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Sunday: Cancer, Chatter, Sonatas and Interludes

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 29, 2018

Ran across a wonderful post by my step-daughter Maya this morning. Exactly nine years ago was her last round of dealing with cancer. A tumor had been removed from her brain in 2004, but it regrew and she had chemotherapy. When that didn’t work, she had a type of radiation treatment called a Gamma Knife: several low-energy tightly-focused beams of gamma radiation (think x-rays) are focused from varying angles simultaneously on a tumor. It was followed up with a light regimen of broad-beamed radiation coupled with chemo again. It worked. She has been cancer-free since the end of all those treatments. However, on April 29, 2009, she was in a hospital again. There was a new mass showing on the scan of her brain. Turns out it was nothing more than scar tissue from the radiation treatments. A big scare for all of us, but after relatively minor surgery, she was right back home. So, she likes to remember each of these low or high points in her life. This is what she said:

Choroid plexus carcinoma papilloma: It took me a long time to remember this term, even longer to understand it & even longer to appreciate the significance of it in my life!!!
Choroid plexus: a network of nerves or vessels in the body that produce the cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain.
 – Carcinoma: a cancer arising in the epithelial tissue of the skin or of the lining of the internal organs.
Papilloma: a small wart like growth on the skin (eww! ) or on a mucous membrane, derived from the epidermis, usually benign.

This is a brain tumor usually found in children, diagnosed in me at the age of 21 in the right ventricle of my brain with a part of it benign & another part cancerous…(Not even my brain tumor knew what it wanted ). Removed in 2004 and then revisited on April 29, 2009 to make sure that sucker was gone!

Never worried more or felt so much joy in my life. I’m so happy she’s still in this world.

On Sundays, however, my brain turns to Chatter Sunday again. Wonderful celebrations of music and poetry that brighten my Sundays. I almost did not go. Conor Hanick is a highly acclaimed musician: Conor Hanick

He has performed internationally to wide acclaim in repertoire ranging from the early Baroque to the recently written. In addition to the Kennedy Center, Mondavi Performing Arts Center, the Kultur und Kongresszentrum Luzern, Kyoto Concert Hall, the Dewan Pilharmonik Peronas in Malaysia, Hanick has performed in virtually every prominent arts venue in New York City, ranging from (le) Poisson Rouge and The Kitchen to Alice Tully Hall and all three halls of Carnegie Hall.”

However, what he played was Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano by John Cage. I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to anything by John Cage, but his music is out there, as in weird, meticulous and arresting. It is not what I’d prefer from music. Wikipedia says he is: “A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments.” Uncertain and non-standard, to be sure. I wouldn’t have gone just for that. However, the reason I went was Jessica Helen Lopez, nationally recognized, award-winning slam poet, and former Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, NM. jessica-helen-lopez-head-shot  She is an exciting poet to listen to. Her eclectic, opinionated style fascinates me. She is full of passion, and she resonates with the intensity of a zealot, and the joyful ecstasy of living. I love listening to her. I sat with her and her husband. Meeting him made me wonder what it’s like living with someone like her. Never boring, I’m sure, but I didn’t say that out loud.

So, instead of the usual three-part program: music-poetry-music, Jessica went first. We had our regular two minutes of silence after she left the stage, and then John Cage, for over SEVENTY MINUTES! It was a very long seventy minutes, let me tell you. Twenty sections! 16 sonatas and 4 interludes. John Cage is an acquired taste. This particular piece involves a modified piano: strings cluttered with nuts and bolts, pieces of rubber and other dampening devices and even an eraser. The idea is to sort of calm the pianoness of the piano down, I think. The music is like having a stage full of instruments, like a xylophone, drums, cowbells, wind chimes, and other acoustical things. In that sense, it is fascinating. I’d never heard a piano sound like that before. It offended me, in the sense that I didn’t expect sounds like that from a piano. I am, sadly, rather conservative about some things. If there had been a multitude of acoustic things being struck, played and banged, I’d have liked it for the virtuosity in handling so many items and having them all part of a single composition. However, Cage’s work strikes me as more like a structured structurelessness. I’m thinking that he has a certain structure diagrammed out, and goes back and populates it with random notes. The result, to my way of thinking, is something intellectually striking, but lacking in passion.

John_Cage_(1988) What Cage’s music is, I think, is more immediate, as in, you are here listening now, and your mind is not free to wander. I can, and do often find my mind roaming while I am listening to and enjoying music. With something by John Cage, I cannot. It’s interesting and creative, yes, but not something that inspires me, to either an emotional state, or dreams. In short, I hope I never sit through such a concert again. I love many different types of music: Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, and newer styles of classical music, Cajun, outlaw Country, Country-rock, classic rock, blues, blues-rock, jazz, salsa, merengue, tango, and electronic. However, I only like a particular piece or a singer or musician if there is passion. Even electronic music can have passion – Morton Subotnick’s The Wild Bull, for example. Otherwise, I don’t care. Same for people. I’m not saying that I am an exciting person, but I feel passionate about politics, or the work I do or the people and things I love. I want to see, hear, feel, and touch passion.

Cage’s works? Once is enough. There will be other performances. And, next month there is a Chatter Cabaret, featuring works by Chopin and Messiaen. I’m going just to clear the Cage from my brain.

 

 

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