Most. Memorable. Performance. Ever.
Mid-70s at a small music camp in Vermont. A quartet of cellists: David Finckel, later of the Emerson Quartet, his cousins Michael and Chris Finckel, both later to become big in NYC new music circles, and Michael and Chris’s father George. The piece was by Michael, for four cellos and narrator. The narration was written for an elderly man we were told was once a fine baritone, but he had had a stroke that left his speech almost indecipherably garbled. I believe he told an old Native American legend, but I may be wrong about that – it was difficult to understand what he was saying. The sound of the English language tortured almost beyond recognition by a man who was doing his damnedest to be as clear as possible was terrifying, beautiful, truly stunning. The cellos imitated his monstrous wailing with overlapping glissandos and bent tones. At the end, all four cellists played their open C strings, gradually turning the tuning pegs down – a slowly blurring tone cluster, descending into inaudibility.
As children, we quickly realize that music speaks to us like nothing else can.
Then, every once in a while, you hear a piece that speaks to you as no other music can.
I wrote the following in response to Jerry Bowles’s challenge to share the Best Live Performances Ever Attended. I have no idea what the best live performance I’ve attended was, so I switched the topic to Most Memorable. I’m reposting it here, because it was so nice to think back on the impact it had on me, over thirty years ago:
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