CADENZA

Endless pulse and heave of tide,
Slosh and skip of sea deep swells
Pull the islands of the sky,
Push the currents in the trees,
Beat like bells inside
My passion-scented sight,
Touch the torches dancing
On the edges of my skin,
Slip like sugar birds between
The evening’s dream of breeze
And a sheen of ocean
Lit against the flying dark,
Lost to words by sun,
Entire beaches lost to life
And brides to night,
Where the winds of water,
Blasts of heat, like timpani
Burst inside the wrist,
Until the lamps
Of liquid childhood
Tremble into mist.

Rumfire, Waikiki
May 28th, 2010, 6:00–7:35 p.m.

Lanikai
June 13, 2010


This is a description of playing a cadenza, an improvised
personal commentary a pianist makes on the action to
that point, amalgamating, summarizing, excerpting, varying,
and improving on what the composer has already
presented.

Most cadenzas are set in stone by composers, due to
prior abuses by musicians without adequate gifts. This
hasn’t stopped pianists and violinists from providing
such improvisations over the years. Horowitz rewrote
Rachmaninoff ’s second piano sonata, with the composer’s
blessing. Recently, Volodos has significantly deepened
Liszt’s darker compositions on his album, “Volodos Plays
Liszt,” with his own additions, using Liszt’s pieces as outlines
of his own vaster visions. Although his additions are
mainly based on adding virtuosic scales, octaves, arpeggios,
and broken diminished chords to the underlying
Lisztian themes, the pieces are enlarged by Volodos’ talent
for collage. Pianists with enormous techniques like Cziffra
or Godowsky tended to overwhelm the music with clever
overlays, but Volodos is quite well balanced between substance
and brilliantine. This on-the-fly creation provides
an insight into the process of composition. Performance at
its best seems composed on the spot.

This poem is a metaphoric description of performing
a concert, not just playing the piano. There is an added
adrenaline to the challenges, discipline, and spontaneity
needed for live performances of complicated music. This,
rather than being a word fugue, is a word rhapsody, a more
freeform imitation of the way a performance develops,
relaxes, builds to a climax, and tapers off.

It is also a description of both a beach sunset and the
blood’s pulse when it is exposed to music or beauty. Within
its simple description is a darker threnody of looking back
on a youth spent at the beach, the agony of leaving the
beach at sunset, a kind of petit mort, the sheer frustration
of being unable to verbalize the rush of ions, the appeal of
waves, air, sun, and night at the beach.

The honeymooners hidden in this poem lose their
virginity as day loses the light, as youth fades into age, as
waves end in spray.

So the palmate, palm-like hand, the pulsing wrist of the
pianist, and the wash of tropical air weave around each
other to present the immense joy and simultaneous sadness
of the loss of the world with experience, with age.
The world winds down each evening like music, and takes
us with it.

Sugar birds flit between the trees and the sea, torches
flicker inside the wrist, and sound and sight are interwoven
like music and the sea, never settling down into
acceptance until the very end. Images are crisscrossed and
reversed, until the chaos and eddies of water, words, and
music combine, I hope, into an imitation of all three.

The poem is meant to explain the threads of passion
and nostalgia that lie nascent in our blood and emerge
only through the excitement of love, concerts, or sunsets.
Each line echoes accents of air, water, blood, and music,
but ultimately explanations fail and we have to sit back
and let the ineffable paint unknowable and yet elucidative
pictures. Art defies facts to prove unprovable acts. Rhymes
occur here and there, the way the facets of a wave catch
the sun sporadically.