Our new floor, Liszt, and some ants
by Rob Tiller
They finished installing our new wood floor, and so we said so long to the Hampton Inn and moved back home on Friday. There’s still a lot of unpacking, reconnecting, and rearranging yet to do, but the worst is behind us. The new flooring is American walnut in wider planks and a more textured surface, and we really like it.
We had a special sound absorbent underlayer put under the floor, in consideration of the neighbors situated under my Fazioli 228 grand piano. The instrument can put out a lot of sound, which I hope isn’t too annoying for them. I was very happy to be able to play it again.
Among other things, I’ve been working on one of Liszt’s songs for piano, Oh! Quand Je Dors, from the second Buch der Lieder fur Piano Allein. It’s so beautiful! At times it feels a bit lonely caring about Liszt, since my friends generally don’t seem to like him nearly as much as I do. I suppose loneliness often comes along with a passion, since caring intensely about something will separate you from others. Of course, it also connects you to others, but they may not be close by, and may even belong to generations long gone.
My teacher lent me a book by one of Liszt’s piano students, August Gollerich, which consists of diary notes of master classes Liszt conducted in 1884-86, the last two years of his life. The format of Liszt’s master classes was just like those today, with a series of students playing works, and then getting critical comments from the master. Liszt was very direct about what he liked and didn’t like, but he also had a sense of humor. He mixed practical instruction on tempo and volume with notes on the animating emotions, and frequently played to demonstrate his points. How daunting and amazing it must have been to play Liszt for Liszt! For his part, the master, nearing the end, seemed happy to be surrounded by adoring students, and still passionate about music.
Speaking of lonely passions, I heard a radio interview with Eleanor Spicer Rice, an entomologist who truly loves ants. She pointed up their under-appreciated contributions to the environment and some wonderfully quirky behaviors. She was so sweet and excited about these tiny creatures that I ordered and started reading her book, Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants. For each species, she writes three or four pages about their habits, customs, and talents, and her enthusiasm is infectious.