the radio broadcast—Die Valkure in operatic dress
the pianist accompanist
the broadcast is to begin—the producer is frantic
he can be seen through the window shouting, imprecating
the pianist strikes the first chords
the prima donna does coloratura—her vocal exercises
up and down, and up and down, she sings her scales
like some billowing wave on the ocean
like some unstoppable express train in the age of steam
the pianist strikes the opening chords again, louder more insistent
soon the dissonance of Wagnerian opera against the endless scales fills the studio
people stop their cars and run into the street with their hands over their ears, begging the radio to stop
the fat lady sings louder
the pianist is shaking with panic
his hands cannot seem to muster the strength to drown out the tidal scales
he bends to the piano
labouring, a minute Hercules
his jacket splits along the seams
his cuffs fray, his hair flies about him like a halo
he begins to hum
the noise rises in his throat unbidden
a call to the strings to vibrate louder
to the hammers to strike harder
for the keys to ignite beneath his fingers

the sound of the crash of the keyboard cover blanks all other noises for a moment
in sheer white noise, the sound of the scream melds perfectly with
the echo of the sounding board resonates with all 200 odd strings (it is a concert grand)
providing an ending and a beginning to the sound of misery and pain and an odd counterpoint
to the continuing vocal scales that rise and fall inexorably
as the slamming of the cover is repeated over and over
the moaning and pleading only another thread in the symphony
of cracking bones and discordant shrieks

the producer is screaming “get her off the air, someone go in there and stop her!
someone stop the feed; get this off the air!”
the phone rings; it is the executive producer “No one goes in there—no one tells her to stop—keep broadcasting!”
the intercom enters the script: “Please stop, Madame we beg you”
“Send me yogurt,” she warbles in perfect synch with her warm-up
“Get the MEDICS,” screams the accompanist, no longer pianist

the medics arrive
they apply splints to each finger made of dried out miniature pita breads—two to each thumb
foolishly one whispers intently, “careful, if you make a mistake HE MAY NEVER PLAY AGAIN”
the clomp of feet is only exaggerated by the weight of the rattling breastplate
the blond braids swing wildly as the spear point rests against a splinted finger
“How can you be sure if the procedure is error-free?” she sings
“Generally we look for a nice clean straight splint … ma’am,” whispers the attendant
the butt of the spear bites into the bandage as the screaming and scales begin again

The mezzo-soprano eats the thumbs with yogurt

she speaks to the pianist:
I knew a girl who would get her way by begging her parents
by crawling to them and holding onto their ankles crying
and I always wanted her as my lover
you could have been her
I could have possessed you
but instead, all you did
was disappoint me
very very very very very much

 

<<What can I say? I grew up at the CBC, sneaking into the sound booth with my Dad; I performed a number of satiric songs on the CBC when I was in my 20’s (at which point, charitably, we agreed to disagree and I was let go/ left.) And of course, for anyone who loves the piano, not only is Glen Gould (probably) the greatest performer of Bach’s music, but also a CBC icon — so it all seemed to fit, a perfect confluence of resentment, the surreal (what more is required than a Wagnerian soloist in Viking attire? (it worked for Bugs Bunny)), paternalism, and — sheer sadism. Of course, being pure Canadian—what can I say but … sorry, eh?>>