the translation — I’m not sure if I understand his purpose but I love the descriptions, the stories within the story. He is fascinating to read. I have heard recitations of some of his work in Japanese and while I only catch a little of it, it strikes me as profoundly subtle. I don’t think it’s changing in translation, really. The purpose is difficult. Many contemporary authors don’t have that kind of motive for writing. He is likely writing to make a point but the point isn’t political, not overtly, at least. It’s subtle, like the culture from which it comes. Unlike Orwell, his telling of a dystopian year is not a cautionary tale of disaster but a collection of fragmented possibilities. Do you know who said that this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause? No, Aristotle? A snort. It’s Padmé Amidala, Star Wars, you know? My turn to laugh. Yes, now I remember the scene but how does that relate to literature? Two ways. First, Star Wars may be one of the most profound works of cultural enlightenment that has ever been produced in the west and if film doesn’t count as literature when it is spoken words, the same way that a play would, we have very narrow definitions of literature that cannot hold up to scrutiny, not to mention that it is a continuation of the trend of adaptation of the narrative from Oedipus to Romeo and Juliet to West Side Story and on to the original trilogy. On top of that, the little things he talks about, they’re not necessarily seen as bad in and of themselves, not a threat to culture, acceptance, democracy, freedom. None of them is and we may well accept any of them. It’s not an Orwellian system where every comparison with our reality is a death knell for freedom and our way of life. It’s a description of the small injustices or even the small progresses that we may let into our lives without thinking but that together strip that life of all its meaning, value, freedom. His purpose, as I see it, is to teach us a lesson about being careful — we watch for disaster but we let the small enemies into our own camp, the enemies being those tiny changes that seem to do nothing but together make life different to the point of barely being recognized. That makes far more sense. I thought he was trying to apply Orwell to Japanese culture and it made no sense to me, thinking that it was because I didn’t know enough about the cultural context. It’s because I didn’t think about a more universal message. Perhaps that’s what I’ve been missing in reading works in translation all this time. Perhaps. Many truths are not things that can be communicated across cultural lines and things get missed when you read a work outside of the background knowledge. Some, though, like Murakami’s books, have little to do with Japan and everything to do with a universal reality. Thank you. Another broad smile, returned with one of my own. That’s what I am here for. You’ve already made the course worthwhile if you’ve come to develop a better understanding of work in translation and that’s only after one day. Please, finish your tea. I will have to head home soon. Don’t want to tell her, afraid to be anywhere but home once it gets late enough, don’t feel any control over my thoughts through exhaustion. Feel free to come and see me again. My door, while always closed, is always open to someone who cares to apply herself to thinking. Thank you. Been drinking tea since thirteen, Joan’s coffee too bitter, so much caffeine, but tea relaxes, soothes, not like this, though. What is this tea? Sencha. Please, take a little. Small cloth bag, no larger than one holding a piece of jewelry. I couldn’t, where even does one get that? Maybe locally, not sure. I bring it wherever I go from a Japanese shop in the old market, Montréal. Please, though, I have brought kilograms of it with me and this is enough only for perhaps four or five cups. Tell me next week if it helps you sleep. How obvious is it? I will. Thank you. She bows slightly. Feel compelled to do the same, turn, close the door softly and lace my converse. Short trip to Tokyo, through the looking glass. Feel surprisingly calm for seven in the evening, especially on a day with such a severe attack. Tea may be better than tranquilizers for panic.
Home, not quite eight, exhausted, drained, nap? First have no choice but to cook. Rice, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, lentils. Wait. So much waiting but the simplicity is nice. Hot shower. Steam, pressure, can feel muscles twitch less, physical pain from this morning draining away with remnants of shampoo, conditioner, delicate scent of tea tree and sandalwood from the shower cream, cleaning, moisturizing, smell of lentils reaches even into the shower, still not quite cooked but getting there, should be done by when hair is dry, skin no longer radiating heat from water, ready to breathe slowly, eat, collapse into bed, hopefully no more panic today, need real rest, not unconscious, dreamless time that simply goes missing without letting me recover.
Tea tree, not far from the strong sencha this afternoon. Morning, perhaps, a better time for tea. For now, time to read and rest. Perhaps only a few pages. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, should be easy enough to find, a few seconds and can look like everyone else my age, staring endlessly at my phone until the moon sets and sun rises but in truth, ignoring all but the screen’s ability to bring me words, page after page. The elevator continued its impossibly slow ascent. Or at least I imagined it was ascent. There was no telling for sure — it was so slow that all sense of direction simply vanished. It could have been going down for all I knew, or maybe it wasn’t moving at all. But let’s just assume it was going up. Merely a guess. Maybe I’d gone up twelve stories, then down three. Maybe I’d circled the globe. How would I know? How, indeed. Murakami’s words, once detached from reality as a cultural artifact speak a truth of degrees that makes far more sense. Can relate. Direction, perception, all disappears when panicked. Once read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams’ far more hilarious than expected book, think was thirteen, maybe fourteen, couldn’t resist his others after, not quite the same but worth the read. Writes of neurotic, artificially intelligent elevators consumed by monotony and turning to therapy, thought then as now, not unlike my life, temporary freedom consumed by desperate fear, episodes of the purest panic, often ending in a blackness signifying a reset, counting down to the next time, an unseen timer whose numbers are uncertain but whose ending alarm is easily predicted, only varying in its severity but never its eventual arrival.
Nine turns to ten, eleven, exhausted but not yet tired, a frequent problem. Insomnia plagues those who lack proper sleep or, perhaps, those who lack proper sleep but often rest never properly train the body into the right time to sleep when blackouts are frequent and often in daylight. Does my body get used to nearly-sleep at awkward times and deny me rest when I offer it?
Through the driving snow, I see a single white bird take flight. The bird wings over the Wall and into the flurried clouds of the southern sky. All that is left to me is the sound of the snow underfoot. End. Three minutes after one in the morning but it’s finished. Joan stopped doing things upstairs, floor creaking, over an hour ago, can’t tell if Eric fell asleep in front of the hockey or went with her, could be either, sure he will wake up and head to bed if he’s missed the first calling of horizontal sleep, anyway. She has more trouble sleeping than me, he makes up for both of us, neither appears rested, three of us underslept in spite of too much time with eyes closed.
Lie down, no more book to read so it’s either start another, unwise at this point in a night, as it would be many chapters before would be able to put it down, likely dawn or into tomorrow’s bright fall morning, but an unwillingness to shift fully into sleep consumes my mind, less a tension that precedes an attack of debilitating fear than a sense that sleep is over before it has even begun, a somewhat unusual state of affairs but not unheard of for me, perhaps a monthly ritual turning the following days into zombified restlessness regardless of naps and the depths of catch-up early nights; nothing undoes the sadly unpreventable absence of sleep at the right time.
3.01, 3.02, 3.03, four more hours before must walk to the shower to begin a day of classes, close eyes again, right side against the bed but the pillow never seems to stop being so warm, gripped by a sudden overwhelming sense of fear. please, no, if must be awake, at least could be without the need to consume what little energy is left to fight to stay conscious and overcome another attack. amounts to nothing, though. Curious, first time has begun but dissipated in months, last time New Year’s morning walking with Joan and Eric by the pond to welcome the fresh new year not long after sunrise as a light sprinkling of snow holds nearly motionless in the air, the wind carrying it horizontally without letting it settle on the ground, light, feathers floating rather than the heavy flakes from Christmas the week before, thirty-five centimeters’ accumulation having waited to our relief until after we returned from the midnight carol service under the high peak, ringing with the thunder of the organ and strident notes of Adeste Fideles. By morning, though, it had smothered the entire peninsula in a thick white coat, in places drifts above my head, my basement windows long since covered, Joan & Eric gaining an unexploited but new possibility to slide directly from their upstairs bedroom onto the lawn without a drop. The New Year brought with it glasses of non-Champagne for Eric, a small one for Joan, still turning her cheeks the crimson it always has, followed by her switching to the less blush-inducing apple juice with which toasted things past and yet to come, as always. Morning after, woke unpredictably refreshed, quite the contrast with the only just achieving the bed at dawn that typifies nearly everyone else nearby. Joan was already up, as always, the new year requiring even more stringent organization and preparation in the kitchen than other days, with Eric’s brother expected in the evening but possible to arrive realistically any time between very early and in the wee hours of tomorrow, unpredictability being the norm in the case of Max. Unseasonable ducks fight through the drifts, thought they would have gone away by now but know little about the habits of water birds, thankfully not accompanied by the screeching voices of the frequently present gulls. Just past the boat landing where ducks congregate in the shallow water, feel a wave of terror sweep through me, melting stream of lava in veins turning to acid, freezing what once was blood. Vision remains but time stands still, stop walking, Joan turns, recognizes, Eric a few seconds later, abruptly halting mid-sentence, the sense of an expletive that never escapes his lips hanging in the air. Thirty seconds, perhaps forty, amounts to nothing, gradually pressure lessens over the following minutes as slowly walk, very slowly, one step, two seconds, three seconds, another step, two pairs of eyes intently try not to stare in anticipation, eventually reach the next lookout over the pond, starting to increase speed, breathing working not quite normally but oxygen allowing fingers and toes to move without the stiffness of only a half hour before. No ducks this time, no water, no walking, same pattern, before a half hour passes, asleep, startled by the familiar notes of the Nutcracker Waltz from my phone tearing me from an absence of dreams to stand, shower, seek a bowl of freshly baked granola and honey, swap slippers, dressing gown for Joans, hoodie, converse.
[Thursday September 6]
Turn off the Civic after waiting in front of the music school for an extra three minutes to hear the scherzo of Dvořák’s second string quintet, CBC’s offering for the end of my drive, the sequences of the Berlin Philharmonic’s arpeggios abruptly ending in a single cadence and a pause of silence, clipped voice without meaning cut off as motor goes silent, think too late should have switched to aux power when arrived to save gas, will next time, still have ten minutes before theory begins, walk slowly inside, deposit cello in my newly acquired locker, 14-51-26, got it right the first time, surprised, usually fumble these things at least twice, smile at a girl don’t know, the only person in the room, another music student, most likely, not another first-year, though, this being a second-year class, thanks to APs, may not be the only frosh here but definitely in the minority, she wears a startlingly traditional-made-like dress and pigtails, must be nearly twenty but looks twelve, Korean, perhaps, beautiful but startlingly childlike, feel like this may be a very different culture from high school, hadn’t expected but musicians are nothing if not on the fringes of society, sit in the back corner opposite the door, take out notebook, sip from tall metal thermos filled with tea, sencha, thanks to yesterday’s gift, not as hot or strong as yesterday’s freshly prepared cup but more relaxing than the usual Lapsang, campfire in a flask, Joan often comments, doesn’t have a taste for tea, mug after mug of coffee, must get the energy somewhere for those long hours of intense working, making everyone else’s life run smoothly without appearing to think of herself, if not sleep, perhaps coffee.
New lecturer for this one, too, knew the usual one, gentle soul, prematurely white-haired but not old, conducted the choir but suffered a heart attack in the summer and had to take the year, at least the term, off to recover before returning, think he was supposed to be the school’s new head, too, although it hadn’t been announced, Professor Kean, no idea his first name, starts with D, according to his door across the hall from this room. After a while the wrench returned in an elongated ellipse, but thought it had now become a satellite of the rocket, it never got close enough for me to retrieve it. Room is full, wasn’t paying attention, sipping tea, reading Lem’s work, hadn’t realized this existed, would have read long ago if had known, so similar to Hitchhiker but less intentionally funny, more political, more critical, more my read, comedy usually annoys but have laughed twice aloud at this, probably got looks but wasn’t even aware anyone other than Loli in the front row arrived. Clearing throat returns me to room, put down phone, finish note — comparison between United Planets and United Nations or NATO or Warsaw Pact, not sure yet — stare at lecturer, can’t be more than thirty, bleached hair, leaning on the upright piano. I’m Avrum Tobias. Probably the strongest Brooklyn accent have ever heard. They’ve offered me this position for the year and I might get to stay permanently if they like me. Just got in to town Monday night but it looks good. Haven’t found anywhere worth buying a morning bagel at but otherwise glad I came down. I was Professor Kean’s student when I was eighteen at NYU before he came here and, you know, since I followed in his footsteps, except that when I finished my DFA in the city I stuck around and didn’t take off to South America for a decade, they figured I’d be a good candidate to not fuck up the students here with awkwardly different ways of doing things. Not sure if they’re right about that but I’ll let you be the judge and Derek’s just the man to fix any of you who get tsemisht in here after a couple of terms. South America? Had no idea, thought he was at NYU forever, that’s what’s been implied in the concert notes, been coming to them a couple of times a year, no hint of Spanish or Portuguese in his neutral west-coast accent at all. You’ve all done something like the first year course in theory and this one’s mostly about analysis, two days a week, and composing, the last day, today, although this is a bit odd of a week since you’ve missed the first two classes and start in the third. Canadians, eh? Anyway, not going to get you to write me a Sonata just yet, but that will all come soon enough. Music is history. It’s a gateway into the past and the future. But it’s different for everyone. Some people experienced Bach as a child and it feels like traveling into their own past, some feel it as a return to his own time, hundreds of years ago. Listening to Schoenberg can make people feel like they’re heading into the experimental times in the twentieth century, others like they’ve stepped into a spaceship of the future, those strange twelve-tone progressions of dissonant semi-randomness having a robotic precision and lack of humanity to some ears and a refreshingly still-modern feel to others. Brahms might remind you of grade school piano lessons with your parents listening to you practice the same bars endlessly or conjure imagined pictures of billowing dresses and formal morning suits on smoke-filled European mornings. It’s a way of escaping the present, the problems of now, translating yourself and those around you into other places. If we forget for a minute that there are more than twelve notes in scales outside our culture, although honestly most music from elsewhere has gravitated to our scales now, music is incredibly simple. A series of notes picked from only twelve, less than half even the letters in our alphabet, spelling out tonal words, sentences, paragraphs, but the possibilities aren’t just limitless — they remind us of things, spark images in our minds, building on memories in ways that words can’t because the immediate response to sound, notes, timing just isn’t possible even with words spoken. Sure, literature is very powerful, evocative, but there is no substitute for melody, harmony. Been taking classes here three years, why did it have to be so long before discovered could be interesting, engaging, teachers with passion that’s been stripped out of most, especially at school. Only had one teacher in high school with real life, Bonnie Jordan, no idea how kept so alive, must be close to fifty, twenty years of teaching lit and still describes with fire inside. Sad the books couldn’t have been her choices, class was interesting but the books were painful, each one selected for students who wouldn’t bother to read, wouldn’t care what they did manage to pick up, and simple and boring enough use of English it wouldn’t confuse and create headaches for the finals marking team — Jane Eyre, Great Gatsby, Life of Pi, Secret Life of Fucking Bees — only thing that was interesting was that Dan Brown book about chasing a virus whose name can’t remember but that wasn’t the language, was the historical detail, the story, his books are driven by plot and character, more like films in words than literature. Bonnie was good if hampered by the rest of the class being less interested in the books than they would have been if they’d just been blank pages, encouraged me to write, as if wouldn’t have anyway, but wanted to read my work, so let her, gave her a still not even submitted for publication novel have been working on since grade ten, A Less than Curious Incident. Liked it, made suggestions, real ones, not silly things, encouraged me to submit it. Will do, eventually, when days have less panic and more time to think, although with the work here reading translated books and writing original cello music, not sure how will get time to breathe, drive, eat, sleep, never mind prepare a novel for publishers to reject. Some of you look glazed, maybe it’s time to start thinking about whether you want a future in music or on the shelf at Dunkin’ Donuts? Harsh for the first day, lecture even ran late, not sure paid attention to all of it after he got on to the relationship between early jazz and the popularization of the added sixth and ninth in orchestral music but it’s definitely not a class in avoiding parallel fifths and looking for cadences, had enough of that for a lifetime, sure it’s useful, necessary, but a bit overdone and there’s only so much Bach and Mozart you can look at in a week before it all starts to sound the same, no matter how much love listening to, reading it on repeat for an hour with no sound preparing for exams isn’t the same experience of music, great masters or not.
Not every class can be stimulating. Keyboard theory with Dr Strauss, would be useful to have sunglasses if he wouldn’t notice, could take a nap between explanations of figured bass in a monotone unexpected in a music teacher — what did he learn as an undergrad if still doesn’t know spending an hour on a single note is enough to send your audience into a coma, at least only once a week and while definitely nowhere near good enough to think of myself as a pianist, can handle the simple songs he’s got in mind, not even as bad as the sight reading in my last RCM exam a couple of years back before focused all my musical time on my cello work with maybe an hour or two a week to make sure my piano was good enough for what would need in here. History, always a passion for me, doubt will be interesting this time, introductory anything never works out to be enjoyable to anyone, least of all those who want to think and work at something but not sure if could handle another stimulating class demanding hundreds of pages of output and contemplation with the rest of what’s happening of late, anyway. Prof Yu-jin Hwang speaks in anything but a monotone but not sure if anyone can make a cursory exploration of everything in the history of music from Palestrina and Byrd to Bach and Corelli to Beethoven and Debussy to Schoenberg, Bartok, Bernstein, Britten and beyond, although probably not much beyond, in any way anything but dull oversight with minimal appreciation for the music itself. Don’t understand overview courses. Can’t people read a timeline and a Wikipedia article? Start with one specialty topic and move through them all, that’s where classes, discussions, teachers are helpful. Overviews, that’s just reading if you’re at all awake and if you’re not awake, no point anyway, since when did university become about spoon-feeding general knowledge?
Feel like thanks are in order for a day that started with the better part of a liter and a half of sencha but haven’t had a chance, except a brief stop for lunch. No fifteen-hour class weeks in music school. Leave history class at eleven, knowing have to practice. Deluded myself into thinking the Brahms was ready to let Zhang hear me play it. Will be far more than a week before it’s even up to the standard of the audition he heard months ago but have no choice. So many hours in a practice room and in my little basement room ahead of me this week, especially this weekend. Stop at one for bread, peanut butter, and honey, a welcome relief, don’t even leave practice room, though, two hours before chamber choir audition, not sure if even have time to do it but either that or mass choir, just as much time, love singing, always have, and it’s for credit, will have to make time, just need to leave enough time for a warmup before 3.20, at least this is the place for it, don’t even have to move from the piano. Arrange popular music, he says, for cello, before next week. Sure it’s been done, even popular, 4cellos, The Piano Guys, Apocalyptica, decades of it and can’t help loving much of it but takes so much thought and a different kind of approach to music, never wrote songs like other kids in junior high or high school to play in a band, was always a classical performer, even if wanted to listen to modern music sometimes, never thought about playing it myself. But now necessary. What to choose. Can’t exactly take time to think, regardless of what Zhang says to do, just no time, will take me a week to have something worth showing him, expect. Would be a cop-out to pick something instrumental and he wouldn’t appreciate that. Is right, cello is like the human voice, so something with a natural vocal line, a low female voice or something gentle male, long musical lines, not too fast. Know it’s a couple of years ago but that Chainsmokers song with Halsey feels like it fits the bill, can’t remember what it’s called but that’s what Bing is for. Closer. Never understood the lyrics but makes no difference, cello might sing but thankfully without words. No Rover required. Low range at the beginning, higher voice later on, write what for piano, though, can’t exactly duplicate the cello part. Understood before it was difficult to write popular music into traditional instruments but not quite why would be — definitely answering the why part now.
