“There is no end to the list of things I cannot see” – Galileo, scene 1 of Galileo Galilei
Joseph Kalichstein passed away today. I never met the man, but I heard him play often, both live and through his many recordings. He was a beautiful soloist, an important chamber musician, and a significant teacher, a human with the sort of reach and influence that inspired me and gave me something to aspire to.
It’s interesting how a great teacher can move you even if you’re never in the same room with them…or the same language, even the same century. There are many, many musicians that have touched my life in a rehearsal or concert who spent time learning from Joseph Kalichstein. Some living aspect of him was in those rooms teaching me something, bound up with tiny sparks from countless other humans, people I’ll never know. I always imagine I’m talking to, listening to, and making music with the people in front of me, and of course that’s true, but, well, we are stardust, you know?
Stardust: we’re about to open Philip Glass’ Galileo Galilei at CCM this evening. I loved helping teach it to our students over the last few months. Watching them (and their terrific director Greg Eldridge) embody the story of a man who could navigate the stars more easily than the treacherous pathways of his fellow humans has been, well, pretty timely.
“What is time?” is something a lot of us are saying these days, often in reference to how overwhelmed we all are at the rocky return to post-pandemic life. I find myself thinking about how time seems to turn over on itself as you move through it, how a day can feel like a month, or years melt away in a moment.
Music has such a way of messing with our sense of where and when we are. Last week, on Ryan’s recital, Clara Schumann and Jacob Collier suddenly seemed like two emo kids sitting at their keyboards writing about their feelings at the very same time. After that, MtMn and I drove home across the country playing all the Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins still alive and well along with our younger selves.
When Joni Mitchell wrote “we are stardust”, she crafted the song that embodied the spirit of Woodstock, but she wasn’t there. How does that happen? Some people can look and listen so deeply.
There’s a gorgeous lighting coup de theatre at the end of CCM’s Galileo that takes my breath away. Come see it if you’re in Cincinnati, any time from tonight’s opening through the Sunday matinee (tickets here: https://ccm.uc.edu/onstage.html). I don’t know how, but our lighting team has found a way to show exactly what’s in my heart and mind as I listen to Kalichstein’s Beethoven, captured while I was in kindergarten. I think of my people in this turbulent world, so many in mourning, others falling in love, preparing to change their lives, everyone trembling in the face of real and metaphorical storms. We all contain each other, somehow, even though we can’t see it.
I’m hoping for the patience and courage to look.