Thursday, February 19, 2009

Google Shmoogle

On a Google search, my obituary pops up. I must be dead. So here, grief-stricken readers, is my report from the Other Side. What's it like? Well, it's rather pleasant where I am—no baton wielders, cranky musicians, or Madoff-like philanthropists, and the food is to die for, yet calorie free. Curiosity gets the best of me though. Every now and then I feel the need to check in on the earthly realm, my former dwelling place. Let's eavesdrop, shall we?

Violinist colleagues: "What? She's dead? You don't say! All the more opportunities for us to take over her gigs and students. How many students do you suppose she had, anyway—"

Sir Metro Gnome, Esq: "Bah! Good riddance. Marjorie rarely followed my exquisite interpretations and infallible beat, and her rendition of 'Swan Lake' was clumsy. I'm glad I got her to quit—"

Dearly Departing One: "One less potential witness to worry about for that potential trial to worry about, but that still leaves her husband to worry about, and everyone knows how cagey he is—"
Little does Stickman know. The Real Trial is on the Other Side.

Husband (looking longingly into the empty crockpot): "I haven't eaten in days—"
Banana peels are strewn around the house.

Eldest Daughter: "No matter what—we're still having our Seder during Pesakh. We'll set a special plate for Elijah and Ma together. By the way, has anyone seen Ma's diamond necklace—?"

Youngest Daughter: "What about the homework assignment Mom didn't finish? She was supposed to be my topic for the frontal lobe study in Science. My whole grade depends on this—"

Book Club: "All she wanted was to discuss 'Steppenwolf'. She seemed so fascinated by the section about the magic theater for madmen only, and the disintegration of a personality—"

Critic: "I thought I killed her long ago." He looks pale. "The tables seem to have turned."

Uh, oh. The magic pill I took is really taking effect. To spite everyone, I'll be returning to life in the morning from this Ambien-induced state.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Notes for a Novel

"I want to write a novel. I'd take fiction any day over boring facts and figures," I said to my sweet neighbor, Ellen Carlin, (whose father is renown pianist Ralph Berkowitz, THE Ralph Berkowitz, as in accompanist for Gregor Piatigorsky) yesterday, over lunch at our house.

Ellen sat across the dining table from me, sipping Verona blend, and nibbling on a cookie. "I miss hearing you perform," she said. "I so enjoyed your concerts over the years. Where can I hear you play—"

My mind sputtered like the coffee maker; I mentally created sketches for my tale, a potboiler. By the time we finished the biscuits and coffee, and said our good-byes, I went to my desk to jot a few things down. Remember, dear readers, this is my first attempt, a work-in-progress.

Notes for Novel

Man with a stick observes high-heeled, voluptuous woman in orchestra, and whispers revealing remarks to first desk players. Why not? Music stirs passion, and anyway, this has always been his character.

Stickman perceives himself above the law, and has loyal workers ushered out by a meek person of authority. Flesh out this character. Make him three-dimensional, not flat, bloodless, and cardboard, though that's how he appears in real life.

Introduce a very zaftig woman into the scheme. Rhetorical question for readers: Has she consumed too many gummy bears from the vending machine? Teething crackers with jam? Sedentary job, perhaps. Sad.

Introduce vulture-like members of the media. Add comments from Op/Ed to heighten conflict and spin intrigue.

Grandma's death. Graveyard scene. Bring in siblings. Family quarrels over estate. Don't forget to use foreshadowing technique; more deaths occur.

Cat learns piano. Dramatize. Hyperbole. Cat's 12-tone composition is deemed World Class.

An ensemble is forced to file for bankruptcy, though not in debt. End chapter and hook reader by presenting inconclusive evidence. Potential page turner. Whodunnit?

Rumors of suicide.

Learned stranger calls, and calls, and calls. Redemption?

Thumper is swallowed by quick-sand, and critic cronies accompany him. Note alliteration usage.

Sudden economic collapse—a fallen house of cards. Sardonic laughter is heard in background.

Could it be Mephisto?

Thursday, February 12, 2009


"What are you up to, little munchkin?" I ask my daughter Sarah, as she sits at the dining table deep in concentration.
"Writing my obit."
"You're what?"
"For drama class," she adds. "Why don't you try it, Mom."
The wheels in my head spin. Unlike calculus, or logic puzzles, this request I can do.
An opportunity for my readers.


Marjorie Kransberg-Talvi, a violinist, collapsed at the karmic age of 49 in between music lessons. The cause of death: over-dose from a suspicious crockpot recipe. Ms. Kransberg-Talvi, a believer in the sorcery and healing properties of slow cooking, concocted stews of various root vegetables, legumes, and basically anything found in the fridge. Whenever a dish smelled foul or tasted particularly toxic, she'd whisper under her breath, Stew-Art.

Ms. Kransberg-Talvi moved to Seattle from Los Angeles in 1984, after marrying the clever and disputatious Finn, Ilkka Talvi. Both violinists, who met in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, maintained active lives in the Seattle musical community in spite of having been the victims of discrimination and retaliation by the local SS officials. After a successful blogging campaign which recorded their plight as ex-communicated concertmasters, news traveled to the far corners of the globe that corruption and greed had swept the "aesthetic dustbin". Ms. Kransberg-Talvi enjoyed learning that the Law of Talion (an eye for an eye) existed for humanity, and often confused the term with Law of Talvion.

Ms. Kransberg-Talvi is survived by her husband Ilkka, two daughters, Anna Mirjam and Sarah Lilian, two step-daughters, Silja J.A Talvi and Dr. Sonja Rosen, one sister, Susan R. Myers, and a beloved cat named Seymour. In lieu of flowers for the deceased (she wasn't particularly good with plants, anyway), contributions can be made to Rainier Symphony and PAWS.
Image from

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Lark Ascending

It's Sunday morning. I began the day with a coaching of The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams with Jiho, one of Ilkka's most dedicated pupils. It's a rapturous work. I've always hesitated to perform Lark because it demands a flawless bow control combined with serenity of soul. During the years when I served as Artistic Director for Northwest Chamber Orchestra's Showcase Series, I had the great fortune of performing the Vaughan Williams with the indomitable British clarinetist and pianist Thea King. I remember telling her:
Thea, I'm freaking out; the piece is too exposed.

Oh Marjorie, she laughed, pulling up the piano bench. You'll do just fine, you'll see.
I mentally reminded myself to breathe slowly, like being in labor and delivery. I'll tell you, the delivery of the final high B came as a tremendous relief at the conclusion of the Showcase performance.

Fifteen year old Jiho has quite a bit of work to accomplish before he'll be able to emulate the sound of fluttering wings by the use of sul tasto and facile fingers, or transport listeners through an artful ascent, but it'll happen. Jiho's eagerness to study and self-possessed maturity sets him apart from his peers, and I think he has the magic.

The single most remarkable performance of 'The Lark Ascending' that I ever heard was that of violinist and conductor Joseph Silverstein. Although he referred to himself as just an old, bald, Jewish fiddler—and introduced himself by the use of a four letter word (Joey)—the artistry that Maestro Silverstein brought to my life is forever inscribed in my heart. What does this help to prove? Some maestros are adored and occasionally—missed.
In photo clockwise: Joseph Silverstein, Ilkka & Marjorie Talvi