Ten minutes to two, still feel like this is nowhere near making progress but have to walk over if don’t want to be running in for Pat’s class. Wonder if anyone else read the book last night, doubt it seriously, would have doubted would do it myself so quickly except was up until the middle of the night with the thing, can’t tell if couldn’t put it down because it was good, which it was, or because knew wouldn’t sleep and was better than letting panic take over in the soft glow of the nightlight and creaks of the floorboards as the house shifted in the night. Not sure whether would look silly telling Pat finished the book or like a good student, best to keep to myself, don’t want to give her the impression have nothing else to do and invite more work or make her think it’s hard work not genuine understanding that have for the course. Welcome back. We’re not going to wait for everyone else to show up because there isn’t any everyone else. We’re down to twelve including me now that you’ve all had a chance to reflect on whether this class is too much work and drop it. I have one request, though. I’ll understand completely if this kind of workload is not for you or if you simply don’t have enough of an interest in modern works in translation and want to go and take something else but please, if you want to drop the course, don’t sit here and participate and pretend. I’m truly happy to have you all here for the semester but I invite those who won’t be coming back next week to exit the room. Those who stay, I will assume have made a commitment to put in the work and I’ll make the same commitment to you, extra time if you need it, fast responses and marking, I’ll be here to help you if you feel you want it. Thank you. Not sure if that means nobody wants to leave but I’ll assume that’s what it means. Today is about the authors more than the works. I discovered Murakami while studying in Tokyo. Sure, I’d heard the name before that; he’s been writing for something like forty years but until maybe six months before I went to Japan, I could have counted the books I read translated from Japanese on the fingers of one hand, except from some beautiful poetry — if you’ve never read the Haiku of Matsuo Bashō, do yourself a favor and take a couple of hours to go through Narrow Road to the Interior; it’s like taking a warm, comfortable bath with scented oil. While I was in Tokyo, though, all of us students were expected to read dozens of works from Bashō to Banana Yoshimoto and some of the more contemporary writers whose names I can never keep straight but whose works are often far more polished than their English-language-original contemporaries. Our authors this term will come from seven different countries, representing six languages, Japanese, Korean, Chinese (Mandarin, in this case), Spanish, Italian, and Polish.
Since our first two books were originally in Japanese and Polish, we will start there. Would stay behind and talk but have to warm up and prepare, already running back to the practice area.
Warm ups. Does anyone like these? Sure, can be entertaining with a choir and sounds interesting in the audience when it’s an orchestra but vocal warmups alone in a practice room, the car, at home, wish the voice would just work all the time but not possible. Slide up, slide down, up, down, up, down. Ma, may, me, mo, moo, ya, yay, yee. At least feels like it works. Keep at it. At least ten minutes or will seem like no range and voice might crack singing the piece. Would say hope sight reading is easy but actually hope sight reading is painfully hard so is easier to notice can do it compared to what have no doubt is people like in high school, more complicated than Twinkle Twinkle need half an hour at a keyboard to bash out the mistakes and sing it right. Feels warm. Very warm. Stop before wear it out working at it, not like the cello where strings can be replaced when they break. Run through piece. Che faro senza Euridice, know it’s a bit overdone but has always been one of my favorites, know it so well but never auditioned with it before today, suits my range. Shit. Forgot the piece that was emailed, have to prepare alto line. Never seen it before. Daryl Runswick’s Gaudete, looks like medieval plainsong but Andante, this thing is fast and not exactly modern assumptions about harmonies. Was supposed to prepare but only have ten minutes. Good thing can read most things without difficulty but useful to sing through my part a couple of times so the lack of prep isn’t so obvious. Nice. Have heard it somewhere but can’t place it, Christmas, think. Have to ask Eric when get home. Right, feel like an idiot, forgot Avrum Tobias would be taking over all the choirs for the year, too. Thought would be meeting someone new but obviously didn’t think too hard about that one. Glad is done. One small crack in the Orfeo but the sight reading was almost without hesitation and he played the other parts of what he said was a Christmas song and that made it far easier. Had a larger copy of the whole thing, drums, woodwind, wonder if the choir will be performing it or if it was just a test of something. Said he’ll have a list tomorrow afternoon for blend rehearsals starting Monday afternoon and if make the list, three pieces to learn for then — shouldn’t take much time, though, at least, choral music requires much more practice together for musicality once you can read the notes, unlike cello where everything after getting the notes right can be done right there with the instrument and have no doubt Zhang will be expecting something somewhat polished with every new assignment before he even gets to listen to it the first time and help me turn it into something worth having an audience sit through. Twenty past six already, nearly three hours in here and still only pleased with the first half of the Brahms, been working it for months and it’s not ready but told Zhang would play it, have no choice. Will rest for the night, leave the cello here and spend a couple of hours writing this arrangement tonight. Would procrastinate it with more Brahms, know it would be midnight and wouldn’t have another note written of Closer but should drop by and thank Pat for the tea, feel drawn to her somehow, not a physical feeling, just different, not what expected, want to know more and at least won’t feel pressured to turn interest into kisses and touches and nighttimes of passion, can’t want to talk to someone at high school without everyone including them hearing overtones of pillows and sheets.
Of course, not sure if will even catch her here because said extra discussion in office hours would start next week. So many notes from this afternoon, don’t usually take many but an hour of cultural history, endless facts, dates, not just Japan but Korea, China, Poland, understand why commitment to the class is important to her with that much preparation, that was like a course in culture all in one lecture, nearly a dozen points want to look further into when have the time, not that have any idea when that might be before Christmas break. Knock twice. Please, come in, Pam, was going to head home soon but you’re welcome to join me for one last cup of tea as long as you share your thoughts on this afternoon’s whirlwind introduction to comparative lit. I enjoyed it. You probably guessed that because I didn’t get up and leave. I had imagined you might restrain yourself for the time being, anyway. No, I would certainly get up and walk out after your response yesterday. Can’t help being a bit surprised by her loud spontaneous bursts of laughter — she doesn’t seem like someone who would let people see her laugh like that but perhaps even worse at reading people than thought. Please, don’t restrain yourself on my account, at least, but you may have a rather different reaction if you do it in other classes. Oh don’t worry, most of my other classes are at least partly practical or participation-based so getting up and walking out isn’t even an option unless I want to lose my scholarship. I see. And what were you awarded a scholarship for, writing music? No, my audition. You said you were in music school yesterday but I didn’t think to ask what you play; I’m a little out of my area and it didn’t occur to me that at a university, performing would be taught so I imagined right away that you were studying composition. It was a silly thought and I should have known better. Cello. I’ve played it since I was three. Isn’t that a bit young? The instrument would have been far too big for you, wouldn’t it? My turn to laugh, again. This back and forth is becoming a habit. Not at all, they start you on a tiny cello and as you grow you get closer to the full-size one. Makes sense. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the little ones or maybe I thought they were violins. They do it with those, too. The small ones look like they’re made for dolls but they really work. Wouldn’t expect to see a five year old holding up a full size violin but until you try it, it probably wouldn’t be as obvious. Been around them my whole life so it’s more natural to me. I played piano when I was little and trombone in the high school band but never tried anything but strings except to impress someone I was seeing and that was the guitar, which I think I learned three songs on before I gave up on it from sore fingers — a whole week of daily practice. Can’t imagine what you must feel. I’m not as extreme as some people, usually no more than four or five hours a day practicing. Her mouth can’t be comfortable open like that. Joan would say she’ll catch flies. You just said five hours a day. Yeah, some people do much more than that and I’ve known piano players studying for performances put in a solid ten or twelve the days leading up to them. I always wondered how people could play so well. I guess I have my answer now. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that kind of commitment even to my writing. Ten or twelve hours of working on my dissertation isn’t exactly physically demanding. Most of it’s just reading books and typing things, not having to play music over and over. You get used to it, really. I started playing ten minutes here and there and by the time I was seven or eight I was up to a half hour most days, gets longer gradually and by the time you know it, you’ve gone from an hour or two feeling like a long time to a couple of sessions of two or three hours just being a normal day. I do more on the weekends and less on the weekdays but it averages out thereabout. Very impressive. No, not really, just the norm for a musician. Even people who perform popular music put in that kind of time, especially when they’re on tour. I had no idea. You’re an English professor. That’s your world and where you spend your time. I would be surprised if you knew the professional performing world well, to be honest. True. I knew a girl in Japan who was studying violin but she only talked about it in the vaguest of terms and I never put much thought into it. I don’t know what kind of hours you need to put in to get a PhD in lit and until this moment, I never thought about finding out. Oh it’s a lot of hours but it takes years to finish the dissertation so I doubt it’s anywhere near as intense as all that. Stressful, sure, but with that kind of timeline you can always take a few extra hours. It’s not like you’re expected to work through your weekends or even your evenings if you put in enough effort and work hard in the daytime, other than the classes you end up teaching while you’re working on it. Good to know. You want to be an academic? Yes, I’m hoping I can keep my scholarship through the whole undergrad program and get into a masters somewhere with a serious reputation so I come straight out into a DFA. Know where you’d like to do it? The masters or the doctorate? Either. Maybe McGill? A good school, although I know nothing about the music department but it’s got a serious reputation in general. That’s what I’m looking for. And the music scene in Montréal is supposedly the best in the country, especially for string players. That makes sense. Thought about going away to study? Me? No, never thought much about it. I have Not sure how to put this some health problems and I don’t want to be away from public healthcare for years. Sensible. When I was in grad school in Japan, I was diagnosed with MS but they have great doctors there and every single one I saw spoke English as good as mine, all covered by the health plan at the university, too. I didn’t know that, I’m sorry. Please, don’t be sorry. Everyone has things in their lives that they have to deal with. Be it MS or cancer, heart problems, it’s unlikely anyone will get through life without at least something they have to fight through. That’s true. She hasn’t asked. Thankful. But you haven’t told me what you thought of the class today. Sure, it was interesting. I took more notes in that class than I ever have before. Usually I don’t even take out my notebook but I had a feeling there would be too much to remember without it. Glad I could oblige. I even made a list of things that I wanted to do more research into. Mind if I see what interested you? Not at all. This could take some time. Wasn’t an opportunity to go into that much detail today. No, it’s not a list of things you left out, just what interested me. I understand. Can’t breathe, put down cup, be calm, breathe slowly, slowly, focus on the vase, don’t think what she will think, stay awake, nothing more than fear, won’t let it get out of hand, not on my second day, not where Pat can see, won’t want me here again, enjoying myself, why now, no stress at all, more relaxed than ever, sipping tea and talking about music, culture, no reason to be afraid, nothing to be afraid of but there never is, no direction, no point, face tingling, hands tight, pulling the fingers backward, can still see, breathe, don’t try to breathe, just breathe, pressure against my temples, top of the head buzzing, ringing in the ears, what did she say, my name, sounds like she’s speaking underwater, is it English or is she practicing her Japanese, wouldn’t be able to tell, panic in her eyes reflects mine, blackness.
Wait. You’re awake. Yes, please don’t call anyone. Are you sure? Yes, just let me lie here for a few minutes and I’ll head home and sleep. Please, I’m not kicking you out after a few minutes and it’s definitely not safe to get on a bus or drive after that, no matter what it was. I’m sorry, truly, it’s nothing. I doubt that. You gave me quite a scare, Pam, ran down to the office but there’s nobody there this late and had to come back for my phone to call an ambulance. I’m glad you didn’t find anyone. I’d rather nobody knew. Try not to speak. That looked very painful and I imagine it will take some time before you feel better. Yes, just going to close my eyes until the ringing in my head stops but I’m listening. Can I ask, since you seem to know what’s going on far better than I do, even though you’re the one lying on my rug, what was that? I’m sorry, you were never meant to see that. I have these serious panic attacks. What you saw was an attack. That was fear? Yes, fear taking over my body and mind. But you’re so smart, how can you let that happen? It’s not a lack of intelligence, Pat. Actually, it’s almost always people who are smart who have them. Your mind stops working properly and you can’t use your rational mind to fight against your own subconscious fear. What are you afraid of? Nothing. That’s not true. You were afraid of something just now so badly you ended up on the floor. Oh don’t try to get up. I’m ok, just need to sit for a few minutes until I’m strong enough to walk again. If you say so. I’m not afraid of anything in particular. The fear is a sensation, a fear but not a fear of something, does that make sense? I’ve never been afraid without being scared of something but I guess I understand the idea. Just didn’t think fear worked that way, that it could come along without it being directed at something. Believe me, I wish it couldn’t, would be so much easier to be able to tell myself that I’ve got no reason to be afraid of dogs or spiders or falling off a cliff than to tell myself not to be afraid of nothing. I see. And this happens a lot? How honest, how much truth, she deserves something, everything? Every day. Every day? How do you function when this happens so often? I just do and it hasn’t always been like this, just the last little while. I hope it will get better. I see doctors about it sometimes and they try therapy, tried drugs but nothing seemed to do much. They know what it is but not how to fix it? Yes, something like that. They stick a name on it like generalized anxiety disorder that means nothing and hope that a few hours of behavioral therapy will stop me from being afraid when the person doing the therapy doesn’t even understand the difference between a fear of horses or moose and a a feeling of fear. Very troubling. Is there nothing that they can do? Tranquilizers but I’m not prepared to give up my ability to live most of the day without the attack to avoid having them. That may be the most sensible thing I’ve heard anyone say in a long time and possibly the first time I’ve ever heard anyone I know under thirty not jump at the chance to get strong drugs. I’m not normal. No, I wouldn’t think you’d have anything as wrong with you as being normal, Pam. Thank you. Another burst of laughter, couldn’t stop myself from cringing. Sorry. Don’t worry, it just surprised me and my head is still spinning but it’s not your fault — it will go away soon and I’ll be my nor- usual self. Good. How are you feeling now? Is it likely to happen again in a few minutes or does it not work like that? No, very unlikely to happen again today, although it might, but if it does it won’t be for hours. That’s something, at least, although it must be a lot of stress on you. I try not to let it come into my mind. And does that help? It helps me not to let it control the rest of my life, although in some ways it does. Because of the things you can’t do in case it makes it more likely? Is this why you don’t drink alcohol? Yes, not that I feel that’s something I’d really do anyway but I would like to have a glass of wine with my parents to celebrate things sometimes when they do. You live with your parents? Yes. Are you sure, that wasn’t exactly a definite look on your face there. Sorry, yes, I live with my parents but I don’t talk about it much. I was adopted at three months and they’re my adoptive parents but they’re the only parents I’ve ever known and I wouldn’t ever want to give them up. But I thought you were going to ask if there’s a history of this in my family. Yes, that’s what I was going to ask. No, not that I’m aware of but I wouldn’t know anyway, not unless it was a social thing that I’d learn from Joan and Eric, I mean, my mother and father. I understand. You don’t talk about it much but you’re not ashamed of being adopted and you feel like keeping it a secret would make you feel like you were ashamed of it? Yes, exactly. I’m sorry, I get it because I was adopted just before my third birthday. My birth mother abandoned me and I was taken in by the woman I called mom for most of my life but who was actually a cousin, Mary. Most people had no idea because being a cousin and my mother having lost touch with my father long before I was born, she had the same surname and people weren’t like to ask. I see. Thank you for telling me. No, thank you for sharing with me. I couldn’t not share in reply. Just wouldn’t be right. I call her Mary now but I think that was something that happened after I started university. I know she took me out to dinner somewhere and formally gave me permission to stop calling her mom but I can’t remember if it was grade twelve or when I was an undergrad. Either way, from the way you say it, you started calling your parents by their names long before I ever called mine Mary. Oh, yes, that’s probably a bit unusual and I can’t even remember why that started but it feels weird now to call them anything else. Maybe two or three years now, I guess. You don’t seem nearly as young as eighteen. I don’t feel anywhere near as young as that but I don’t know if that’s the classes at university or the time fighting the panic. That must make you deal with a lot of very adult emotions younger than most people would. I think so but I’ve never had much in the way of friends my own age so my parents and their friends became the people I knew and even when I was twelve or thirteen I couldn’t relate to other kids but had a much easier time making conversation with the neighbors. That makes sense. I was a loner in school, even undergrad, knew people and saw them sometimes but I spent most of my time reading, writing, listening to music, working my ass off to pay for school. Where did you go? UBC for undergrad. Did you grow up in Vancouver? No, Montréal, so it was quite a shock to go to the west coast. It’s where I met most of the people I know, even now, from Japan, China, Korea. Not so many people with that background in French Canada. I wouldn’t imagine there are, more than here, though, aren’t there? Yes, that’s true. You’re looking much better. Yes, talking helps and time passing does a lot, really. It’s something that can go away quickly or last for hours but once I black out, it’s pretty much the end of the attack, whether it’s three minutes or three hours. Three hours? Yes, this was very short and relatively minor. And you always black out? Not always but it’s not uncommon. I see. Is there anything you’d like? Another cup of tea? It would be my pleasure, unless, of course, you’re going to ask me for sugar in it. Sacrilege. I’m glad you think so, too. Please, enjoy, I’m going to make myself another cup, too. Thank you. That’s actually why I came here, to thank you for the tea. I made some this morning and it got me through a rather painful music history lecture without falling asleep on the desk. That bad? Yes, an hour on the importance of understanding the origins of plainsong. Plainsong? Yes, like monks’ chant. In western music? Sure, they’ve been singing it for hundreds of years. It’s just not particularly exciting. Might be a great topic for a research thesis but not exactly something I get up in the morning for as a performer and future performance teacher. I can get into most periods of music, even the stuff from before Bach, but before harmony, that just doesn’t seem like it’s got much depth to me. But you play the cello, that’s pretty close to chant a lot of the time, at least it sounds like it. I hadn’t thought of chant that way but you’re not wrong. Good to know I haven’t got everything completely mixed up with music all these years! No, just the time we spend practicing, of course. Thanks. No, thank you, this tea is lovely, definitely helping my head to clear. You’re going to have to come by more often to talk; maybe you’ll spend less time on the floor if you drink more tea and laugh? I have to tell you I like the sound of that. Good. I’m not going to say this every time but you can assume, drop by after class whenever you like. Those are the only three days I’m on campus during the week so you won’t find me here Tuesdays and Fridays. I usually find I can get more work done at home but I’m teaching the translation course, a section of the intro lit at nine in the morning, and a three-hour seminar at 11 on Mondays for grad students. What’s that one on? Manga and graphic novels as formal literary study. Wish I could sit in on it. You like graphic novels? I like manga but I know very little about it other than just the stories. Do you have a favorite? I’d have to say probably BSD. Really? Sure, are they not good when you study them? No, but it’s definitely on my list of favorites, too, and I didn’t think it was well known in Canada. I don’t know if it’s well known but I’ve read as much as is translated of it into English. Not sure if there’s more or if they do it at the same time it’s made in Japanese. And have you read any of the authors’ work? Only one of them that I know of, Rashōmon. Right, that’s not too much of a surprise, probably the best known of any of their work. Did you like it? I didn’t, really, but I found it a bit confusing, not the language, just why he was telling the story. I read it a couple of years ago; maybe I should dig it out again. Maybe but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, Akutagawa’s style. If you like Murakami, you may find Dazai’s No Longer Human more interesting. Here. I just finished reading it on the plane and it’s found its way here with me. Take as long as you like. I know you’ve got plenty of other reading to get through. Thanks to you. Yes. And thank you. I will take care of it. No, please don’t do that. Treat it as a story, bring it back however it is but read it how you like. People treat books as if they’re delicate artifacts instead of ways of transporting language and it means they’re thinking about the object instead of the words. Ok, I’ll dip it in tea before I give it back to you. Much better. Aren’t you heading home soon? There’s no rush, nothing waiting for me back at my place that can’t wait and I’m just going to watch a movie while I prepare for next week’s lectures, have a glass or two of sake and head to bed. You’re far better company than a movie. Thank you. What were you going to watch? Actually, I’ve been reliving movies from my childhood and I got motivated to start in on the Star Wars series again because of that new Solo movie. I haven’t seen it. I won’t spoil it for you but you should definitely take a couple of hours. It’s worth it. I’ll keep that in mind. I don’t watch much of anything. Often hurts my eyes to stare at a screen for that long and I usually have to spend a lot of time writing stuff for school and by that point I don’t want to look at a screen to relax. Makes sense. But that’s why it was on my mind yesterday when I quoted Padmé at you. I had forgotten about that. My cello teacher said something I think was from Star Wars yesterday when I met him, too, actually. Really? What’s that? He said not to try but to do. Do or do not, there is no try? He didn’t put it like that but now I’m sure it’s from Star Wars. It is. It’s what Yoda says in the original movie but it’s one of the most sensible pieces of advice I’ve ever heard. I know people said it when I was a kid but I don’t know how much they understood where it came from. It’s about commitment to action instead of being satisfied with leaving something unachieved if you have put in effort. Effort’s all well and good but it’s no substitute for pushing through to the end and achieving something tangible, even if that something is knowledge or understanding. No, I get that. I know he was right, Zhang, I mean, my teacher, not sure about Yoda. You’ve seen the first Star Wars, right? No. Scandalous. That good? Actually, no. But it’s the basis for so much popular culture and the newer ones really do show off some of the best writing and special effects together that modern cinema has to offer. Even by the standards of the time, the first Star Wars doesn’t really match up visually but the writing is impressive and it’s worth the watch. Plus, it’s so lacking in special effects, it’s pretty easy on the eyes and you don’t even have to look at the screen because the writing is pretty standalone. Now that’s what I wanted to hear. I can always get behind a movie that I can listen to in bed with my eyes closed and there just aren’t enough of those. Are you serious? Absolutely. That’s how I’d rather take in entertainment, wouldn’t you? I love the visuals but I think you might be onto something there. I don’t often look at the screen much because I’m always sticking them on in the background. Exactly what most people do but they’re always missing stuff unless the writing is enough to describe the action, too. Yes, after all the hundreds of movies I’ve watched, never thought of it like that at all. Worth the price of the tea? Worth more than that, Pam. Good. I should probably head home before I’m too tired to drive. You’re sure you’re safe? Yes, absolutely. Good. See you on Monday, then, bright and afternoon. Exactly. You’ve finished the book already, haven’t you? How did you know? Call it instinct but don’t worry, I won’t share that with the rest of the class. I wonder how many of them will have even opened the book. Half, I’m guessing. You’re an optimist, Pam, I like that. Have a good night. Caught off guard but I really did need a hug. See you Monday.
