Sunday, September 6, 2015

Like a frozen tree on a windless winter night (Murakami)

This post is dedicated to my wonderful Year 12 English class.

Murakami's The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki contains a great section on the power of music which reminded me of a section in the movie The Pianist

Towards the end of the film Szpilman is surprised by the German officer Hosenfeld and asked to play. 

Choosing Chopin's Ballade in G minorhe does so with increasing power and Hosenfeld is moved by the performance.

Murakami's story includes a section where Tsukuru's friend Haida relates a story about his father (also called Haida). It concerns a piano performance by a mysterious man, named Midorikawa.

Here's the bit: 
Midorikawa hesitantly began playing "Round Midnight'. At first he played each chord carefully, cautiously, like a person sticking his toes into a stream, testing the swiftness of the water and searching for a foothold.
(This is exactly how Szpilman begins his performance)
After playing the main theme, he started a long improvisation. As time went by his fingers became more agile, more generous, in their movements, like fish swimming in clear water. the left hand inspired the right, the right hand spurred on the left.
(Again - this is how Szpilman develops his playing)
Haida's father didn't know much about jazz, but he did happen to be familiar with this Thelonious Monk composition, and Midorikawa's performance went straight to the heart of the piece. His playing was so soulful it made Haida forget about the piano's erratic tuning. As he listened to the music in this junior high music room deep in the mountains, as the sole audience for the performance, Haida felt all that was unclean inside him washed away. The straightforward beauty of the music overlapped with the fresh, oxygen-rich air and the cool, clear water of the stream, all of them acted in concert. Midorakawa,too, was lost in his playing, as if all the minutiae of reality had disappeared. Haida had never seen someone so thoroughly absorbed in what he was doing. He couldn't take his eyes off Midorakawa's ten fingers, which moved like independent, living creatures.
This all reminds me of that scene in The Pianist. Szpilman is so transformed and absorbed in the playing that the reality of the situation- war destroyed Warsaw, the hellish plight of the Jews, the evil German enemy- all disappears and he is in the moment of playing music. Hosenfeld, too, is like Haida - cleansed by the act of allowing Szpliman to play and by the beauty of the music.

It's a wonderful piece of writing and a wonderful scene in a great film.

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