I had an amusing e-mail exchange with Sarah Cahill, a superb pianist, whom I've known since I lived in Berkeley in 1990-91. She lived upstairs from me in a sort of enlightened boarding house on College Avenue. I would annoy the neighbors by blasting Nixon in China at all hours, not realizing that Sarah actually knew the great composer, or, as I found out this summer, that he lived a mile away. In any case, we wrote to each other about musical dreams, which may reveal something about the disparate anxieties of performers and critics. Sarah wrote: "I just woke up from a great dream about you. You had given me the score to the Schubert Fantasy in F minor for four hands, and we performed it together for a large and enthusiastic audience at a good old piano. It was so much fun! Then I announced that I was going to play a Mozart sonata by myself, and suddenly a flood of people came up apologizing that they had to go, they had dinner plans, and the hall cleared out completely. Before they left, many of them came up to you and introduced themselves a little fawningly. You said not to feel bad because concerts were at an awkward time anyway. But our Schubert duo was so polished and perfect!" Those who have heard me play the piano — a thankfully small community — will guffaw at the notion of polish and perfection on my part. The "flood of people" would have commenced, I think, a little earlier. Fawning, no.
I wrote back: "I should tell you that I’ve had a dream that goes like this. I have been invited to perform a large-scale Romantic concerto, something like the Brahms D Minor. I am sitting in the green room, trying to persuade the management that there has been some kind of gigantic misunderstanding, that I can’t actually play this piece, that I can barely play the piano to begin with. They say, 'Oh, the usual nerves. You’ll be wonderful! You’re a good music critic — you’re bound to be a wonderful pianist!' I go out on stage and stand before the audience, which is applauding in anticipation. I wake up in a cold sweat." This is probably where I am psychologically with my book. (A happier dream was of my meeting with Bartók. When I wrote about that, Alan Rich sent along the astounding information that at the premiere of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra in 1944 he had gone backstage and shaken the composer's hand.)
All this is a contorted prelude to a mention of Sarah Cahill's marathon musical séance in San Francisco on December 3rd. Presented by Other Minds, the day-long concert will feature spiritually, supernaturally, Theosophically, and hypnotically tinted music by Satie, Scriabin, Ornstein, Ives, Cowell, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Dane Rudhyar, Mr. Adams, Lou Harrison, Terry Riley, Alvin Curran, Kyle Gann (some of his Disklavier pieces), and many others. Anyone who has attended Sarah's past marathons will know to expect the unexpected. Let's hope Scriabin doesn't come back and start the apocalypse.