[Friday September 7]
[Miss Ross, Please forgive me for disturbing your days away from the school but in the interest of not delaying our foray into composition as a way of understanding the instrument that we share a passion for, I would like to invite you, as I had previously alluded to, to an ongoing weekly supplementation of the time that we already have scheduled together so that we may focus that allotted time on practical matters of musicality and interpretation without sacrificing the opportunity for the creation of new works. As such, I propose that we set aside the time between 15.00 and 16.30 each Monday, as I have no scheduled appointments at that time and there are no departmental meetings. I have also checked the schedule in the school and the only classes during that time are upper-year seminars, although I have not taken the liberty of examining your personal schedule so you may have an elective outside the school in that time period that I would not be aware of. I do hope that you will take me up on my offer and, if this time is not convenient, we may be able to find a more opportune slot in our mutual schedules. Best of wishes with your continued study of the Brahms. Z]
[dear professor leung, i very much appreciate your offer of extra time and will certainly take you up on it. i have another class, an elective in english literature, that runs until 2.50 on mondays but i should be able to get to your office by 3, if a few minutes after 3 on some days, given the distance. if that is acceptable to you, i will see you on monday with my first arrangement assignment completed. thanks again! pam]
[Pam, yes, that is most acceptable to me. I shall therefore have the pleasure of your presence at 15.00 Monday. Please bring your instrument so we can indulge in improvisational exercises in these supplementary meetings, as that will also assist the creative process to develop in a relationship with your musical expression. Until the new week, I bid you a temporary farewell. Z] Such formal writing — doesn’t speak like that but suppose it may be how he learned English on paper and old habits die hard. Or perhaps he’s a closet Victorian scribe? Most acceptable, temporary farewell. It’s a beautiful way to express it but do people actually feel that way or is it normalized structure for a particular period of time? Hard to tell.
[dear pat, don’t want to bother you but i figure since you’re the prof, after all, i’d ask you some questions i have about the books for next week. before i get to that, though, i have to tell you how much i appreciate that you didn’t make a huge deal out of what happened last evening. i feel like such an idiot but i have tried for years to fight against it and have no idea how to stop these things from happening to me. i won’t labor the point but you’re the first person outside my family to just accept it and talk to me about something else as if it’s not crazy. so thanks. now, about the books. i’ve got seven questions. 1 is there a significance to which story is assigned to be odd and which even or is that just a matter of chance? 2 is cyberpunk a big movement in japan? 3 are these supposed to represent churches, like religious movements? 4 if so, are they japanese religions or is he making a comparison between the calcutecs being christians and the semiotecs being muslims? 5 is the lab in the sewer because he is saying they’re all full of shit? 6 they’re both taking place at the same time loosely but only the even chapters are told in the present so what’s up with that? 7 is there a comparison to be made between the calcutecs and the beasts both accepting their underground role and no matter how counterculture it may be, they don’t try to change their fate or is that a typical expression of cultural passivity, which i’m not even sure is real or if it’s just a western perception of japanese culture from the outside?finally, if i haven’t driven you crazy yet with questions, i have seven about the star diaries. feel free to tell me to fuck off and give you back what’s left of your tea. and yes, i finished the star diaries this morning while i was having breakfast but it’s nowhere near as long as i thought it would be. you weren’t kidding about starting off with the short ones if books in translations i see weighing down piles of paper are the norm. 1 is the united planets supposed to be a commentary on the beautiful vision of the united nations compared to its complete ineptitude or is it nato, the warsaw pact, something else? 2 is pinta supposed to be a mock version of china where everyone’s given up on becoming the dragon and is just trying to become the fish or am i reading too much into this? 3 i assume panta is poland under communism but am i right or is this the soviet union or if pinta is china, is this another view of china? 4 while i’m on the subject, is there a significance in polish to his name or is it just as weird in the original language? 5 is the robot conflict in the eleventh voyage supposed to be a representation of the 1918 polish revolution that, you know, lasted two years and gave up? 6 if yes, what side is he taking because it’s really not obvious? 7 is the twenty-fourth voyage a parody of feng shui? hope you’ve recovered from the shock of having a student actually fall at your feet. see you monday. pam] Proofread, twice. Send.
[Dear Pam, I must admit that was an unexpectedly long message and it reminded me of that section in The Sound and the Fury where there’s more than five hundred words without a bit of punctuation. Of course, you used plenty of (correct, I might add) punctuation. It’s just that most of my messages are written by people who grew up in the age of typewriters, letters, and signatures at the bottom so they’re either intensely formalized paragraphed things or they’re short enough that I get the entire content from the two-line preview. I trust you are doing relatively well to be able to write me a missive with such a word count and actual content within it but I also shan’t belabor the question of health (I’m fine, completely recovered, although I did allow myself a little medicinal Merlot with my Empire Strikes Back). I’m not sure if you’re crazy but I doubt that if you are it is in the medical sense. At least, not more so than me (not I). 1 In Japan, odd numbers are usually the ones seen as being pleasant and odd tend to be the unpleasant ones. Odd numbers associate with Yang, being mostly positive, while even ones link to yin, which is less so, coming from Chinese culture but after so long in Japan, that’s pretty much assimilated into the culture there, too. 2 It’s underground but definitely a lot more visible than anywhere in Canada or, probably, anywhere in the west. It’s a big deal and there are lots of examples of it that you’d see on a regular basis in Tokyo’s young people. 3 I would definitely say they’re supposed to be religions, whether they’re individual churches or the whole religion, probably the latter. You could definitely think of it as Christianity/Islam or Shinto/Buddhism, although it’s just as possible it’s Wicca/Christianity. 4 You could take it as a non-religious comparison and I hadn’t thought of it as being quite so directly linked but you could definitely make an argument for Christianity and Islam, although I don’t know from which perspective it would be seen. From the Japanese perspective, I’d guess you’d probably have it the right way round but from a Muslim perspective it might well be the opposite, not that either side looks very good to be joining. 5 Yes. 6 In the original language, the word used for I in the odd stories is watashi, a formal pronoun, used to keep distance, and in the even stories, it’s boku, a more informal one, reflected by the fact that the present tense is usually more informal, since we don’t really have two versions of common-usage I. 7 I don’t see why not but you’re the first one I’ve heard mention it. Not to say nobody has thought of it before but definitely not in my hearing. I’d say you should write a paper on it and perhaps you should but I’m not expecting one about any of the books we’re looking at so it wouldn’t do you much good for the class and I doubt you’re bored and looking for extra things to write at the moment. You know, you didn’t have to ask all these questions to prove you read the book. JK Hope that’s useful but please ask some of these on Monday if everyone else is quiet or I’ll have to give up on seminar discussions and give far less interesting lectures. As for the other book… 1 Probably the UN because neither NATO nor the WP have that kind of mission or structure but we’re talking about sixty years ago and it’s hard to tell what the Polish perspective on NATO. It might be a commentary on the fact that there are two competing organizations outside the UN, mostly because the WP was formed about the same time that Lem was writing the book. 2 I’m not sure if he’s satirizing a particular country but if he is, it could be China in both cases but my money would be on the first definitely being China and the other being the USSR. 3 If I had to guess, I’d say it’s the Soviet Union. He doesn’t come out and say it but that was my impression and I’ve heard other people draw the same parallel. 4 It’s just as weird, as far as I can tell, in any language. Tichy is a Czech last name but I don’t know if he would have known that and neither is Polish for anything. 5 I think it’s a commentary on trade unions but it’s definitely possible it’s about the 1918 revolution. Immediately thought of the UAW because it was so aggressive in the years before the book was written. 6 It’s likely he thinks fighting against the system is futile but he seems to be a bit more sympathetic with the underdog. 7 Until just now, I thought of it as being absurdist but you may have a point! Anyway, hope that gives you something to think about and you’ve definitely put some serious thought into the reading. Shall look forward to some more reflections on Monday. Hope you have a lovely weekend. Pat]
[thanks. i appreciate the time you put into that! spent most of yesterday bashing my head against a figurative wall trying to write an arrangement of a chainsmokers song for cello for zhang but i think it’s as good as it’s going to get and i’m going to print the thing and shove it in my locker tomorrow morning so i can ignore its existence and focus on some brahms. then i got up this morning and tried to make up for lost time by ignoring my phone and practicing all day. it’s still light out but not for long, finally fairly happy with how this movement is sounding, though, and that’s worth all the work if i can impress him the first time i have something prepared to play. isn’t there something in star wars about fighting against the established order being futile or have i got that backward? feel free to have a glass of merlot on my behalf since i can’t. i’ll try to speak and keep both feet firmly out of my mouth on monday but i can’t guarantee in a public setting that i won’t turn into a vocally inept social outcast. good to know there’s a language out there that doesn’t just have a word for i but two of them. can’t make that work as a joke but i imagine there is one about having two i’s, isn’t there? did you study history or is all of this stuff you researched before teaching the books? i have a little background in history from classes and my own reading but details about the formation of the warsaw pact is rather far beyond my knowledge, apart from knowing it happened some time after the war in response to nato existing. isn’t that a long time after? i thought this book was written in the late 50s and wasn’t nato started in the 40s? if those are christianity and islam, i wouldn’t want to be in either. thankfully, i don’t live in a world backward enough that i need to believe that myths are true on penalty of being stoned. i read a couple of absurdist plays once. one by ionesco and the other i’ve completely forgotten. i couldn’t get any sense out of them and i figured that was the point but i missed the enjoyable part of that. definitely gave me a lot to think about, especially now that my practicing is back on track and i can devote some time to serious contemplation of words. i forgot to ask, mostly because i was on the ground for a lot of it, how seriously is historical poetry like basho’s taken in japan? you mentioned him in class and i didn’t think to ask but the poems seem to describe beautiful images but nothing deeper or am i missing something? p]
[Dear Pam, I’ll add an extra glass and pretend I’ve poured it for you and not even count it in my diet! Which song are you adapting for the cello? Paris? I had that stuck in my head awhile back and listened to it a few times on repeat to try to shake it loose. I think I missed the boat on Brahms. His work always sounds too gentle to me. Star Wars is the story of how important it is to rebel against injustice so yes, you got that a bit backward. You’re probably getting your geek references crossed. That’s the Borg in Star Trek – resistance is futile. Ionesco is crazy and absurdist lit is something I’ve thankfully never had to teach because it bores me to tears. How much extra practicing did that take if you’re already on 4-5 hours a day normally? I don’t know how your fingers put up with it. They must feel like rubber by the end of all that. Bashō is seen as one of the most important writers in Japanese history. His verses are far more subtle than those images. Of course, you can read them as purely pictures in words and they’re lovely, as many people I’m certain have done over the years both inside Japan and in the rest of the world. A closer look, though, reveals a little more depth than you’d expect from only so few syllables. Take this one, for example. A monk sips morning tea // it’s quiet // the chrysanthemum’s flowering. Historically, monks certainly did drink tea but at that time, mornings would have been reserved in poorer communities most days for just drinking hot water rather than using the more precious tea. As time went on, tea became drunk at every opportunity but it’s still seen as a special and celebratory thing in some settings in Japan. At that point, though, he’s likely either referencing that the monk is richer than you’d expect for a monk or that it’s a celebration day when morning tea would be more natural, more likely the first option, prompting you to ask, given that these poems are location-specific, what is the location of this rich monk and why is he rich? It’s quiet, sure, but if the monk is skimming profits from the temple, would you expect it to be quiet? The last line, though, is the really significant one. The Chrysanthemum Throne is the imperial power in Japan so it’s a bit more than just a flower. Is this symbolizing the rise of a new emperor, a coup d’état orchestrated by bribing the religious figures to gain the support of the people? Or is this the celebration of the rise of a young emperor to replace his father passing into the afterlife? The ways to read it are plentiful but, unlike a lot of historically well-regarded poetry in the English canon, it would be difficult to find any of Bashō’s work that doesn’t nearly immediately lend itself to this kind of multiple meaning, even without looking at what the symbols he uses could mean other than the words he’s written, which is always an option in Kanji, not that I would catch much of that. Anyway, hope you have a lovely evening and see you tomorrow. Pat]
Can’t tell if that was sleep or the continuation of unconsciousness from last night. Not sure if woke up between and passed out again, simply didn’t wake, woke and slept, feels very much like it matters not at all, drained beyond exhaustion yet seven already and the startling yet familiar waltz ringing in my ears. No choice but to pretend sleep happened although doubt it did. No choice but to forget the three hours of utter panic, desperation, desire to run, escape the fear of nothing, everything, vision spinning and breathing feeling deep yet somehow producing nothing of the air my body screams it cannot feel coming in. Ended in blackness, can’t have been much beyond eleven, eight hours of time with my eyes closed should leave me refreshed, recovered from that encounter with my mind but know it didn’t truly end there and plagued my body if not my mind with unseen muscle spasms and tension while no dreams were allowed to come to dissipate the sensations in the body. Feel the acidic burn of hours spent in the gym after more than ten hours in bed, having barely moved an inch.
Morning, didn’t sleep? Eight hours, I think. Oh. Yeah, a few hours last night and drifted into sleep. Not sure if it ever stopped but either way, not enough time for it to go away. Going to take the morning to try to feel up to going in? No, only way I’m missing class is if I’m stuck at the time. Is that how other people describe the attacks, being stuck? Seems gentle but is what it is like, can move but don’t, can think but can’t choose the subject, consumed but look no different, glued to an invisible box that others can pass through without touching it. If you’re ok to drive, unless you want Eric to drop you off on his way? I don’t want him to be stuck out there waiting for me to finish, have an extra seminar tonight that won’t be done until at least seven and could go on later if she wants to keep talking. Talking about what? Your new cello teacher? No, the lit professor, Pat Dunn, she’s loaded on the books and seems to want to treat it like a grad course, two a week, full length novels and story collections, and the class is dense so she’s offered her office hours as extra tutorial time for the whole class and it would be rather disrespectful not to take her up on it if she’s going to push through it and I feel like I should save her from the silence I know is going to be there in the room so at least she’s not the only one talking, it being a seminar discussion. It’s not your responsibility to make sure everyone else learns. I’m going to be a teacher in a few years, like you, so I might as well get used to it being my responsibility, shouldn’t I? Maybe. Still not sure why you want to do that when you could perform, eventually maybe but you don’t even like kids. I don’t want to teach kids, you know that. High school, maybe university, but not little kids, disgusting. Yes, I know. What are you reading? Murakami’s on for discussion today. Read it last week. Really, in an English class? I thought he only wrote in Japanese. It’s a lit in translation course. Didn’t know they taught work that wasn’t already in English. I read a couple of his books, one a long time ago when he wasn’t so well known but I got a copy of Norwegian Wood last year from Max. Not sure if he thought I’d like the story or just knew the only modern music I really ever got into was the Beatles and got taken in by the title. Still got it around? Sure, it’s probably still on top of the dresser in the bedroom if you want it. Haven’t you got enough reading to do? Yeah but it wouldn’t take too long, maybe have to wait until Christmas break, though. It’s not going anywhere. Told Eric he should read it not long ago, actually, more his kind of writing than mine but it wasn’t bad. He’s got all those mysteries he’s still going through that you put on his phone for him in the summer. Some days he stares at it for hours but he did that with the paper ones, too. Between that and the papers he has to mark for class, he’s going to need stronger glasses if he keeps this up! At least he’s not holding the phone up to his face and really killing his vision, right? Yes, you’ve got a point. Do people read like that? I see it all the time at school, actually. Guess nobody ever told them they’re going to kill their eyes but they’re not reading for enjoyment, anyway, unless it’s messenger. Can’t people pick up the phone and call for five minutes instead of spending an hour typing back and forth? Not in this culture. Your tea is getting cold; my coffee’s turned to ice. You could get another cup or stick it in the microwave. No, I’m used to it cold, always putting it down somewhere and picking it up a bit later, you barely notice sometimes. My tea’s not too bad but I could use some more to go with the cereal, if you don’t mind passing over the kettle while you’re up. What book was it you were going to say you’re doing today? Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. It’s — That’s the one I read back in the 90s, really strange, two stories told together. That’s it, never seen it around here. Oh I’m sure I gave it to someone, that was twenty-five years ago, before you were born. You know what books are like in this house, especially before you both started reading on your phones, the bookcases fill up faster than we can find people to empty them some years. You’d need a library of your own by the time you get a place if you had paper copies of all the ones you get through. True. What did you think of it, if you can remember? I just remember it wasn’t what I expected from a Japanese author. It was direct, not introspective. Sure it seemed like there were lots of deeper meaning and I know I missed some of them, not knowing so much about the culture, but it wasn’t hard to understand. All those old novels talking about the self and the trials of life and the human experience turned me off Japanese books. You know, Dazai, Mori, Nakahara, such slow books, beautiful use of language but just talking about their thoughts and feelings, nothing happening and then suddenly they all seem to die. That’s not far from accurate. Max gave me a copy of a collection of Chūya Nakahara’s poetry in English he said someone gave him and he never got into. It’s so dark I don’t think I ever got through it all. I think I must have picked that book up in your room a dozen times and read something out of it. Some lines spoke to me but it almost made me shiver. There’s either too much feeling or not enough but I’m not sure which. Too much, I felt, reading it, but maybe I am just too tense to read poetry, at least that kind, instead of the peaceful pictures of trees and flowers and streams. I’ve got to get a move on if I’m going to get your father out the door for school. Give me a ring later and let me know when you’re on the way and I’ll stick something in the oven for you. Thanks, see you this evening. Be safe.
