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Schlagwort: Piano

James Rhodes: Fire On All Sides

Honest and open. That were one of the first thoughts that came to my mind when I read the beginning of James Rhodes’ new book. Next it was astonishment. The astonishment that “Fire On All Sides” offers a much deeper look inside James’ mind than “Instrumental”, his first book, does. There’s no doubt that “Instrumental” is shockingly open when James, raped for years as a boy, describes how this disgusting and horrible abuse destroys the life of a young, sensible child that only seeks for love and support from his teacher who rewards trust with violence. James has no doubt that he is still alive because music saved him.

“Fire On All Sides” could be the evidence that dreams can indeed become reality. The James of today is a professional concert pianist, travelling various countries, playing concerts. He writes articles for newspapers, gives interviews, hosts radio shows. And yet there are those evil voices trying to convince James that he is not that good, that every single concert will be a disaster and that even an ordinary day offers problems and obstacles that are challenges.

The voice is so loud that I convince myself that I am perpetuating a fraud.”

Of course this is a book about music, about love and hatred and imperfection. But James wouldn’t be the author if he wasn’t to add “including the self-indulgent crap because it’s me and I’m a narcissistic asshole”. Even if we are lucky because we have not to fight depression or anxiety or a horrible illness on a daily basis, we all face the challenge to get up in the morning, go to work, get things done. And no one knows how difficult it is to smile and pretend everything is okay when it is not. Imagine you have voices in your head that are your constant companions that have nothing else to do than convince you, you are not enough. In James’s case: he’s not able to play the piano properly, no one will pop up to his concert venue, and the waiter in the café just round the corner always stares at you because you seem to be some sort of freak.

“Words are dangerous, music is salvation – the one thing I don’t need to be afraid of.”

But then there are these moments when James realises he can handle it. “It” meaning walking on stage after make sure for the hundredth time that every single note is saved in the memory (James always plays the piano on stage without scores), that of course there is indeed an audience that isn’t only excited to see what is waiting for them. They enjoy the evening and they want to get their books or CDs signed. And – surprise –  there is even a “bunch of really lovely German fans” waiting for him at the stage door in Munich’s Gasteig back in the autumn of 2016.

So after having survived a horrible childhood that still haunts him, James has finally reached a stage where he can even convince the evil voices in his head that he lives the life he always wanted, “a life surrounded by, engulfed by, music”. A life that is bearable because he is finally ready to see life as it is: Imperfect. And that there is no need to pretend that life and humans and especially James is perfect and furthermore its “fragility can unite us all in the most comforting way”.

Or as Sherlock would say: “We are all humans after all”.

James Rhodes: “Fire On All Sides: Insanity, insomnia and the incredible inconvenience of life”, Quercus, Ebook from 8,49£/9,49€.
The new album “Fire On All Sides” is available at the usual streaming service.

Alan Rusbridger: Play it again

It doesn’t sound that much: twenty minutes a day for playing the piano. But it becomes a real struggle to sit down every morning and try to learn Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 within a year and perform it in front of an audience when you are Alan Rusbridger, then editor in chief of the Guardian at a time when news seem to be breaking for weeks on end.

The book - with yellow labels and a book mark. Photo: Petra Breunig

The book – with yellow labels and a bookmark. Photo: Petra Breunig

But he manages to squeeze practising the piano into his incredible schedule most of the time even when there are such topics as the publishing of the WikiLeaks files and the hacking scandal of “News of the World” that hit every news all over the world, and everything in between from meetings and conferences to editing a newspaper with working days that end in the early hours of the next day. So what seems to be insane is in fact very healthy for the brain and the body as a whole because while playing the piano, the brain has to concentrate on the very moment, the keyboard, the fingers, the notes so that everything else is shut out. “With other people it’s yoga, or a run or a burst in the gym. Twenty minutes on the piano have the same effect for me,” writes Alan – twenty minutes as a preparation for another stressful day.

“I gave fifteen reasons why Twitter is such an astonishing medium for journalists (…) and why senior executives in media companies who don’t ‘get it’ shouldn’t be in a job.”

So “Play it again” is of course a book about music, about learning to play a piece with a lot of specific terms that sound like a foreign language for ignorants like myself but this isn’t a reason to stop reading because  the moment you start the book you are hooked by the story that is just wonderfully written, full of inside views of Rusbridger’s work, his views and how he comes to term with them but without any arrogance others might have shown when learning that “News of the World” is about to be shut down: “It’s one of the most dramatic moments I can remember as an editor. (…) It’s a hold-the-front-page, stop-the-presses, stop-the clocks, stop-everything scoop. The history of newspapers has just been rewritten.”

“Should I ever make a book out of my endeavour with the Ballade, I resolve, I’ve at least got the title: ‘Play it again’. (…) The journalist in me also likes the fact that it’s a misquote. Bogart never said it.”

And  “Play it again” is also about Rusbridger’s struggle with the music, his doubts about his abilities to get the notes right or remember them at all and it is an inspiration for those of us who always want to go for a run, a swim or just reading a book instead of being bored by telly. They can do it. We all can.

 

Alan Rusbridger: Play it again  – An amateur against the impossible, Vintage Books, £10,99
Deutsch: Play it again – Ein Jahr zwischen Noten und Nachrichten, Secession-Verlag, 25 Euro.

 

 

 

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