Saturday, February 19, 2011

Byron Janis talks about playing with arthritis

I'm in the middle of reading Byron Janis' memoir Chopin and Beyond. His career itself as a young pianist was "paranormal." The pinkie on one of hands (I'm not sure which one) had its nerves severed when he was 10, and he continued to use it--playing without any feeling in it. He managed to, without ever paying for lessons, study with the greatest piano teachers and pianists of the 20th century. He seemed to waltz through life, surviving three near fatal car accidents through acts of serendipity, piano keys jumped off his piano three times while playing three different concerts, and various other seriously "not normal" things happened to him. My rational and post-Freudian analytical (and unschooled) mind would say that he has a penchant for "magical thinking" because of the events that happened in his childhood. There was no "Tiger Mother" here--just a love for music, inborn talent, good looks, and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He was also taught the right things by the right people. I could be proven wrong about not attributing events in his life to the paranormal (and I don't know what to make of the weeping Chopin death mask), but Janis makes a pretty good case for the ability to transcend the physical world we all believe to know by way of music.

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