Getting to be a habit already, at least remembered to turn off the engine this time. Mélodie Zhao’s recording of the Beethoven B-flat Sonata 106. Amazed CBC let them play the whole thing. Only three minutes to get upstairs and find a seat, not going to get to sit in the corner today. Faces haven’t seen before, new additions, people getting signed in, didn’t get moved in until the weekend, only four desks free, all in the second row. Hate having people behind me, no time to read to get settled, calm after walking around, can’t help feeling it’s a bad start to a class, could have an attack, embarrass myself, not be anonymous anymore. Know they’ll know me anyway, not a big school, but don’t want to be known for that, don’t think any of them would have heard, can’t imagine is a great topic of discussion unless someone knows me. Should leave earlier or get out of the car without waiting for the piece to finish. Definitely will do that tomorrow, although the morning’s just practice time on Tuesday, wouldn’t come in at all except for three hours of instrumental ensemble at half past five and might as well practice in a soundproof room for the rest of the day if have to drive in anyway, although if Eric’s going to be around until six thirty, will probably just come in with him. Tuesdays are usually staff meeting nights for him just the other side of the park at his school so should save a bit on gas and won’t have to be alone for the drives one day a week, just like last year, might have been the best part about high school, sharing a building even if wasn’t allowed to have him as a teacher, obvious reasons. Morning. We’ve got a lot to get through today so I’m just going to start in on it. Lots of new faces staring up at me so I’ll just say I’m Avrum Tobias and I’ll be teaching this and probably making you sing in mass choir, too, since you’ve mostly all got to take that, and you can talk to me after class if you need me to sign your admission slips or whatever. Honestly, don’t care if there are an extra dozen people in here, not going to make much difference and I don’t mind a few extra hours of marking if it means a bunch more people don’t think music’s just I-IV-V-I. So let’s get on, today we’re going to be looking at two pieces by Debussy, for piano so you don’t have to read anything open-score yet, to get you started on analyzing pieces from the guy who really pushed the boundaries of the romantic movement and was the start of something extraordinary. I’m going to assume you’ve all heard at least something by Debussy cause if you’re a musician who hasn’t, you’ve had to work pretty hard to avoid it. If you’ve never taken piano lessons, though, you might not have come across these. Can you wave at me if you’ve ever played, or even heard, Masques or Feu d’artifices? Ok, that’s a little more comforting than I was expecting, that’s almost a dozen of you. And how many of you have actually played something, not just piano but anything at all, Debussy wrote? More than half, that’s definitely good. What was it? La mer. And what did you play? Second oboe. Right, ok, so Debussy was instrumental in getting away from the standard ideas of chord patterns, introducing layered figures that play against each other to give a vague sense of something rather than coming out and stating it more often than not. It’s not going to be sufficient to look at this stuff the way you do with Bach, Handel, Mozart. Not that there’s anything wrong with the earlier stuff but it’s just a lot easier to understand musically. Take one of these and pass them back down the row. If you look up here at the opening bars of Feu d’artifices — Haven’t played anything by Debussy since pounded my way through Golliwogg’s Cakewalk on the piano when couldn’t even reach the floor from the stool. Never had the commitment or the skill for his more advanced work or, at least, the ones that came up, and didn’t get around to the cello and piano sonata last year, although was on the list, love the sound but would have taken too long to get ready for the audition and forgot about it, make a note to ask Zhang if he thinks it’s worth playing this year, remember the melodies were beautiful even if it’s in what he’d probably think of as something already out there, come to think of it, think heard a recording of him playing it before he came here, maybe not a great idea to compare myself to him if that’s right, have to check. Not going to fall asleep in that class even as exhausted as this but looking around, think he lost some people and most of them don’t seem to have any interest in analysis, not sure why they’re studying music here instead of a conservatory if all they want to do is perform and not write anything, plus how they’ll understand what they’re playing if they don’t seriously study it, confused, thought would mostly be with people who were interested, might want to go out and get smashed on the weekend but at least would have more interest than people in high school since they’ve chosen the subject they’re studying when it’s something like music. Smells like melting plastic in here. Morning everyone, welcome to music tech. I’m sure some of you have seen me around the recording booths here before. I’m Paul Tremblay and I run the electronic music program and teach the tech and some of the composition modules so if you’re minoring in comp or doing the electronic music diploma, we’ll be seeing a lot of each other the next four years. This is an intro course but you’re going to have a chance to set up equipment and record each other performing and you’ll be paired up with people in the second-year classes to run the booth for the recordings of the concert series on Sunday nights. Make sure you sign up for a date on the sheet on the sound booth door some time before next week in the boxes for first year. Two of you and two second years will be working each concert but you only have to do one a semester since this course is only one credit. Other than that, we’re going to talk about usb keyboards and writing music in Sibelius, a bit about synthesizers and electronic music in general. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to convince you that synthesized music is going to take over from traditional instruments or that AI composers are going to make you all redundant. This is a music school, not a science fiction conference. You have to take methods courses in all the other types of instruments and that’s pretty much what this is, learning how electronic instruments and recording gear works the same way as non-brass players will learn how to get a basic idea of the trombone and non-percussionists get to play some beginner pieces on the marimba. Not to mention that it’s never a bad thing to be able to pair up with some friends and make some serious recordings instead of just taking out your phone and hoping for the best. Might be fine for a night out but it’s not going to give you the kind of results you want to send for a grad audition or for a scholarship. If only had any confidence would have any of them as friends or understand what that means to someone who could walk away and say goodbye, not sure if it’s worth the pain disappearances causes to have anyone in my life short term. They all leave sooner or later. Welcome back. Why do you think the church was so important in Bach’s life, and don’t say it’s because that’s who paid him to write and direct and play his music. If it wasn’t easier than just reading this stuff and if she wouldn’t notice and be particularly unfair marking my term papers for all four history classes she’s the only one teaching year after year, would literally erase it from my schedule and read the textbook, pass in the papers, and come in for the exams. A baguette with gloriously extravagant amounts of honey and peanut butter, sheer delight, excitement, worth writing a postcard over after an hour of praise and glory and being one with the fucking spirit of divinity in rapt whatever it was she said, Bach wasn’t an idiot — he knew who was footing the bills and giving him the commissions and who’s going to turn down a full time composing and performing gig. Sure his work wasn’t exactly allowed to be secular but if he was writing for a prince instead of a bishop, Ave Maria would probably have been Schoener Bergsee. Why does she have to make things so complicated, far too much already to think about in life without having to make simple things difficult, too. I’m not sure how this has been done in previous years but we’re going to have three blend rehearsals with all of you this week and they’ll be recorded, which is why they’re taking place in here in the performing hall so I’ll be asking quartets and octets and sometimes larger groups to sing things and I’ll listen to all of it through the week and by next week, twenty-four of you will be asked to stay, which is about half of you who have been invited to come for the week. I can’t offer you anything if you don’t get past this round so as a token of my thanks for being a part of the process for these extra hours, today, Wednesday and Thursday, you’re welcome to stay after rehearsal and there will be some cookies and shortbread that my wife and I have been making since we got here. We don’t have a big family here like we both have in New York so you’re going to benefit from our collective love of baking more sweet things than we could ever get through and still be able to fit through the door. Now if you could all please stand up, mix up, and we’ll do some sight-reading of the pieces I emailed you on Friday as a warmup before I assign you to your quartets for the rest of the week’s rehearsals. We’ll start with the Avro Pärt. Is this shortbread vegan? Actually, yes, my wife’s completely animal-free. Perfect. Thanks.
[Monday September 10]
First one here but no corner to sit in. Can’t decide whether to sit at the far end of the table to be outside the pressure of talking or close to Pat, who strangely drawn to more and more. Near seems best on reflection, don’t want to be seen by other people as getting here early to try to escape the discussion where it’s a seminar. Only twelve minutes before class but other than me the room is empty, probably hasn’t been anyone in here since last week, smells like cheap perfumes mixed together with the bitterness of vodka. Must have been a mixer here Friday or Saturday night and not exactly like one of the societies to do more than the minimum amount of cleaning up so they don’t lose access to the room. Table even looks sticky down at the end — made the right choice for sure. Building is old enough there’s an analog clock ticking attached to the wall — truly have to wonder who thought it would be a good idea to spend that kind of money on a clock when they could just hang one on the wall, not like it’s going to get that fast or slow and would just take replacing the battery every year or so and they’d have saved so much effort and money. Ticking is loud in an empty room, not sure whether comforting or distracting but definitely unwanted noise if it were an exam — thankfully none of those in these seminars to have to think about, although term papers aren’t over in three hours and have always done well in exams, being able to work quickly. Only worry is what happens if there’s an attack during the exam and that extra pressure makes it far more likely it could happen. Did in high school more than once and had to resit the exams, worrying even more that it would happen again and would be disqualified or just seen as silly, faking it to get out of the exam, which was far easier than dealing with the thoughts in every case, world history, such a joke of a course, a few details about the world wars and the Russian revolution and little more, and pre-calculus, a place of simple algebra that takes so little time and thought it’s almost possible to fall asleep on the calculator. Really does seem like high school courses were written before technology made looking stuff up possible without even having to stand and walk to a library but they change that curriculum every few years and Wikipedia’s been around more than fifteen years so they’ve got no excuse, except maybe they don’t understand what the internet is for. Hard to believe the whole group of teachers responsible for classes could be that clueless when most of the ones at my school definitely got it. Eric has been using a computer since before was born and probably spends more time reading online than me and he’s one of the oldest teachers there so most of them definitely grew up with the internet or at least went to university with email and the web if not social media and the death of paper encyclopedias. I want you to tell me honestly if you’ve read the book. You don’t get marks for it either way and I’ve specifically given you papers to write that don’t depend on any of the reading assignments in the course so it’s just your own honesty at stake, not your grade. Please raise your hand if you have actually read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Five. That’s disappointing. The rest of you are free to leave. You don’t have to but I’m honestly not sure what the point of staying to discuss a book you haven’t bothered to read before class is. I don’t mind if you stay here and take some notes if you’re planning on reading the book later and just for some reason couldn’t make the time to do it on time but if you’re going to stay, I’d appreciate it if only the people who have actually read the book participated in the discussion of it for what should probably be obvious reasons, although I would have said that reading the book before showing up at a class on it would be obvious to me and that’s not something the majority of people in the room have shared. I hope the number will be higher for The Star Diaries on Wednesday and it would be helpful for the comparative discussion Thursday if you could try to get through this one, too. You’ve got three days and it’s not Ulysses, perfectly readable in an evening for someone who reads at average speed so try not to be afraid it’s going to take two weeks of commitment to get it out of the way and you’ve got two more for next week, as you’ve seen on the reading list. At least you all seem to have accepted my invitation to the group so I shall assume you’ve all got the list. As I said last week, I’ll be here in the evenings the same days as class from six to seven or even eight if you have enough questions, in this room. If none of you shows up by quarter past, I’ll take that as a sign you’ve got no questions and head home. Before we start talking about the book as a group, did anyone have any trouble with reading it, including those who don’t seem to have done it? Truly surprised nobody left the room. Before we get started, I want to say it aloud, next week, I expect you to have read the two works on the schedule if you plan on showing up for class because you’ll be expected to talk about them. First, The Master and Margarita, which I would honestly vote for as the greatest work of Russian literature, not just of the twentieth century but bar none, will be Monday’s book of choice. Wednesday will be quite a shift after that to Tomas González’ In the Beginning Was the Sea, the only book I know of that was published by a nightclub. You can message me any questions or problems you have while you’re going through it, anything you are troubled by or don’t want to bring up in class, I’ll get an answer for you. Some of you have already taken me up on that and you’re all welcome to whenever you like. Is that a reference to me or are there others. Was feeling a bit special, not sure whether should ask her after class, seemed she was disappointed in the others, maybe just to make me feel special? Encourage young student with tea and messages? Doesn’t seem like her personality but am almost always wrong, curious now. She wants me to talk into the silence she fears but don’t fear, just expect, know probably no more than two actually read the book, other two are likely lying, those won’t be likely to start with questions even if they’ll have silly objections to something not being politically correct enough later, does seem like a group of people more worried about the symbolism of the words you choose than the meaning they really have, kind of people who care too much about whether someone’s blind or has a visual impairment to care what that person actually experiences in the world or if they even care which one you choose, just because it seems to them they’re being respectful when most people talk to want people to be less careful and start thinking of them without having to deal with the lack of vision, hearing, chronic pain, whatever, talk to them not ignoring it but not feeling like it has to acknowledged in the first place rather than making their whole existence about it, everything in their lives defined by what they can’t do, can’t experience, overlooking what they do experience and can share, not just as a curiosity from society’s rejects but as an equal. Someone’s probably going to say this book is about racial inequality because everything’s about racial inequality when you’re a white liberal even if you’re the only one in the room who’s not tired of all the talk about it that changes nothing. What did you all wonder about while you were reading the book? When we talk about the Calcutecs and Semiotecs, do you think those are poorly disguised euphemisms for Christianity and Islam or something more culturally specific to Japan or not religions at all? Think she just became far more relaxed, looked at me the way she did after woke up on the floor, is that caring or relief or something else? What do you think they are? Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s that or something else but if you think about it at the most basic level, Christianity is a religion of the historically successful based on a culture of guilt, rising up out of the Jewish culture that was much more based on thought. So it seems to fit with the dominant nature of the Calcutecs — a modernist interpretation of either the Crusades or just the point the world has been at since the Second World War, where what’s more and more secular society in the west but still scarily rooted in Christian mythology and can’t seem to shake it off yet, oppresses an even more fundamentalist movement in the east, political Islam. And if Islam is a religion that isn’t a guilt religion but a shame religion that is at its most basic premises taking away what little free will there is left in Christianity with all its praying for help and turning it into serious predestination, that shame definitely gets portrayed by the Semiotecs. The comparison seems to fit, although the obvious answer is the one that eventually happens, not to merge the two but to break out of the system where the two even exist. I wonder if he’s proposing that because it seems like the only solution if he’s talking about the religious crisis, when people finally get rid of their religions, they’ll stop fighting over them and start focusing on real education. You’re not wrong, Pam. Anyone else thought about this? I’m a Christian and it’s not a guilt culture. That’s hurtful and simplistic and this is a university so you’re supposed to accept and respect other points of view. Not sure if am supposed to laugh or take her seriously although can’t do that. No, this is a university so I’m supposed to respect people, not respect beliefs. If we respected beliefs, we’d have to be careful talking about the fact that the earth isn’t flat, that we’re the product of evolution, along with all other life, and not some combination of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy having knocked together a plan from magical dust. We are here to discover the truth, not what people think the truth is but to ask questions and seriously consider answers so we can figure out which of them is right, not respect the possibility of all answers equally without putting thought into which of them is even possible, never mind which of them is actually real. If you don’t come here with an open mind, prepared to get rid of your beliefs and replace them with the results of education, I honestly can’t figure out what the actual fuck the point of showing up at class is. It might be an English class but religion has about as much place in a university as seawater on the inside of a boat and that, at least, on the outside doesn’t try to sink the boat and is useful for keeping it afloat, which is more than anyone can realistically say for a system of artificial beliefs. You fucking whore. I’m going to send the dean an email about this. You heard what she said. That kind of talk can’t be allowed in here. Actually, I heard you call her a whore and that, I have to say, is a disgusting way to refer to another human being. I don’t care whether you swear in class, it’s not high school and you’re adults, but you have to be respectful of each other. She didn’t respect my religious beliefs and those are protected. No, Ruth, they’re not protected from criticism. She didn’t say anything disrespectful about you and religions don’t have rights and feelings and privileges at a university, only people, and the only one in this room who has been disrespectful was you just now so if you’re going to keep that up, I’ll ask you to leave right now and you can take it up with the head of the faculty that you’re not fit to be in a classroom and respect other people without making derogatory remarks about them selling their bodies for money. You’re supposed to stand up for my rights. I am standing up for everyone’s right to be able to speak their mind and criticize any ideas they want as long as they’re not personally attacking anyone else in the room. Now can you accept that such behavior won’t be permitted or would you like to leave? I’m going to speak to the dean. You’re welcome to and I’m certain he’s going to tell you the same thing that I just did, that if you call someone a whore, that’s unacceptable, and if you calmly talk about religious beliefs, they are open to debate and ultimately mythology is simply untrue and a historical relic. You’re a fucking atheist, how did you get this job? English literature is rooted in the power of two thousand years of Christianity being the only path to salvation and the basis for all real civilization. Maybe she’s not the whore in this room and you’re just standing up for her because you want a new weekend client. You’re probably a lesbian after all to go along with your disrespect for our faith. Not just me who’s stunned. Wonder if she realizes just how far she’s gone. Would have ignored what she called me, been called worse many times but saying that to a prof. Out. Now. This isn’t over. No, indeed it’s not. If you’ll be so kind, I will ask you not to return and I will let the department know that you will be taking a different elective, if indeed you are permitted to remain in the program after such an outburst. Didn’t realize you could slam these doors that always get stuck on the carpet for me. I’m not sure if anything needs to be said about that but if it does, let me apologize that we have lost some time and you are welcome to share your thoughts with the department but I will not let this take up any more of our already short time resources. If anyone would like to provide a respectful response to Pam’s comment, please go ahead. What do you mean guilt and shame? I’m with you on the idea that it’s Christianity and Islam he’s talking about and that’s what I thought when I read it, too, but I haven’t heard anyone say that before. Actually, neither have I but that’s what I think the history shows. They’re both religious belief systems based on Judaism, which was mostly a set of cultural and political laws with a single god and a creation myth, so I would propose that it’s based in thought and culture rather than any serious and life-defining devotion to the supernatural. With Christianity, though, you get a real belief in original sin, resurrection, a human being a god and a god being a human, and Jesus being sacrificed to make up for sins. Sin seems to be the defining feature of Christianity in a way, although it was talked about in the Torah, it wasn’t really something that defined people’s lives in Jewish culture. So feeling guilty for original sin, feeling guilty for breaking the rules, especially the stuff Jesus is supposed to have said in the Sermon on the Mount, which anyone would have to admit was mostly about being perfect rather than human so nobody could possibly escape having to ask their god for forgiveness — there was no way they could achieve forgiveness any other way. So if you believe all of that, you have little choice but to live a life where you’re defined by being guilty and having to ask your god for forgiveness, all the time, so you get confessionals and group prayers and regular church services, rituals of blood and bread and people getting scarified and eaten, not the way it was done thousands of years ago with virgins but that’s certainly the language that’s used. And if you compare that to Islam, which is quite tame in its language by comparison, the rules laid out in Muslim scripture are actually pretty mild compared to Jesus’ requirements but the culture requires so much body covering, passive separation of the genders, as if there are only two to start with, indoctrination of children, even a lack of education, especially for girls, that aren’t even loosely based in the mythology part but just cultural, that the defining idea behind how it’s practiced couldn’t be anything but shame, being ashamed of your body, your thoughts, your actions, desires, beliefs, doubts. Ok, I hadn’t thought of it that way. Pat, I’m out of my depth. Have you got any idea what she’s talking about. Sure. I’ve never thought that carefully about a single idea being the basis for a culture or a religion but given what I know about Christianity and Islam, not having ever been a member of either religion, it seems to fit. What we’re talking about here is the book, though, and the comparison of the two could definitely be those two religions or it could be others. Did anyone see it as Buddhism and Shinto? Or another pair? Well, my grandparents are Buddhists and I thought that might be what he was getting at with the Calcutecs but I couldn’t think of what the other one might be. I imagined it might be Hinduism but I have no idea what the belief system looks like because I was born here and my father left India as a child to immigrate to Canada so he didn’t end up being forced grow up with all the religious stuff and caste systems his parents were put through and he didn’t impose any of that on me; we’ve barely even talked about Indian history at all, kind of a forgotten piece of the past that’s taboo as a discussion topic in my house and my mother’s a long since lapsed Catholic who just believes in handbags and shoes. You didn’t think about the other religious tradition in Japan, given where the book comes from? I don’t know anything about Japanese culture. This is the first book I’ve read from the country and I don’t think I’d have been able to tell you what religions are common there if you’d asked. That’s fair. Why did you think it could be Buddhism? Simply, it’s about the power of the mind, logic, reflection, not about belief in a god, more the idea of the spirit inside being worth understanding and that’s what gives us the strength to live. Now you’ve definitely gone farther than I could with my background but that makes sense. The Semiotecs could easily be an analogue for Shinto because of their concentration on the connection between individuals and animals, plants, inanimate objects. It’s about living in harmony and the energy within everyone and everything being in balance. You’ll notice in all of the works by Japanese authors that we look at this term there’s not necessarily a reverence for balance but there’s definitely a cultural identity based on it that’s either accepted or rejected but unarguably there. What else did people think of, other than the cultural and religious conflict that’s pretty apparent in the book? Could they be a comparison between science from the word calculation and arts or language from the word semiotics? Absolutely. So if that’s the way the comparison works, is he saying that science is dominating the world compared to arts including language but that arts steal from the sciences and use that knowledge to fight back as artists in a logic-oppressed world? He could be. I want to be very careful about this idea of intent. Some people believe it’s important to understand what the author was trying to do or what the author did. I’m only going to talk about what the language could mean, what the book might signify, and leave intent and the author out of it except some biographical details. That seems reasonable but does the book support that kind of a reading? Certainly. The theft part seems like how writers and artists borrow from the natural world and the sciences to create. Thoughts? I’m not an English major. I’m in music school and that idea is definitely reflected in music written starting about the end of the nineteenth century and right up to now, that a lot of the natural science, especially biology and the weather, is reflected in how composers decided to draw inspiration for their work. Debussy wrote music based on the movement of water, Schoenberg from the beauty of plants, even West Side Story combines some traditional Jewish musical motifs with an emphasis on natural animal and human movements. I had no idea but that definitely seems to support my idea of stealing, or at least borrowing, from the sciences to make art being a subversive act, don’t you think? I do. I hadn’t picked up on that at all but maybe I was just too focused on the possible link with religious conflicts. Shit. Four minutes to pick up my cello and get to Zhang’s room upstairs. He’s not going to be pleased if am late.
Made it. On time, not early. Know told him could be late because of the class but have the impression would be slightly disappointed and takes time to get to the locker and extract the cello then come up the stairs, all those heavy fire doors or have to go the long way around on the open staircase, either way slows down the progress. Welcome back, Pam. Do you prefer Pam or Pamela? Actually, my passport just says Pam and I’ve never been anything else. My aunt’s name is Pamela, although I’ve never asked if that was the source of the name. She’s a professional musician, bassoonist with the San Francisco Phil. Runs in the family, I see. Are your parents musicians, too? Please have a seat and rest your cello; you’re most out of breath! Actually, my parents are both teachers, my mother primary and my father high school math, but my mother was a flautist and Eric has directed the choir and band at school since before I was born so I would have to say that yes, music is a bit of a family obsession, both playing and listening. Wonderful. As I may have mentioned, my musical start came from listening to my father play the flute, an instrument our families appear to have in common — music is in the blood. Blood, not exactly, but close enough, suppose. Something like that. Yes, wonderful. Would you care to join me in a cup of tea? I was just making one for myself and we can take a look through what you’ve written. Absolutely, could use a drink after running over here. Oh, please do not feel you must run. This is, after all, extra time. I understand you wish to be on time but you did let me know about the class directly preceding our meeting time and if you are a few minutes late, you need not feel you are missing the time, as we can stretch at the end as long as is necessary unless you must run to make it to another lecture. No, I don’t have to be in another class until six. Good, so please take whatever time you need to get here without undue stress. There is no reason to raise your heart rate before we try to have a calm interaction with the melodies and the strings. Perhaps not the most lyrical description in words but the most beautiful idea have heard anyone use to describe playing an instrument without making it sound like a flight of poetic fancy. Breathe slowly and drink, the scent of the leaves will free your mind from tension if you let it. What is this? It’s definitely not sencha. No, this is Chinese tea, not Japanese. It is Longjing or, as it is usually called here in Canada, Dragon Well tea. Is that what Longjing means? It’s one of the possible translations, yes. It is a tea that is not only possible to drink for relaxation and health but you can eat the leaves. I haven’t done it since my parents used to encourage it when I was a child but many people still do, after the tea has been made and the pot emptied. I drink it because of the taste but I must admit that the smell reminds me of special days at home, as it was not something we could afford on a daily basis and we usually drank something a bit less, but we made up for it with the sheer quantity and it was loosely similar. It’s very sweet. Do you put sugar in it or is that natural? Completely natural. Traditional Chinese never add things to tea, although sometimes we do add the tea to rice, but that is a rather different thing and more like having rice soup. I see. I’m pleased you like it. You can get this at any tea shop now anywhere in the world, one of the most successful exports from China. It used to be something you had to go to a specialty store to acquire and I admit I still like the better quality tea I can pick up in a traditional merchant’s that I discovered when I was doing my masters but this comes from the tea shop downtown and it’s definitely better than drinkable. Yes, far better, I’d say. It’s certainly a lot better than that horrible stuff people drink here with moo-juice and sugar. I devoutly agree, Pam. Please, though, I am excited to see your work. Before I look at what you have brought, please tell me what you selected to arrange and why it attracted you. Do you know the Chainsmokers? Yes, my commitment to traditional musical forms doesn’t mean I have forsaken my love of modern music, as long as it doesn’t mean I have to put up with the drivel that accompanies them on the radio, at least. Well, I wrote you an arrangement of Closer that I hope is what you were looking for. That is all well and good, a song that I have heard often and definitely one that lends itself well to the instrument. But no, you did not write this for me. Everything we do for and in these sessions is for you, to improve your connection with your instrument, make you a better musician. Yes, through teaching I will also become a better musician and you are key to that learning experience, but you must concentrate on what is useful for your own development. Whatever you write should be something for you to play, to experience, to grow through. Ok. I picked it because I like the song and I thought the voices would work with the cello, the right kind of range for a good sound, something I can play. Wonderful. And have you played it for yourself? Yes, although it is far from perfect. Perfection is not the starting point, Pam; it is the goal that none of us achieve but strive for each time the bow touches the strings. Please, if you do not find it too much of an imposition when I told you that learning to play what you wrote was not necessary, if you would not mind sharing it with me through the voice of your cello rather than my first impression of your writing being ink on paper? Yes, I can do that. Three false starts on one section but otherwise a respectable first attempt with an audience, knowing the writing is imperfect and there has been scant minutes of practice, hopefully he will know this was far from prepared, as he says, and not think less of me. Shall have to be particularly diligent in my understanding and attention to detail in the Brahms so he doesn’t get the wrong impression, that the audition was more fluke than what is expected of me. Good. Thank you for playing that. I know you weren’t ready to perform it but I am far from being a real audience, more like a grasshopper in the weeds on the edge of a field just being planted with tender shoots. Not sure if this is a poetic tradition that permeates the speech of those who are particularly educated from China but could definitely get used to this type of speech. Not just intriguing but these images are actually relaxing. I will keep that in mind but I do hope that with each time I play something there will be improvement. Indeed, if that is not the hope of every repetition, you should probably pack up your instrument and await a better moment to play. I wouldn’t imagine that such a thing will be the case. I don’t ever play without feeling I want it to be worth doing. This is the benefit to having an instrument that necessitates carrying, setting up, preparation. It is the clearing of the mind that such often-repeated gestures bring that gives us the chance to reflect on the intention for our practice or our performances in a way that many other performers may do but have no absolute necessity. There is no tightening of the bow, application of rosin before beginning to tune the instrument once you leave the string family and that is, in many ways, a little sad, as that extra few moments of reflection on what is to come may make all the difference as to whether the following hours of practice could just as easily have been skipped for all the good they may do she who is not in the right state of mental preparation to make use of them as more than simple training of the muscle memory. May I see the piano score that you have prepared? I see. Have you attempted to play this? I have not seen your audition report as to your skill at the piano but this is not easy sight-reading for a person without years of practice. I find that most string players tend to underestimate what they should be writing for their piano partner, you definitely not fitting into that assumption. If you don’t mind, I shall play the piano score while you repeat what you have done. I assume you have an extra copy for yourself? Sorry, just the one. That is perfectly alright, as I did not mention it, although it would be useful in the future. Wait a moment while my printer starts up. We shall begin at the top. Was the speed that you played earlier about right or did you feel you were being hesitant? This works well. Now, if we shall together take a look at the bass movement in the piano in the first segment, please.
We won’t take time from the study of performing your already-prepared pieces in our Wednesday sessions so I’ll give you your assignments on Mondays for composition if that feels satisfactory to you. Sure, might as well keep things compartmentalized like this. Yes, a holistic approach is wonderful in playing the instrument but that does not mean that one must always do everything simultaneously, only be aware of the parts merging into a cohesive self. We shall start with small exercises. You mentioned in your application that you studied using the Suzuki Method, I believe, so you are familiar with the short study exercises used throughout to practice specific patterns. The first of the two things that I would like you to accomplish between now and our next composition session is to create four short exercises meant to be repeated, one each that may be used to drill scales, rising arpeggios, falling arpeggios, and syncopated rhythms. They may be minor, major, even modal if you desire, and should not be simply an exercise. I would like short melodic lines but only a line or so for each exercise. You need only prepare them to be played in one key or mode each but if you would like, they may be useful for you to play through from various starting pitches on your own. Ok, I should be able to manage that. Wonderful. And the second thing that I would like is for you to do much the same as you did for this last assignment but with a twist. I have the impression that you are a classicist in your musical tastes even when they are for popular songs? Yes, although I am not sure how you could tell. Ah, there is a feeling that one has about someone that speaks volumes, although not always volumes of the truth. That being confirmed, however, I would like you to select a song from the 70s and write an arrangement for two cellos. That may sound like I wish you to give me a harmonized melody but that is not the assignment. I wish for you to give it the feeling that accompanies the original without all of the chordal instrumentation to achieve it. In other words, write me two interwoven melodies that spell out the patterns and don’t restrict yourself to one instrument playing the melodic components, allow both to meander and explore the depths of the chords. It doesn’t have to be even recognizable, just give the same type of feeling that the patterns evoke, if you can. I will understand if you try this and feel a little overwhelmed by it but I have faith that you will produce something that may be polished throughout the semester to become possible to perform in public. I will have you that next week. I can’t guarantee it will be great but it will exist. Existence is all anyone can ask of a goal. Thank you for agreeing to these supplementary sessions and gracing me with your presence today. It is I who thank you. Where did that come from? See you Wednesday. An hour before Pat’s class, definitely not enough time for any serious practice. Cello in locker, should be time to begin on arranging, though. At least to choose a song. Seventies rock. Far too tempting to do Donna Summer’s I Feel Love but feel like it’s far too easy to replicate the single note synthesizer part and turn it into a straight cover. Zhang would probably appreciate that selected something so appropriate to the instrumentation and should probably message him about doing it at some point but he issued a challenge and am intending to meet it. Fleetwood Mac. Go Your Own Way always been one of my favorites, a good chance to turn it into something can use and maybe play it in concert. Not sure if that was his intent but feels like he wants something as a duet. Unaccompanied cello duets are rare in the literature but there are definitely a few of them — if he was serious about performing something on stage at the end of the term or the year, does he mean to play a set of duets, one of which is an arrangement of a classic rock song? Can’t get much more classic rock than Fleetwood Mac, right? Set alarm for five minutes to six.
Should probably update the non-wake-up alarm on my phone to be something more seasonally appropriate than the opening from Vivaldi’s Summer Adagio but have had it set to that for over a year now and seems both to get across the point that it’s time to do something but not be so startling as other alarms often are. Maybe it’s that it’s only a violin and live so much of my life feeling and hearing the vibration of strings and wood that it no longer can sound anything but normal. Feel odd that days now involve quite a bit of running if am not prepared to waste all the time between scheduled classes not getting things done that would have to be done later, anyway. Have never had so much to do in so little time. Three years of university classes in addition to high school and there was no difference, basic and simple, workload barely noticeable even when combined and now, less than a week in, am certain won’t have any free time, not that particularly want and am somewhat relieved but can’t help but feel if feel attacks happen, could lose the thread on things that need to be done and end up being set back in a way never was in high school with so much extra time to do everything. Am scared but can’t change it, will have to deal with that if, when it becomes a problem, hope can find enough time without destroying what little sleep have now to finish things. Nobody else here so get the same seat as earlier. Maybe will get through this class without being called a whore, though — that would be more pleasant, have to admit. Have to wonder if Pat stood up for me or just said what she believes is true, quite possibly both. Expect to be insulted and derided but not necessarily in the middle of a class discussion and nobody in high school or any of the other university courses have taken came even close to that kind of response to a criticism of religion, even the ones know are somewhat religious (as early as grade ten, that really should probably be classified as illegal manipulation and brainwashing in a way it wouldn’t be for a fully functioning adult if we’re to be serious about protecting young people from harm, as there’s nothing in the world more harmful than selling lies as the truth to a young person — or to a believing adult, for that matter). Given that look on her face, think she may have stood up for me as long as didn’t go against her own views even if didn’t feel so strongly but have to think she did in this case and a bit moot. Wonder how many of them will actually show up, doubtful if people who didn’t read the book will and hasn’t been long enough unless they were most of the way through it to get it done since three, especially if they had another class. It seems as if we may be left all alone today. Let’s give it a little time and see if anyone else shows up. If not, we can just talk about the book. Thanks for backing me up earlier. Seems you put yourself squarely in the line of attack, though. I’m used to that. People forget that religion isn’t a special kind of thought. Not only is it pretty much guaranteed to be untrue because it’s supernatural and that parts that aren’t don’t really amount to much taken on their own, but it’s literature, stories told, often with purposes, sure, but so are most works of literature, especially the ones that last hundreds of years. You’ve got a point. But I’ve had that kind of reaction, never quite as aggressive, I have to admit, from lots of people. Usually in class they seem to be a bit more guarded about what they say, though. That was actually pretty tame compared to what people used to say to me in classes when they knew the prof was religious and it didn’t matter if they were Christian or Muslim or Sikh or whatever, as long as they were religious, they almost never stomped on someone being nasty because I wasn’t going to pretend their religion was relevant or sensible. That’s not how university’s supposed to be. No, Pam, but it’s how university usually is — we don’t think much about reality but we definitely seem to spend a lot of time being careful to be nice about myths and lies unless we want to get our hands bitten off. Yeah, I’ve noticed that. Thanks, though. I couldn’t leave you to endure that. When I was a student, I couldn’t do much for people but now that I’m the one at least tacitly running the discussion, I can make sure people are at least respectful of each other. You didn’t say anything out of line or personal or insulting. Sure, you were critical of ideas but we’re supposed to encourage that, but you didn’t say anything nasty and she did so it was quite literally my job to jump in. And true to form, she turned on me as if it’s ok to start to call someone down to the dirt for having said something you don’t like and getting defensive about it. That’s how I know their ideas are silly, when they stop defending their ideas and getting defensive. You know, that’s true, Pam, I hadn’t thought of it that way. I just know people get defensive when they think they can get away with calling someone else insulting for talking about religion. It’s not valid but it’s something we’ve trained people to think they can complain about and we have to stop letting them away with it. But you’re right that it’s telling when someone abandons their own ideas and stops defending the thoughts, relying on the fiction that it was a personal attack. Yeah, I’ve always tried to make sure I know why someone is fighting me, if it’s their ideas or their feelings or what that they’re fighting from. It means that I worry less about it later if I can understand if it’s a silly reason compared to them having a genuine complaint. Sensible. Has anyone told you that you think far more rationally than most people? No, quite the opposite. With the attacks from fear that I can’t control, I’m usually criticized for not being able to think rationally at all. I doubt that has much to do with it. It doesn’t. I can think rationally but you can’t reason your way out of a fear when it’s not a fear of anything but most people don’t understand you can just be afraid, not afraid of. A lot of languages don’t talk about fear that way. You have fear of something but it makes little sense in French, for example, to say j’ai peur because the grammatical construction is j’ai peur de… and without the rest, it’s something outside most people’s comprehension of the language, not just the ideas. I hadn’t thought of that, in spite of my French. It’s one thing I’ve never tried to talk about in any language but English. I can understand why. It’s far too difficult to make someone understand you even in your native language when it’s something so far outside their idea of what fear looks like. We should talk about the book, really anything but this. Looks like nobody else is going to show up. No, really wasn’t expecting anyone else given how few people read the book. But a girl can dream, right? Sure but a girl can’t make my fellow students start to give a shit about literature, can she? No, she’d be better not to even dream about them caring. One student a year is the best you can hope for who actually care about the work, I’ve discovered, and even that’s not guaranteed. That bad? Yeah, education is a bit of a pipe dream for job satisfaction unless you learn to teach the many, educate the few, and live life between them in a calm manner. I will try to remember that when I am teaching. Have you got any more questions or did the fact that you asked the same questions today as some of what you messaged me mean that you were finished getting answers and just wanted to make sure the ship of study didn’t sink around me all alone? I couldn’t help make them want to talk but the least I could do was say something that would show them they should take an interest. I think you may have done that for at least one or two of the others, in fact. Really? Well, the discussion actually got going a few times and that’s usually a pretty good indicator of who’s going to pay attention and read the books and participate more next time so you may have a few fellow participants on Wednesday if today’s class was any indication of it, although The Star Diaries is a little more abstract and harder to put together serious thoughts about where it’s so very out there. Yeah, and it’s a commentary on a time that’s a lot farther removed from the present being back in the immediate postwar time. That’s true, too. If you’re all done with the book, then, it’s nearly twenty past so nobody else is coming. Do you want to just head home? Probably shouldn’t keep you here any longer. It’s a bit sad you stuck around to help and nobody bothered to show, though. I didn’t stick around, really. I’ve been writing most of the day. Writing? Sure, I’m working on a collection of traditional poetry, Japanese poetry, actually, although written in English. There’s not all that much out there in the haiku form that’s not translated from the Japanese so I’m putting together a collection that intersperses a couple of haiku and then a free-verse poem in the contemporary English style. Have you published poetry before? Not a collection, just a poem here and there in anthologies and magazines. I’m looking for a publisher for a novel I wrote last year, though. What’s it called? Stepping in a River Twice. It’s about returning to your childhood home as an adult and seeing things from a different perspective. I was aiming for something between an I novel and the kind of snapshot images that Bashō uses in his collections from his travels. A what novel? I novel. That’s what they call the introspective personal style of the early twentieth century Japanese novels. I didn’t know that’s what they were called. Sure, the book I told you about by Osamu Dazai is one of them. I’m not sure how much you’ll be able to relate but it’s told almost from inside his head, although that’s done a little differently in Japanese compared to the interior monologues of English authors in the twentieth century. Have you got much written on the book? I think I have eighteen haikus and thirteen other poems ready to say they’re finished and another dozen or so of each that I’m still polishing. Mind if I read some of them when you’re ready to show them to someone? Sure, you’re welcome to read the ones I’m finished with now if you’re not in a rush to head off. No, not at all, I’m done for the day and I wasn’t expecting to leave until at least seven but even then there’s no hurry, just going home to have dinner and do a little light practicing before I fall asleep. Then I cordially invite you to accompany me back to my office for a cup of tea to celebrate our mutual survival of your first seminar, in spite of a full frontal assault and a rather awkward debate about religion. I’d be honored, Professor Dunn. After you, Miss Ross. Please do come in and have a seat. Was able to take the other two chairs back home now that the sofa arrived and it’s far more comfortable in here. Won’t you join me? Indeed I shall. I didn’t think sofas and chairs were common in Japan. Actually, you’d be surprised how much like western homes most apartments in Tokyo are. A lot smaller unless you’re very rich but sure, the furniture you’d expect in any big city. It might have been a place where people spent most of their lives on the tatami once but now that clothes and daily lives have become so much more western, it’s not something young people in Japan have much time for. I have to admit I was a bit relieved when I didn’t have to sit on the floor for meals and to hang out with people but there are definitely traditional places, too. This is pretty typical, though. You could almost fit someone’s whole apartment in my office and working at a university in Tokyo means you have something more like a coat closet with a desk and a second chair if you’re lucky but other than that there’s not much difference. Here there’s lots of space to stretch out so I made sure I got a sofa that’s long enough for me to curl up and take a nap on if I want to — once you close the door it’s not like someone’s going to walk in, anyway, and naps make you so much more productive. I’ll keep the sofa in mind if I ever get a long enough break I could fit a nap into it. Some people fall asleep in the practice rooms but I don’t think I could ever do it where someone could walk in any second and steal things while I’m asleep or worse. I’d have said the same thing but the number of times I’ve fallen asleep in airports makes me not quite so sure i wouldn’t do it anyway in spite of the rather obvious risks. Good point, although I’ve never fallen asleep at an airport, definitely on a couple of planes but never waiting for one. Always been too worried I’d miss my flight and get stuck there or somebody would steal my passport and my laptop. I’ve been pretty lucky, I’ve got to admit. There’s nothing really stopping anyone from taking your bag and walking away except that they’d probably get caught. No guarantee, though, even with all those security cameras. It does make a nice change that you can pretty much say for certain nobody’s got a knife, though. Not sure how much of a problem that is here but I did worry a lot in public places before I moved with all the stories of people in my neighborhood getting robbed and a few of them getting cut even after they gave up their money. I don’t know what I’d do in that kind of a situation cause I’m so used to taking control of situations, even if I’m scared of getting hurt I might fight back without really appreciating the risk and knowing it’s better to just give in. I think I’d probably just freeze and not be able to do anything. Yes, that’s also possible. Depends on where it happens but I have to hope neither of us ever finds out. I doubt I’ll be that lucky but it would be nice. Does seem like things are getting worse, though. By the time I’m old like you, everyone’s going to be attacking everyone else. Thanks, bitch, think you could pass over the teapot so I don’t have to stand on my ancient legs? Certainly, wouldn’t want you to break anything, grandma.
You know, if you’re drinking the tea, it makes it harder to speak. Have to wait for it to cool down so I don’t burn my tongue. You get used to that. I’m almost ready for a refill and you’re still blowing on yours. Yeah, but my tongue isn’t old and worn out yet. This reminds me of my big sister. I used to tease her so much about being older, even though there wasn’t much difference. I thought your mother didn’t have any other kids. She didn’t. Jen wasn’t really my sister biologically but she was just as close. She was Mary’s only child and when Mary took me in, Jen was the only other family I had. Of course I knew she wasn’t really my sister but that’s how we thought of each other and four years isn’t that much, especially when you are so much alike. As we grew up, it got to be pretty obvious we liked the same books, same music, mostly, although she’d get up early in the morning and put the radio on to a country station before she left so I’d have to walk across the room and turn it off. It was better than an alarm clock but it seemed awfully mean when I was ten. Do you see her often? No, not anymore. I won’t pry. I don’t talk about her much is all. I don’t know why I brought it up. We don’t know each other very well. Don’t worry about it. And you’re my teacher? It’s far into the past, Pam. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it but I’ve accepted it and keep going. Nobody really knows what happened. She went off with her boyfriend and another couple camping the weekend of her twentieth birthday to celebrate. They were drinking around the campfire and she accused her boyfriend of cheating. It turned out after that she was right but she got angry and left the campsite in the dark and started walking up a hill. Ben, her boyfriend, went looking for her when she didn’t come back but says he never found her. Eventually they all gave up looking and went back to their tent for the night. In the morning, her body was found. The official story was that she must have walked right off the side of the hill either cause she was drunk or just lost her way in the dark and didn’t see how far down it was but she cracked her head open on the rocks. Mary and I have always suspected it was Ben who forced her to jump off or even threw her off but the state of the injuries after the fall, impossible to tell and there were no witnesses. He got arrested for putting his girlfriend in the hospital a couple of years later but she refused to testify and he got off with nothing. I’m so sorry, Pat. There was nothing any of us could do but Mary told him if he came to the funeral she’d have him arrested. He didn’t come. I’ve never been sure if he was scared of the truth of what he’d done or if he was just scared how far Mary would have gone if he came but that confirmed it for me and Mary never had any doubts to start with. All Jen’s friends pretty much came to the same conclusion but without a witness or any evidence, it’s been called an accident ever since. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing that needs to be said, Pam. Bad things happen, usually because people make them happen, but time can’t go backward. I love my sister but she’s not coming back and I have to accept that. Did the guy ever get punished for the things he did? I don’t think so. I never saw him again after Jen was killed but I heard he went off to teach English in South Korea. I doubt he came back to Canada but that’s the last I heard of him. If he did come back, he definitely didn’t come home and people who start hurting women usually never stop. It makes everyone so helpless. Yes, it’s why I went away to grad school. People were kind and supportive but I couldn’t handle being treated like I was the victim instead of Jen and all through undergrad there were people who didn’t just know but it was like they pitied me. And I had to prove to myself that I could live on my own and not be afraid I’d get hurt like my sister. I survived. I can’t say I never had any pain but I’m still alive. I won’t treat you like a victim but it’s more than just sad. I know, Pam. There are things you never get over but you have to keep going or they’ll destroy your life, too. Would it be inappropriate for me to give you a hug? Probably but I won’t tell if you won’t. I’m the old one. I’m supposed to be comforting you, not here crying. I haven’t told anyone about this in years. It’s ok. Like you said, I don’t feel like I’m as young as my body is. No, I wouldn’t believe it if you said you did. Thank you. Sometimes you don’t realize how much a hug can make you feel like everything isn’t really as bad anymore. I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did that. It just. Calm down, Pam. It’s ok. You’re not the first person to kiss someone when they feel emotional. But you’re — But nothing. It’s ok. Pat, am I going to have to stop coming here? Of course not. You felt things in the moment. Please, try not to blame yourself for it. I’ll try. Why is breathing suddenly so hard? Ears silent like am underwater. Dull ringing but off in the distance. See Pat’s mouth moving, making words but can’t hear anything but a blanket of silence and church bells in the distance. My face, tingling, almost completely numb, so fast, doesn’t feel like fear, fingertips are rubber, stretching backward but can force them down, press, make a fist, no, not that way, forward, move, lift my arms, what will she think, is this what it always looks like or is this different, does it stop before this if black out, why now, felt terribly good but not sure why it happened, sudden impulse, can always control actions, never have thoughts, no desire, no need for that kind of touch, nothing at all, everyone always judges because don’t want sex, don’t want contact, just friendship and they always leave, now she’ll have to tell me to go, an odd friendship but feels more real than other people, adult friendship that doesn’t just go away but ruined it in a moment for nothing, no need for that, nobody needs that least of all me, force myself, breathe deeper, can’t swallow, what is this, no, press harder, fingers tearing themselves apart inside, bending the wrong way, bells suddenly closer, head isn’t attached properly, just doesn’t move right, can’t keep myself level, falling but don’t think am moving, sitting on a couch but flying, floating, sinking, no more balance but how much balance do you need to sit still, vision not blurry, too clear, too much detail, bright alright? Can you hear speak, say yes, don’t worry, will be over soon, have to come back, what happened, this can’t be emotion, has to be something wrong with my body, feelings can’t do this, a kiss doesn’t make you feel like you’re dying, not like this, worries aren’t this strong, fear just can’t get this bad, not even feeling afraid, just wish my body would stop, let me breathe, let me escape, why does the room look like it’s spinning, how can things be sideways, falling but not falling, can’t tell, everything swims, vision too clear but sideways, then upright, sideways again, can’t be real, has to be my mind but why, nothing but feeling, far too hot but didn’t have a fever before, can it happen so fast, don’t scream, would anything even come out if try, don’t find out, pressure, is it real, don’t know if head can take more pressure, ringing so loud, shaking, can feel my hands move, arms, shoulders shivering but too hot, much too hot, it’s like a sauna in here but nothing has changed, only much brighter, is it really brighter, there are no lights but the soft lamps, it’s getting darker outside, why would it be brighter, nothing makes sense, skin is burning inside, feels like ice, numb, tingling, what’s not numb is freezing but melting inside, no, something stabbed my head, above my left eye, black. Please wake up. Sorry, give me a minute. You’re back. Hello? I’m here. You were gone again for awhile. Can you see? No, it’s blurry. Did I fall? Yes, I didn’t want to move you. I just got my coat and put it over you so you wouldn’t get as cold. You said it happened and not to tell anyone or get help and you were breathing. It was like you were asleep. I didn’t want to get help if you didn’t want me to. Thanks. I’d much rather nobody saw me like this, even you. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. Is it getting better? Yes, my vision is clearing up. I don’t feel like I can get up, though. Can you help me back onto the sofa? That’s better, a lot better, really. It’s so dark. I haven’t touched the lamp since you fell. Still just as bright as it was before. But it’s dark outside. Well, yes, but that’s what happens when the sun goes down. I hadn’t really noticed. What time is it? Just after eleven. You mean I was out like that four hours? Yes. I didn’t want to move you or leave in case you stopped breathing or No, that’s not what I mean, I definitely wouldn’t have wanted you to get help unless I really did stop breathing or have a fit but it’s a long time. I’ve been out longer than that but it’s never happened outside my house for more than an hour or so, usually the long times are late at night when I can’t get to sleep and I’ve been up all day and most of the night already and my body can’t handle the exhaustion. Do you have any idea why it’s happened this time? Unless it’s caused by lack of sleep or serious problems going on and I don’t think either of those happened, it’s kind of random. I felt it happening for a few minutes and I think you were talking to me but I couldn’t make out the words, couldn’t hear anything but the ringing in my ears getting closer, louder, then I couldn’t take the pressure in my head and everything went black. I’m sorry, Pam. I should have done something. No. You couldn’t have done anything and it would have just been more problems if I’d had to go to hospital and they wouldn’t do anything except wait for me to wake up and tell me to go home but I’d have been in there all night to get told that. That’s what happened at the beginning. They don’t know how to make it better except to keep me so medicated I can’t think or feel anything at all and that’s not a solution, that’s just death by another name. True. Do you feel strong enough to move? My hands, sure. I don’t think I could walk or even stand up, though. There’s no rush. But it’s the middle of the night, Pat, you’re going to have to go home and so am I. Yes, that’s true, and it’s a relief that you’re not out cold on the floor but we can wait until you feel safe even if it takes awhile. Thanks. I’m just going to text Joan and tell her I had an attack and I’m going to rest for awhile. I told her I’d be home for dinner maybe eight or nine and she’s probably worried I didn’t show up. Yes, your phone fell out of your pocket. Here. I didn’t want it to get damaged so it’s been sitting on the desk the last few hours. Thanks.
[hey, i had an attack and was out cold for the past few hours. sorry i missed dinner and made you worry. going to rest for a bit before i do the drive back so it’s safe. please go to bed and i’ll see you in the morning]
[Glad you’re ok. Thought something like that must have happened when you didn’t call to say you’d be late. Be safe.]
[will do. night.]
Do you want to stretch out on the couch and rest for a bit? I can just leave you quietly and catch up on some reading if you’d like. No, please stay. It’s easier to get better quickly if I have to be alert and talk and having a friend next to me is helpful, not that it’s really been anyone other than Joan who hasn’t run away at the first sign of it but she helps me snap out of the aftermath of it. What does it feel like, waking up? It feels like I’ve woken up the morning after a car crash. When I was twelve, I was in the car with Eric coming home from school, February or March, and it was snowing pretty hard and already dark. He’d had a staff meeting and I stayed late so Joan didn’t have to come all the way out to the city to get me and I’d been working on this social studies project all afternoon. Must have been almost six and it was bad enough we didn’t even have music playing in the car. People were sliding around all over the place but I don’t think I realized just how dangerous it was cause it was years before I learned to drive. Eric was just going along slowly and most of the other cars were doing the same thing. Then all of a sudden there was this huge brown thing that ran across the road. Eric swerved to avoid it and we were lucky. He missed it but there was a truck coming the other way and it must have been going too fast. It slipped on the loose snow when the driver slammed on his brakes and the back of the truck slid out and hit the front of our car. Eric got pinned behind the wheel and had to be cut out of the car. I got out through the window on my side and I had so much adrenaline running through my body I felt like I’d run a marathon but there was no pain. Lots of little cuts from the broken glass and by the next day I discovered I had a couple of bruised ribs from the seatbelt. My face was raw from hitting the airbag but I wasn’t badly hurt. Eric broke two ribs and wrenched his shoulder but we got out of that surprisingly well. But the next morning, I thought I was dying. I wasn’t and I had no serious injuries but the adrenaline was gone and I was exhausted. I couldn’t stand up without falling over and it was like every muscle was just giving up for awhile. That was Wednesday morning. By the weekend I was feeling pretty much able to do things again and I went back to school on the Monday, or maybe the Tuesday, I can’t remember. They even took an MRI of my head in case there was some damage but it all looked fine, they said. But that’s what it feels like when I have a bad attack. For a few hours after, it’s like those days following the accident, except that I haven’t been in an accident. I’ve been here on your floor not even having to move but it’s like I’ve been hit, literally, by a truck. That’s, awful. I know but that’s what it is. Sorry you asked? No, I just wish it wasn’t so bad, that it wasn’t something you have to deal with, especially not so often. Have you had other attacks since the one you had here last week? Yeah, they’re most days. And they’re usually that bad? As bad as last week, sure. Most of them don’t send me into unconsciousness for hours except that I feel like I am too exhausted to do anything so I usually try to rest and if I can manage it, fall asleep for the night after. If not for the night, at lest a rest and a nap in the daytime. Really cuts into my practice time but there’s no point in passing out on top of my cello for the sake of a few extra hours working on a piece. No, I’d think that could be bad for you, probably bad for the cello, too. Sure, the cello’s not going to have anyone to catch it and it could crack and where would I be then in music school without an instrument? I hadn’t thought of that. I hope it’s insured. Yes, it’s insured but I would rather avoid the problem. Good call. Are you superstitious? I don’t really like the idea of Friday the thirteenth but I know that’s a bit silly, nothing else bothers me. I don’t think about it much but there’s one thing that I tend to worry about. It’s mostly because the attacks are so scary. I’m afraid that whatever I do right before the bad ones is what triggers it and the next time I’m in a situation like that, I do almost anything I can to make sure I don’t do the same actions, even though I know they didn’t cause it. But the first time I do them is so hard, I usually never get past the fear. The first time it happened when I was driving I felt it coming on, pulled over, and it was almost an hour before I passed out, and it’s never come on quickly enough to have to worry I’m not safe to drive, but I didn’t drive for months after that. Eric had to sit in the car with me the first few times with his hand a few inches from the wheel while I drove on empty side streets. I hadn’t suddenly gotten bad at driving but I was scared off my head just in case my body would take it as a sign that it could repeat its response to the same kind of situation, driving, and I’d end up having another attack, the thing I’m probably the most scared of, even if I never really feel afraid of them, per se. That makes sense. They say you have to get back on the bike if you fall off or it will just get scarier and you’ll never ride again. Exactly. I mean, I’m not asking you to tell me about your sister again. It’s not like I forget everything. But that’s the first time in a long time I’ve given someone a hug other than Joan and I don’t want to panic the next time I try. And, you know, you know what happened so at least if it went wrong and I had another attack, which I’m sure won’t happen but it’s what my rather broken mind says is guaranteed to, you’d know what’s going on. So. Don’t be silly, Pam, I get it. Your mind is going to convince you that the next time you hug someone, you’ll end up spending hours on the floor in pain and you have to prove it to your mind that it’s a ridiculous idea or it will just grow and get worse over time. Exactly. Then let’s get rid of that right now. Don’t shiver, don’t cry, just keep your eyes open, it’s nothing, completely ordinary actions, not linked to fear, not linked to panic, nothing to worry about. Is that ok? I feel like I’m shaking. You are. Is that because you’re afraid even though nothing has happened? Yes, afraid deep down somewhere but not afraid rationally, you understand? Sure. Will that pass off? I think so. I certainly hope so. It’s just silly. It’s not a scary thing to do this. It couldn’t ever be frightening, I don’t think, but my mind is just so broken. No, I don’t think your mind is broken. You’re just more receptive to things than most people and it makes you react like this. Yes, that’s about right. Know we shouldn’t be holding each other like this. She knows it, too, doesn’t she, but she’s being a friend. She’s the first person who hasn’t run away since this started. Want to make her understand this is meaningful, not just another everyday kindness, something other people don’t even give after months of being around and sharing experiences. Crazy thoughts. No, she’s not giving me a hug because she wants to be with me. She’s far too old. Am not interested in those things but feel so grateful and it feels so natural, behaving badly without any limitations, no expectations because nobody else can see, where does trying to make the fears stop and being me begin, does it ever cross that line, is there a line, can’t tell, just want to see what she will say, make her laugh, smile, surprised, no more talk of fear, no more worries, drive home and sleep, just one quick kiss and we can both laugh. Once is all it takes but she didn’t resist, didn’t pull away, didn’t laugh, just want to feel something, freedom, she understands me, isn’t afraid of me, knows I’m broken and will still talk to me, once again, longer, how can it be long enough to think while it’s happening, mind racing, press tighter, has it been hours or only seconds Are you sure Yes I’m No I don’t know Yes I’m sure, just once, it’s It’s ok it’s not ok but is it better or worse, don’t know.
[Tuesday September 11]
Morning after, everyone told me would feel more grown up, thought they were right, thought it would be even stronger as an adult but nothing, no regret, no anything, just relief, maybe not as broken, wanted this to happen, in the moment, at least, maybe all along, wanted the experience, no desire, no emotion, not about that, not about the lust, the sensations, barely felt a thing, stimulation, but it’s nothing, not even interesting, not desirable, but the closeness, having a friend, is she a friend, has to be, can’t be anything else, wouldn’t be that much of an age difference, who cares if she’s teaching, she could be a lawyer, doctor, whatever, wouldn’t make a difference, am an adult, so is she, just has a job that find interesting, too, makes sense, why would people have a problem, don’t understand, makes sense if people are silly, get pressured, use my body and give me marks in return, terribly wrong, so much possible damage, abuse of the body, abuse of the system, no, definitely wrong, but not this, couldn’t be wrong but people will say it is, don’t know if it could happen again, but it could, nothing went wrong, nothing was bad, just people wouldn’t like it, nothing to them, but they’d complain, would get her in trouble, me too but mostly her, say she was using her position to make me think am in love, but not in love, can’t feel that, just have nothing, not in lust either, don’t need it, don’t want it, just want to hold and be held, feel safe but make her feel safe, too, can feel she’s broken, not like me, nowhere near as much as me, but we could help each other heal, fix each other while we can’t fix ourselves, worth living with a secret that’s not really wrong. it will never happen again except that it will. get up, already late, no, not late, feels late but still eight minutes to seven, not even time for my alarm, why am awake? Take this extra time to get up and have a shower, no time last night, just came home and got in bed, even Eric had the tv off and the door closed when walked past, not a sound, hope they didn’t hear me come in but they probably heard the door close, not that Joan will comment, just ask about the attack, didn’t have enough hours of sleep but all those hours on the floor, they’re just as good as most of the hours get in bed, anyway, since most of those are the same thing, just a little softer. That rug isn’t hard, though, maybe that really is like sleeping in bed, don’t feel as tired as thought would feel, after effects of being connected to someone, real friendship makes you feel rested or just all those hours adding up and it’s what my body is used to so it feels normal, can’t tell. You were up early this morning after a late night. Yeah, but I was out after the attack from just after seven until I sent you the message so it was like an extra four hours in bed. You know it’s not restful. Neither is sleeping. I wish I could help you. I know but we’ve done everything we can and they still don’t even know why it happens, never mind what to do about it and a nice hot shower and some breakfast will clear away the cobwebs. Is that an apple pie? Not exactly. It’s baked apple and figs with oatmeal. I thought you could use something nice for breakfast and I have been wanting to try this out for a couple of weeks now so it should give you some extra energy. Smells like cinnamon. Yes, there’s some of that. You’re sure this isn’t desert? It could be, I guess, but there’s no sugar or anything and it’s all healthy things, oats, figs, apples, cinnamon, a little honey, some water and bake it. When did you get up? I don’t think it was much before six. You really shouldn’t be talking to me about not getting enough rest. Probably true. This is amazing. Don’t expect it every morning, Pam. I won’t. It’s nice, though. You will have to make it next time. Sure, but it’s going to have to be a weekend before I have the time away from practicing and reading to do it. Don’t worry. My schedule is the same as ever and I know it’s important that you don’t run out of energy, especially when you’re spending so much of it fighting against fear. If only we could get an answer to that and have a normal life. Please don’t say things like that, Pam. We might not have normal lives but they’re our lives and we do our best every day and eventually we’ll see through to the light at the end of the road. You can’t just try and hope, Joan. I’m not saying try and hope. I’m saying get through today without wondering how bad tomorrow’s going to be. Ok. Have you had any of this? I’m just going to now, was waiting for the pot of coffee to brew. You didn’t make coffee when you got up? I did but I drank that already and the apples were too hot to eat a few minutes ago, anyway. What have you got today? Many classes? None, actually, well, not normal classes, at least. I’ve got a day that’s mostly devoted to practicing cause Mondays have no time for it at all — surprisingly little time to practice when you’re in music school, oddly enough. Yes, you’d think they’d keep class time to a minimum. I have extra sessions with Zhang, though, so that takes up some time. He’s ok with that? It was his idea. He pretty much insisted and I’m not sure about all the composition stuff he wants me to do but if it means I can be a better musician then it’s worth it. As long as he doesn’t think it’s a waste of his time. He doesn’t have to do it and if he doesn’t want to, he can always stop. It was his idea. Sounds good. I have instrumental ensemble in the afternoon, three-thirty, but nothing until then. Are you going to go in and practice or stay home? I left my cello at the school. Have to go in today for the rehearsal anyway so might as well head out for the day. I’ll probably get a ride in with Eric if he doesn’t mind cause I’m done at six-thirty or maybe even earlier cause it’s the first rehearsal and it’s a huge group, not even all music students but I’m guessing practically it’s just about all people inside the school. Eric, are you coming for breakfast? Yes, I’m here. Pam’s finished about six-thirty, what time are you coming home? Should be done about six. This is the first choir practice of the year so it might be a little shorter but it’s supposed to go to six. Do you want to ride in together? Yes, if you don’t mind. I was thinking about it anyway but, last night. It’s ok, your mother told me. Have you put your cello in the car? It’s already out there at school. Got a big enough locker? Yeah, they give you a big one if you have an instrument. So much nicer than having to carry it around when it’s not time for a rehearsal. I can imagine. Not many cellos around the school, though. No, I’m not sure if anyone there plays. Sure, we have a few people who’ve asked about string groups this year when we did the signup for the band. I’ve thought about it but I don’t want to take on another ensemble and Geraldine is just as set as ever on doing nothing at all outside her teaching. I love the music but it’s never made sense to me that she’s not interested in having any part of the music life of the school when she’s the music teacher. Guess she’s tired of having to listen to people play the same three pieces all day on those ancient keyboards they’ve got and mess around on the drums. What did she think teaching music was going to be like in a school? I don’t know. Never took any of those awful classes but I don’t think they make it very obvious that it’s going to be hell on earth before people get their education degrees. And what else are most of those people going to do? It’s not like they’re all smart enough to do anything else and we don’t mind so much if idiots become teachers. Yeah, I’m lucky there’s only one in the math department this year, we were finally able to get rid of Harris and he’s gone out west to be with his family, not a moment too soon. The new woman we’ve got is even talking about starting an after school math club again that we haven’t had in a decade. That’s great. Is she young? Yeah, straight out of her degree but she did a masters before coming back to study education and her interest in the subject really shows. The students seem to have taken well to her. Think it’s really a change for the better but even if she were barely competent it would be better than Harris teaching half his classes the wrong procedures and messing them up for their exams. This is really good. What is it? Figs and apples. Good. Desert for breakfast is a winner in my books. No sugar in the recipe and no oil. Then I’ll have another bowl, please. Pam? Yeah, wouldn’t mind some more, either.
See you both this evening. Yeah, shouldn’t be any later than seven. Be safe.
Are you feeling better after last night? A little. Maybe it’s just the stress of starting at university and everything last week and this is more like the last day of the first week than the second day of a new one cause we started on Wednesday. I understand. You have to keep going with all the practice and one week just runs into the next. Yeah, It’s going to be a long semester if it keeps up like that but that’s only until Christmas. Right, you get a much longer break than we do. I think I’m going to need it if this is what my mind and body are doing after only the first week. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed before. Is that what’s making the attacks so severe lately? I’m really not sure. I’ve never known what made them happen in the first place and sometimes they get worse or better but they just keep coming. Are they more often or just having a worse effect? I don’t think they’re even as often as they were last year but it hasn’t been long enough to tell one way or the other. No, but if the pressure of music school is making them worse, are you sure it’s going to be worth it when you could do an academic degree without all the practical work and only have to spend a few hours a week the whole time with no real pressure and get a qualification out of it? Yes. You mean yes, it’s worth it or yes, it’s a lot of pressure? It’s worth it. This is what I want to do and if I let the fear stop me then I might as well give in and die right now. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make it sound so much like a matter of life and death. It is, though. I have to live my life or the fear and panic have won not just the battles for part of my days but the whole war. I guess but I don’t want to see you have to fight so hard. Me neither but it’s better than losing the fight and giving up the life I want to have. And when you finish and start teaching at the end of it all? I don’t know but I think the fear and panic will be just as bad. I can’t believe for a second it’s going to suddenly end just because I’ve had success at something. The only thing that’s ever going to make it get better is probably finding a way not to be afraid. But you don’t know what you’re afraid of so how can you stop being afraid of it? Actually, it’s not really like that. I don’t know if I’ve ever really been able to explain it well but it’s not that I don’t know what I’m afraid of. It’s that I know I’m afraid of nothing. Being afraid of nothing should be easy enough to stop doing, though, because there’s nothing to be afraid of. That’s exactly the problem. Because there’s nothing in particular that I’m afraid of, the fear is by definition irrational, right from the beginning, so I can’t use reason to stop it, only my feelings, and my feelings tell me that I’m terrified, shaking in fear, numb and tingling, and so overwhelmed I’m going to keep losing consciousness because my body can’t handle the pressure my mind is putting on it. There has to be and end to it, though. You can’t keep this up forever and you shouldn’t have to put up with that every day. No, I shouldn’t but nobody’s been able to give me even a strategy to fight back with except what you said, that I have to tell myself there’s nothing to be afraid of, which I already know. It just doesn’t feel like there’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s like I’m being chased by a wild animal but there’s no animal, only the sensation of it. That’s terribly sad. Is there nobody who can help you stop thinking like that? I don’t know if there is but if there is, I haven’t found them yet. Don’t give up looking. I know you’re working so hard to make a life for yourself and you deserve to feel like it’s happening. Your mother and I are proud of what you’re doing but I guess that doesn’t fix the fear. No, but it does give me the strength to keep fighting. That’s something. If you get out early just send me a text, otherwise I’ll head over when choir’s finished and wait for you in one of the empty spaces around here so you can come out when you’re ready. I’ve got half that sudoku book in my briefcase so I’m not in too much of a rush as long as we get back before your mother gets worried about us. I know she’s going to be rushed off her feet making sure she’s got dinner cooked for us when she gets home. Yeah, but she wants to do it and I wouldn’t want to go home and have to cook so I’d be on sandwiches after very long days all the time. Yeah, and I’d be on a lot of years of beans on toast. Hope the choir sounds good this year. Thanks, see you this evening. Not sure ever thought would be so relieved to have a day of mostly uninterrupted practice ahead when was at high school and class was like a way of procrastinating doing real work. Practice room at the end on the right, just before the storage room for all the extra percussion equipment so there’s only sound getting through the walls on one side, even if they pretend they’re soundproofed when they’re definitely not close. Everyone else seems to just pick one of the rooms with a grand piano if they can get one or whichever one is empty closest to the other end of the hallway by the music students’ society so they can take a break every hour — or ten minutes — on the couches. Not sure how many of them are interested in putting in serious work, although some of the music coming from the other rooms definitely makes it sound like they’ve been doing a lot of it, just don’t see much of it on the faces in class or half asleep on the couches. Never get tired of a piece when am playing it like would do listening to the same thing over and over. Is that what makes me able to be a musician or does everyone have that in them and only discovers they can practice something for weeks every day and not get bored of it when they try? People who don’t really want to make music their lives always talk about how much time we spend on practicing things and how bored we must be but haven’t really felt it, even if have spent most of my life bored off my head with everything else have had to put up with, especially in school. Of course, if they can spend their lives thinking sex is interesting and worth working to get, maybe their idea of boredom has some very different boundaries. Why do the fourth and fifth sections still sound like am learning them when haven’t made a mistake all morning. They just don’t seem to be flowing. Make a note, ask Zhang tomorrow. Really miss having Kellie to bounce this stuff off whenever but seems silly to go looking for Zhang now on the day between the two meetings, will just wait for tomorrow and work the rest of it, hope that part starts to sound a bit more like it’s natural after a few more times through it. Just sounds like notes but not a line. Not sure if you’re all here or even all registered, although you should be by now, but I want to welcome you all to a new year. For our new members, I’m Mary Hall. Before we get started, I want to make sure I tell you before you leave today, make sure you check off your name on the attendance sheets to let me know you’ve been at practice so when we get to the end of term, you’ll get credit for attending. Instrumental ensemble might not technically be an orchestra but we’re going to be doing work that’s written for at least small orchestras. If you haven’t seen the newsletter for this month, mass choir is doing a concert the middle of November that we’re going to be playing with them for so you’ll be doing Orff’s Carmina Burana and a couple of shorter pieces with the choir. We’ve got a new commission that hasn’t showed up yet to premiere at our own show the end of term, written by our own resident composer, who some of you probably know from choir, Dr Avrum Tobias. If you didn’t know he’s fairly well-known for some orchestral work and a choral setting of scripture in Yiddish — we’ve got recordings of them in the library upstairs so you might want to give his work a listen cause he’s putting together a collection of folk songs that we’re going to be starting on in a few weeks. For now, I assume my TAs have pretty much got the scores passed out for your parts of the Orff so let’s take it a little slowly from the top. Ok, it’s quarter after six and I know you’re all starting to fade so if you’ve checked your name on the list, you can all head off and get something to eat and I’ll see you next week, same bat time. How is the choir sounding? Not bad and there are almost sixty of them. We might end up with forty or fifty after the first couple of weeks, with whatever few join and the couple of dozen who disappear and that’s definitely plenty. Did you get them to do anything interesting? You remember the Lauridsen Dirait-on? Sure. We spent a while on that and then a couple of the King’s Singers arrangements of Back in the USSR and MLK. Nice. Making sure they can all read music, then? Yeah, that’s the idea, get them used to the idea of a choir and not just what they might have done in elementary from rote learning — if they’re not going to put in the work to learn the music they might want to think twice about whether they want to sing but if they’re going to keep coming, I’ll do whatever needs doing to get them to learn it. Christmas concert? There’s going to be one at the end of October where we’ll do those arrangements and a bunch of other less Christmassy stuff. Make them wait until December to perform and they’ll get bored and so will I. Yeah, goals can’t be too far away or we don’t want to work for them until they’re close and there’s all kinds of pressure. When are you doing auditions for the chamber choir? Starting them tomorrow lunchtime and some after school. Just want them to do some sight-reading and sing anything for a minute so I can figure out if they’re going to blend and how much they can do if I just give them music to learn on their own — there’s just not enough time with seven classes a day to be pounding out notes when most of them are joining to be able to do challenging rep. Got anything in mind for them? Actually, you probably haven’t heard the Rossi Odekha but we’re going to do that, Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin, that I’m a Train arrangement you sent me a recording of last year, Joio’s Open Road, a variety, no major works, at least not before the Christmas show. They’ll probably prefer the short stuff, anyway. Yeah, not going to spend all the time on a single long piece again. It sounded great last year but I could tell they were getting tired of it after all those weeks on the same thing. I probably would be, too, although we’re doing the Carmina in orchestra and that looks like it’s going to go on for ages. It’s exciting. Not all that exciting after a hundred reps. True, it’s different when it’s a group and not your own private practice, isn’t it? Absolutely — I must have played pieces of the Brahms a couple of hundred times today but it never feels like it gets old.
You two are earlier than I expected. You’ll have to wait a few minutes before it’s on the table. There’s no rush, dear. I’m going to go take a shower if there’s time. Yes, it shouldn’t take more than about twenty-five minutes, though, so don’t stay in there too long. I won’t. How was your day? Feeling tired? Yeah, might take a nap after dinner for a bit. You know if you take a nap you’ll probably sleep until morning. That’s possible but I wouldn’t mind it after all the attacks and stress so far. True. What are we having? Vegetable casserole with roasted potatoes and I’ve made a spicy peanut and tomato soup. Sounds good. I’ve just got to wash up and I’ll be back in a minute. Oh, right, we’re doing one of your favorite pieces with the choir in orchestra, you know, Orff? Great. When you know the date for the concert, let me know and I’ll get your father to pick up some tickets at the box office. I might be able to get a couple of comps, think we get one each and I doubt everyone else’s going to have someone who wants to come. Even better.
[dear dr leung, i had a thought about the assignment that you gave me for arranging a classic rock song yesterday while i was trying to pick which one to do. i have made a selection but i was originally struck by just how much like a cello duet i feel love (donna summer) already is and was wondering if you’d noticed the same thing, given that if you registered my love of classic rock, i’m imagining that you have a similar affliction. if that’s the case, i have no doubt you’ll know the song and the artist quite well and the fact that not all of it is just two interwoven lines doesn’t seem all that important because the overall feeling of the song is definitely like the synth and her voice playing back and forth off each other like it’s a pair of singers — or instruments. i’m not offering to write an extra assignment, of course, although i wouldn’t mind doing it when i have a little more time, but i definitely have plenty to get through before monday. was just wondering what you thought of the idea and if arranging this kind of thing in the future is a good idea for me, or if it’s something you would like to do, i certainly wouldn’t think of it as stealing my idea, as i would definitely like to find such a thing and be able to perform it. anyway, i shall wait for your thoughts. pam]
[Wednesday September 12]
How many of you know Leonard Bernstein? Good, that’s pretty much all of you, although those of you who don’t, this is a music school so it would be nice if you made yourselves aware of the big names in music before you show up at class, but how many of you have ever heard his works for choir? Yeah, that’s about what I expected. Almost nobody pays much attention to the choral work because he wrote so much else. But back in the sixties there was a collection of psalms that he wrote and it combines the style of his third symphony, which is mostly a modern interpretation of traditional Jewish folk tunes, or at least things that sound like traditional folk tunes, that style, and what he is probably most famous for, West Side Story. Actually, some of the music in the Chichester Psalms is stuff he was originally going to use in West Side Story but he decided against it because it was too harsh for a stage performance back then. Anyway, it has a completely different relationship with dissonance and flexible rhythms compared to the Debussy from last class and yes, some of that is probably because it’s quite awhile later that it was written but it’s also from a very different cultural background and reflects a wide range of influences. This score has a piano reduction in it but it’s meant for choir and orchestra. We’re going to take a look at it from the perspective of cultural influences, the motifs, the way it’s structured, the impression it gives, and the technical side, the part leading.
Today I’d like to continue our overview and take a brief listen to some of the pieces that typified the progression of the baroque period. Some of these will be familiar to you but it’s important not to see all baroque music as fitting a particular mold. The period lasted about a hundred and fifty years, from the late work of Monteverdi through Corelli and ending up with Bach and Handel, among hundreds of others.
Welcome back for another day of recording. I know you’ve all prepared the music I’ve given you but I had an inspiration this morning that some of you in my theory class may have shared so if you could all come up and collect the copies of the first movement of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms from the two music stands and get in the quartets I assigned you to on Monday. Now, if all of you on this side would consider yourself choir one and the other, choir two, I’m going to get you to sing through this a couple of times before we go on to the works you’ve prepared, so I can see how well your choral sight-singing is developed. Choir one, if you would begin, choir two follow along and when I call out, we’ll switch. Then we’ll come back and do it a few more times with some different groupings. Carol, would you be so kind as to play along with the reduction for today? Thanks.
[Dear Pam, I will actually see you in a couple of hours today, as I didn’t get a chance to pay attention to my emails yesterday — my cousin Liu Min has decided to take a brief stay here on her journey from New York back to visit her parents for a pair of weeks and I was acting as rather poorly prepared tour guide among the cliffs and pebbles for the day. I am of course in my office for most of the day today and she has taken herself on a day’s adventure to one of the local breweries, hopefully to return my rather ancient Jetta without incident this evening. As you may imagine, I am like you a fervent admirer of the achievements of artists in the second half of the twentieth century, playing with electronic instruments and recording devices as they are just being invented and perfected while those of us with traditional instruments have been able for centuries to rely on the experience of already achieved sound quality and form that has been perfected with the passage of time. I must admit that I am quite likely most fond of the Beatles, such intensity and flawless performances as few groups have even today been able to duplicate and never in such number. I know Donna Summer’s hit single well — I’ve never sung it myself but it is extremely popular among karaoke devotees in China, perhaps here also. I believe that is an excellent idea. If you have selected something else to arrange, which I believe you have, and you truly do not mind, it would be an interesting arranging project for me to undertake, as I do not often arrange popular music except on commission and writing for cello duet I have rarely been given an opportunity to exercise. If you have no objections, I shall commit to producing such a work before our time together on Monday. It does, upon further reflection, appear to be only appropriate that if I am to assign such tasks over and above the performance requirement to you, in good faith, and you are to complete them, I should be prepared to complete an equal number of the same concurrent with your endeavors. Thank you for the unintended encouragement to find this particular truth. I wish you the best. Z]
[dear dr leung, i would definitely be pleased if you would like to write an arrangement of it! see you this afternoon. pam]
Only twenty minutes late this time, not bad for an audition, rehearsal, and masses of shortbread and chocolate cake, still have ten minutes to get over to lit so will definitely be there before Pat. Wonder what she will say. Has she ever had to sit down the table from someone and pretend she’s only ever seen her with her clothes on? On second thought, would rather not know the answer to that. Not like would complain but some things are better left unknown and unimagined. Two people already here, think that guy’s name is André but she’s never said anything. Sit at the end of the table this time, easier to watch Pat’s face and much easier not to laugh, for the first time actually feel like might start behaving like a typical crushing schoolgirl even if don’t feel that way at all, just the situation is hilarious but know can’t say anything. Let’s try this again, who’s read The Star Diaries, honestly? May I ask why you haven’t? I got through most of it but I was trying to finish the last two stories last night and fell asleep, been in class without a break today and didn’t get a chance to catch up. So the rest of you have finished it and you’ve done everything but the last three stories. That’s excellent progress compared to Monday, I must say. I expect students to get the books read but, in reality, I know that in spite of expectation, it often doesn’t happen. Hopefully that means we can have a more fruitful discussion today and, perhaps, we won’t have to deal with anyone being disrespectful for the rest of the term. The only thing I’m going to say before we start the discussion is to give you a brief introduction to the author so you’ll have a platform for our discussion. Stanislaw Lem was, as I’m sure you’ve all discovered by now, a Polish writer. He was born just after the First World War in 1921 and lived until all of our lifetimes, didn’t die until 2006. Now, for what you may not have found out. He was many things, one of which was a doctor, which certainly explains some of the content in this book, and he had what he himself described as an obsessive interest in technology and what we think of as the hard side of science fiction — new worlds, new types of life, not the kind of science fiction that modifies our world slightly, more one that replaces it with something completely alien. He’s not by any stretch the first novelist to be a convert to atheism after being raised in a religiously practicing family but he’s one of the first to actively speak about how much he couldn’t correlate the hatred and injustice of the Second World War with any sort of spirituality, not just that it made no sense because of its lack of scientific merit. He was racially Jewish but his family, because of forged papers, was able to pass as Christians and escape being sent to one of the death camps. Just after the war, he published his first novel, as expected a work of science fiction in Polish, and eventually wrote The Star Diaries in ’57, by which point he was living in Kraków, part of communist Poland. The rest of his life is interesting and you’re welcome to read about it but it’s not all that relevant to the book we’re looking at today so, in the interests of time, we’ll move on. Does anyone have any thoughts on the book to begin? They may have read the book, although don’t believe it for a second most of them did, but they’re still just as quiet. At least have some questions in mind. So Pinta and Panta. Pinta is supposed to be a mock version of China where we’ve skipped over the dragon and everyone wants to become the other stereotypical symbol of Chinese culture, the fish, assumedly a flying fish, given the fact that these are all cultures that are able to venture into space. And that would mean that we’re talking about Mao’s China, nearly half a century after the rise of the brutal communism that took hold there but long before the country recovered to the point of serious economic power. So if that’s the case, would that mean that Panta is the Soviet Union or is it Poland, because both were under totalitarian but far less offensive versions of communism — not that Stalin was particularly friendly, especially to Jews like Lem, but compared to what was happening in China, it was definitely a step up on the human rights ladder. Does anyone have a view on this, think I’m right with the comparison or the allegory or is a cigar just a cigar and a science fiction novel not necessarily a series of comparisons of existing world orders? Well, it seemed to me that it was definitely something in the real world or the descriptions could have gotten a lot more definite. It was like he was trying to allude to it without getting so specific he couldn’t deny it later. Yeah, that definitely was what started me on that line of thinking. I think it’s probably Poland, since that’s where he could have expected most of his readers to be from and it would make sense he would be careful making any sort of comparison to the government there that was already locking up and shooting people on a pretty regular basis. Sure, that makes sense but I wonder if that would mean that you were right about the symbolism of the fish but not the country it represents. The USSR was close enough that he’d definitely have known a lot of what was going on there so maybe it’s Pinta that’s supposed to be Stalin’s regime and Panta’s Gomułka’s in Poland. Didn’t actually bother to find out anything about Polish leaders in the 50s, wonder if he’s Polish or just very good at Pub Quizzes. That could definitely make sense, although it wouldn’t have been all that strange that Chinese communism was talked a lot about in eastern Europe to show that it’s a worldwide struggle that’s being won and not just one for Slavs and countries on the edges of the Tsar’s old empire. Is fish a big cultural symbol in either of those, though? Good point, I’ll jump in and answer that one cause it’s a little obscure, but during the Soviet era, meat was a lot harder to get, especially after the war but even later as agricultural production was focused heavily on grain and there wasn’t enough of that. So the importance of fish, something that was already quite popular in a country with so much coastline, became even more present, with Soviet fishermen bringing in a lot more fish than farmers who had to live under the thumb of the government, produced most other food, only just enough to avoid getting shot, usually with awful supplies of seeds and fertilizer. In Poland, fish was always a huge part of the cultural store of food so it’s not that surprising that Lem would draw on something that’s part of a culture he grew up in, especially as it’s a symbol both of survival and of the failure of the centralized economy of the USSR. Stop. Not now, wait until it’s over, only another twenty minutes, they can’t see, will be just like high school, people talking, will make me relive the testing, discovery, already know the answers, that nobody has any, no way out, no solutions, only pain and the fear gets worse other thoughts to share on classroom is lit as if people’s faces are glowing, so close can see the thoughts in their eyes but looking at them from a distance, myself from afar, not participating in my own presence, separate from everything, can’t feel, is this what it is like to be very high, wonder sometimes, if it is, why anyone would want to do this intentionally but they talk about separating yourself from reality, allowing things to disappear, don’t understand, just want to be within myself, not be forced to retreat from life, faces no longer glowing, clear, looking at the room from above, outside, nothing is clear, face completely numb, fingers pressing against the table but just feel the burning, not the touch of the wood on the palms, waves of terror flow through me, or is it just the sensation of the blood pulsing in my head, no longer sure, can’t scream, pressure behind the eyes tearing my head apart, blackness. Awake? I saw her eyes move just now. She may be in shock, miss, don’t be surprised if she doesn’t know what’s happened. She’s had this happen before, for years. I’m just making sure you know she might take a little time to act normally. Who is that, everything is still black but feels different, cold, dry, not the same as it was before. How long has it been since was in class, what do they think, what could Pat possibly have told them, she wouldn’t be able to know anything about this without telling them some things she can’t talk about, could get into trouble for not calling an ambulance the first time, no idea what could happen to her for that, even if it would have been against my wishes, she couldn’t possibly have known that, will have to talk to her about what to do when it’s in a public place like that, wait, where is this, it can’t be at school, not in the seminar room, must have been hours. Hello? Yes, Pam, I’m here. Your mother will be back soon. Pat? Yes, you’ve had us all terribly worried. I can’t see anything. That’s ok, just try to rest, you’re entitled to come back slowly after that. After what? I just had another attack, that’s all. What’s going on? Pam, you had another attack and then started to have seizures. We were going to wait a while for you to come back but when you went into that, one of the students had to call an ambulance. You’ve been here ever since. How many hours has it been? Pam, it’s Tuesday, you’ve been unconscious for six days. Fuck off, it’s not nice to mess with me when I’ve had an attack, you know. I’m sorry, it’s really Tuesday. Your mother’s been here since a couple of hours after you collapsed and your dad, too. I’ve come over to check on you every day. Your dad is teaching but your mother hasn’t left for more than a few hours at a time. You’ve never been alone. What happened? That’s all I know. I think your mother will have some more answers when she gets back, should be any minute now. She left about two hours ago, just after I got here, so she could get a shower and some lunch and come back to sit with you for the rest of the day. That’s pretty much been the routine. I stay for a few hours and keep you company and talk to you while your mother gets a break and comes back and talks to you until your dad comes and eventually goes home, then she falls asleep in the night in one of the chairs. She wouldn’t hear of going home to sleep while you were unconscious in a hospital ward. I feel so tired but you said I’ve been asleep for almost a week, don’t know how that’s possible. You know as well as I do that being unconscious isn’t exactly a way to rest. Too right. So I just blacked out like usual but I had a fit in the classroom? Yeah, that’s it. By the time the ambulance came, you’d had a couple more but nothing had really changed. You were still breathing but it was pretty shallow, then they took you over here and did some tests. I came over and so did some of the students, to make sure you were going to be ok, but they wouldn’t really tell us anything. The rest of them went off shortly after and I stuck around to talk to your father, who showed up about twenty minutes after I did, and your mother came. You’ve got to know my parents pretty well, eh? Sure, they’re a bit more tense than under normal circumstances I’m sure but I don’t think there’s much difference from how you talked about them that first day in my office. I didn’t think I said much. No, but you said enough for me to understand they’re the kind of parents who would stand by you — which is exactly what they’ve done. Didn’t they think it was weird that you’d want to stick around a hospital to see me? Actually, no. Your father told me that he had a student collapse in one of his classes in his first year teaching and he went and saw her every day until she got out of hospital. I didn’t know that. Well, he might not have thought much about it since then, but I guess he understands that some teachers really care about their students. Yes, I guess we could call it that. Oh, Pam, you don’t think I’m just here because of what happened in my office, do you? No, I didn’t think that at all, just that us getting close isn’t exactly the norm for a student and a prof, even if that hadnt’ happened. You’re like my best friend. Yes, that’s pretty much how I’ve been thinking of it but I haven’t said as much to your parents. I’m not sure they’d understand. Actually, they might get it rather well. They’ve never paid much attention to age differences or what society thinks is appropriate. I have never really been able to relate to people my own age and most of the ones I have connected with over just about anything have been my parents’ friends. They’d see it as perfectly natural that I’d be able to have a friendship with you — you’re kind and we can talk about things that are interesting. Joan says that’s all you need and the package the person comes in is irrelevant. Well, I’m not sure if my body is completely irrelevant. No, I wouldn’t say it is but you know that’s not the kind of relevance she means. True. I just got a text from your dad saying he’s on his way over from the school now so he’ll be here in maybe five minutes. And your mother’s on her way back for sure. Actually, I think that’s her in the hallway coming now. Can you see any better? No, it’s still completely black but maybe she’ll know why. And it doesn’t frighten you? I’d probably be shaking if I couldn’t see. I’m used to it. That’s not unusual after an attack and I’ve never been out for more than half a day before. It happens maybe one out of ever seven or eight times so I’ve spent so many hours not being able to see. It’s not pleasant but it’s not that frightening after the first few times because you get used to the fact that it’s probably going to come back. Makes sense. I might love audiobooks but there’s something about being able to connect with the world I think I’d go crazy without. It’s actually quite relaxing not to have all the light and glare for awhile, although if it was going to go on for a long time, I’d probably start to get pretty pissed about it. Not surprised. Is that Pam’s voice I hear in here? Joan, you’re back! Pat’s been telling me what happened. I’m so sorry. Don’t be silly, there’s nothing to be sorry about. But you’ve been sleeping here for a week and not even going to work. You’re my only daughter. I’m not going to have you lying in a hospital bed and waking up alone. Pat has been kind enough to stay with you for a few hours so I could go home and get cleaned up every day. Yes, she was telling me that, too. I can’t see. They said that might be the case. You’ve had quite a few seizures and you stopped breathing for a few minutes that first night so it might take a little time before all your senses start working again. I know but I’m so exhausted. Do you want us to let you sleep? I don’t think I could until I get home. Well, I’m not sure how long it might be before that can happen. Don’t worry, I can wait a few hours for a nap. I mean, they said they’re going to want to do some tests and keep you for observation now that you’re awake. Really? But they’ve done all of this before. Not since you’ve had seizures. That changes everything for you, Pam. They might be able to figure out what’s going on and do something about it. They’ve been trying that for years. I’ve got no faith in these people. Neither do I but at least we have to let them make sure you’re safe enough to be released and not keep having seizures, though. Ok but I’m not going to stay in here forever. No, I won’t let them keep you here indefinitely — you made a decision years ago to live your life with the risk instead of staying in here and giving up everything else. I’ve been talking to your cello tutor, too, and he said to pass along his best wishes when you woke up. I gather he’s been rather worried that you suddenly disappeared after being in contact with him earlier in the day last Wednesday. Yeah, I was supposed to see him less than an hour later and I guess I didn’t show up, eh? No, that wasn’t really a choice you could make. They’ve called in the specialist to see to you now that you’re awake but he wasn’t on today so it might be another couple of hours before he can get in. I’m going to check on what they want to do test-wise. I’ll be back in a few minutes. I’m a little ashamed to have you see me like this. It’s not just intimate. I am so helpless. Don’t worry about it. I just want to see you get better. Thanks. So what have I missed? You mean, what’s happened the last week? Not much. There was a plane crash in the middle east, a hurricane in Florida, and some asshole pulled the fire alarm on Monday during my manga class and they still never caught them. So just a typical week? Except for a couple of hours in a hospital room talking to you as if you could respond, sure. You talked to me? Yeah, they said it would help you to come out of it if you heard familiar voices. Your parents have been having conversations with you. I didn’t know what to say so I just read out loud most of it. Really? I can’t picture Eric having silent conversations but Joan has quite the imagination so it’s probably been quite loud in here. I wouldn’t doubt it. She brought in some of her poetry on the weekend and your dad and I sat and listened while she read it to you. It’s very traditional but it’s beautiful work. I told her that but I think she just thought I was being polite, you know, an English lecturer telling someone they write well is such a cliché, it’s hard to make people understand you’re telling the truth as well as being polite, since you’d do that anyway. But it seems to have worked eventually. I know she was talking to you half the morning and I read you a couple of chapters before you woke up. What were you reading me? Penance, the last book we’re doing in class for the term. It’s one of my favorites so I thought I’d share it with you so I could stop having to worry. It’s comforting to go back to a work you really love when life gets messy. Shit, that’s right, if it’s Tuesday, I’m a couple of books behind already in class. You know, I don’t think your lecturer is going to hold that against you and she might even believe you if you tell her you’ve been unconscious in hospital and need some time to recover. You shut up. Ok, just saying, though. I know. I don’t want to be stuck in here. I’ve spent half my life now fighting against this and making sure I kept going every day anyway. I’m not giving up just because there were seizures. I’m already terrified to do anything in case I might have to stop part way through so it’s nothing new to me. I get that but if you don’t take care of your body, it might stop letting you do things altogether so please promise me you’re not going to do something silly and rush out of here before you’re ready. No, mom, I’ll stay safe. You little. What, don’t want my mother to hear you call me a bitch? No, that wouldn’t go over well, I don’t think. Probably not, honestly. But not for the reason you might think. With all the love and caring and everything, you’d think she was easy going about everything but even the gentlest of swearing drives her crazy. I would never have guessed. No, that’s often the problem. I had a friend who used to curse like a sailor and she couldn’t figure out why my mother cringed around her until I explained. She kept her language clean after that and there was never a problem. Good to know. I didn’t even pay attention to what the books are for next week. I was just going to start one of them tonight, well, Wednesday night after I got home. This week, you mean? Well, I read you a little of one but I doubt you’d remember it. No, I’m sure I wasn’t really here but it’s good you’re practicing your reading, Pat. I know how useful a skill that is in your line of work. What, is she being unkind to you after all the time you’ve spent reading to her? Joan, I didn’t hear you come back. I only just walked in. Dr Ramanujan is going to be here in about an hour and a half. He was off on a hike and had to walk all the way back to the trailhead when he got the call. They’re going to send you down for an MRI soon, whenever the machine is free. Great, after a week unconscious, spending half an hour in a round coffin sounds just peachy. Have to make sure there’s no swelling or anything, Pam. Better to find out now than have to come back, isn’t it? Yeah. It’s not like I can see whether the ceiling is six feet or six inches from my face, anyway. No vision yet? Nothing but my fingers are starting to feel a little more normal and I’m pretty sure I’ve got feet again. That’s progress. Eric’s on his way up, too. He’s just downstairs waiting at the parking garage for a space to open up. He texted me a minute ago but I think he came right away from the school so that was fast. Sure, you didn’t need to all rush over here. Not like I’m going anywhere. No, but we were terribly worried. You are taking this all Lying down? Not what I was going to say but sure. You’re so calm. I’ve been waking up after these things almost every day. You might have had a week to worry about the possibilities but I haven’t and it feels just like every time. The only thing that is annoying me is that it’s taking so long for my vision to show up again. I’m sure it will come back. You know as well as I do there’s no way to know that for sure but I can’t do anything about it until they run some tests and it’s nice not to have so much pain every time I see a bright light.
You’re finally awake. Sure but I hear you rushed over from school so fast there wasn’t even any parking. Yes but I was so relieved you’d woken up it didn’t matter. Aren’t you supposed to have a choir practice? It’s almost eight at night, Pam. I was just sitting there marking some papers after rehearsal waiting for your mother to head back. She was going to pick me up at the school on her way here. How did you get here, then? Debbie let me borrow her car and went home with Kevin. They live two streets apart and I said I’d have it back by the morning for her. Thank her for me, would you? I will but you’ve had the whole staff praying for you. Lot of good that’s done but I’m sure it’s the thought that counts. Yes, I wasn’t going to tell them how much you’d think that was a waste of time. No, I wouldn’t say that. So what’s the news?
You mean she can’t see? No, dad, but I can definitely hear. Sorry, I mean is that normal? It’s something that happens to me every week or two when I wake up from an attack. It usually comes back after maybe half an hour. It’s been longer this time but I’m also not usually out for almost a week. Right. Have they run any tests yet? No, just waiting for them to take her down for an MRI. That’s good, right, that they’re taking it seriously? You know they’ve done this all before, though. I know but maybe they’ll find something they missed. I’m not sure there’s really anything to find but I’ll let them run the tests before I demand to be let out of bed. Thank you. We would be rather worried if they didn’t do everything they could. I’m going to head home if there’s nothing you all need? Thank you, Pat. We’re very grateful. Oh, don’t be silly, I’ll check in tomorrow and see how you’re doing. See you tomorrow. I hope you’ll be seeing lots by then, Pam. Night. With my eyes like this it’s night all the time. You know she’s been here every day? Yes, she told me. I don’t know if you’ve mentioned her before. Not sure if I have. She’s my English prof but we’ve been talking after class a lot and she’s someone I can actually relate to and she writes poetry and only just moved here so it’s more like having a friend than a teacher. I’m glad, we can all use someone who understands. She’s adopted, too. And a teacher, sounds like you a decade from now except you want to do this in music, unless you’ve changed your mind while you were asleep. No, don’t think I had a single thought the whole time and you know I’m not going to change my mind. She’s a good influence, though, I’m sure. You could say that. I’m sorry to interrupt but you’re scheduled for a scan downstairs. You don’t need to do anything. We’re just going to head down there now. I’m just going to disconnect these cables so we can move you and you’ll be back here in about forty minutes. Your visitors are welcome to wait here if they like or they can head down to the coffee shop? We’ll just wait here. No problem, I’ll have her back not too long after nine. If you both leave the room, just remember you’ll have to wait for one of the nurses to let you back in because it locks automatically. That’s ok, we’re not going anywhere. Please keep your arms by your sides. We don’t want you to hurt yourself on your way to the scanner.
It’s lovely to see you awake, Pamela. It’s just Pam. Sure, I’m Anoop Ramanujan and I’ve been your specialist for the past six days. They tell me you’re feeling much better, is that the case? Yeah, you could say that. I’m awake and that’s better than being unconscious. I don’t feel too bad at all, actually, just really tired. That’s a good sign if you’re not having any pain, means there shouldn’t be much risk of pressure buildup or anything. I’m waiting for your MRI scans to get to me and they should be here any minute but the technician would have called me right away if there was anything we needed to be aware of urgently almost as soon as the scan was done. It was mostly a precaution in case there was pressure from the seizures but it wasn’t likely. So what do you think I should do? We’re going to keep you in for observation for a little while and make sure you don’t have any more of these attacks. That’s not likely to happen, Doctor. I usually have at least one a day. You have seizures every day and this is the first time I’m seeing you here? No, I have attacks like that every day without the seizures and I’ve been in here dozens of times and they can’t seem to do anything except give me tranquilizers and then I can’t live at all and they don’t make things better. I see. I’m more worried about the seizures at the moment. Well I’m not worried about them at all and I wish people would start to pay attention to the things that are making my life a living hell and concentrate less on something that’s happened once. Seizures are a serious medical issue, you have to realize I have a responsibility to keep you safe. You have a responsibility to keep me healthy and that’s very different from safe. I don’t mind risk. I mind that my life is being destroyed by not being able to get through a day without being terrified to the point that I lose consciousness or at least can’t do anything for hours during the panic attacks. They’re not going to kill you, though. They will go away on their own and there are some medications for the anxiety. I don’t want medications for anxiety. I want to know why this is happening or I want to go home. If you can just give us a little time to investigate, I may be able to give you an answer to why it’s happening but unless you’re willing to take medication, there is little I can offer you to help with your anxiety. It’s not anxiety. It’s hours upon hours of intense panic. I’m not anxious. I’m unable to exist because I’m so scared and it stops me from breathing or thinking. What are you afraid of? Never mind. Forget I said anything. Just tell me when I can get out of here. We’re not going to keep you all that long, only a couple of weeks until we have some answers. You’ll have scans and regular bloodwork done periodically through the days and we can look at starting some medication to limit the attacks. No. I want to be out of here as soon as possible and I’m not taking any medication. I’m sorry but that’s going to be up to your parents to decide. Actually, no, I’m eighteen and I am perfectly capable of making those decisions for myself. That being said, what would your decision be, dad? If she doesn’t want medication, I’m going to respect her choice. If she’s having a seizure or needs surgery, you’ll have to do whatever you need to stop it and keep her alive but apart from that, she can make her own decisions about medication and I think what you’ve heard is pretty clear as to where she and both Joan and I stand on the issue. If you think she needs to be here longer than a day or two, we can discuss what tests she needs and why they can’t be done as an outpatient but I understand she wants to come home and I know I’d feel the same way. Ok, Mr Ross, no new medication but I have to caution you that these so-called attacks may get worse without treatment. If they get worse, I’ll have to give it some thought. For the moment, unless someone can tell me why they’re happening and what they can do about it rather than just getting me doped up so I can think, I’ve made my choice. Your scans should be ready by now, I believe. I’ll be back shortly but for now, just try to get some rest. You’ll be here a couple of days anyway so tomorrow we can talk about what kind of testing you will need to get a more conclusive diagnosis and what we can do to make sure you remain safe from here on in. Thank you, Doctor.