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KEITH JARRETT: A MUSICAL GENIUS IN DESPERATE NEED OF A SNICKERS BAR

He walked onto stage and the applause swelled. I had never seen the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein so jam-packed full of people. Every single one of the 1744 seats and 300 standing places was filled with the face of an adoring fan anxiously awaiting the warm greetings of a Musical Meister.

What we got was the ranting, reprimanding threat of a diva: “I will not play a single note until the two people who just took a photo leave this concert hall. If you’re sitting beside them, urge them to leave or I won’t play.” Like a toddler mid-tantrum, he stomped off the stage and the lights went back up.

A disturbed chatter arose from the crowd. The Viennese consensus? He’s nuts. And they weren’t referring to the photo-taker caper(s). Just enough time ticked by for us to begin to wonder what the Musikverein’s refund policy is on our not-too-cheap tickets when the artist throws a fit and refuses to perform. In the nick of time, a gentleman (hero?) in a dark t-shirt rose from the center of the audience, about 25 rows deep, from a section where tickets no doubt cost upwards of 120 € each, stood up, bumped his way past the stunned fellow concert-goers in his row and exited the auditorium with a shake of his head. Many of us harbored serious doubts whether the departed was the culprit but the ritual sacrifice being made, the self-chosen martyr offered up, the show could go on.

A man in a suit who we recognized from before Cellphone Gate as the gentleman who informed us that there’d be a live recording and we must refrain from extraneous noises reappeared on stage. In a more apologetic than admonishing tone, he reminded us of the “Künstler’s” need to concentrate. Finally Mr. Jarrett re-entered and I no longer know if anyone clapped at this point. Here and there I believe but the unbridled enthusiasm of his initial entrance was history. Why? Three reasons. First, stunned people can’t clap, they’re too shocked to move their hands (see photo of my stunned face included herein). Second, who could tell what might set him off again – perhaps clapping out of rhythm, for example. Third, we all just wanted to put the embarrassing moment behind us as quickly as possible and move on with things.

Mr. Jarrett sat before his grand piano and pounded the keys as if they too were personally involved in the photo-taking infraction. Disjointed chords of choppy scales torpedoed into the loges left and right. Irritated notes wrestled in an angry sea of quick, successive sounds.

Keith Jarrett Tickets to Vienna Musikverein, July 2016

Keith Jarrett Tickets to Vienna Musikverein, July 2016

He was angry. The music was angry. And I was angry.

But by the third piece, then there was light. Staccatos grew more and more interspersed with light, playful notes. By the fourth piece, I could bring myself to join the others and clap, now convinced that it would have been a grave mistake to march out of the hall with Mr. T-Shirt Man in a show of solidarity and a refusal to accept such treatment of us non-genius, musical-lover mortals (as a firm believer in the age-old advice: you are responsible for how you let others treat you). But the lesson was obvious: Keith Jarrett could clearly get away with mistreating his audience members because he truly is a musical genius. The epiphany made me sad for artists specifically and humankind in general.

For years Keith Jarrett’s Cologne Concert, Paris Concert and Vienna Concert from his 1991 appearance in the Vienna Opera House have been some of my most beloved, trusted accompaniments while writing. Sit down, crank it up and within 5 minutes you are in the “mood” and the words stream across the page like currents in a waterfall.

He isn’t hitting pre-prescribed notes. This is improvisation. He is sitting at his bench and coaxing the keys to come together in just the right manner to take his listeners on a magical journey of his making. His music elevates all present to a higher, better, otherworldly place.

By the end of his concert I enthusiastically joined the standing ovation. Not just one but three – or was it four? — encores. His final piece, a playful, soulful version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” seemed like the artist’s version of an apology of sorts. It was that moving. Then he said, “Thank you,” but couldn’t leave us for the night with happy, fuzzy feelings to accompany us home. No. He just had to add, “Now aren’t you glad you were strong? Aren’t you glad you were smart?”

To quote Homer Simpson: “D’Oh!” [slaps hand to forehead].

The concert was recorded live. Mr. Jarrett’s hyper-sensitive (compulsive?) tendencies made me wonder why he does live recordings. Wouldn’t a studio recording be easier to control all variables possible when you pack 2000 people in a room? It’s a contradiction, I suppose. The man who demands such utmost control and obedience of an audience of thousands chooses live recordings and improvisation.

At the same time, after intermission, it wasn’t an apology, don’t get me wrong, but perhaps a justification. Kind of. Mr. Jarrett said that all the picture-taking makes him feel like a caged animal. He also added: “People who think they can interfere with processes is what’s f—ed up the world today.” I get that. But what’s really f—ed up the world is a general lack of empathy. And when thousands of people from all over the world, all walks of life who could be mid-living all the tragedies and challenges life can throw at you, re-arrange their day-to-day existence, coordinate and pretty themselves up to join together at a certain time and place to spend precious, never-to-be-re-gained hours of their life, just to hear you play your music, to join you on a journey to a higher place blindly following nothing more than the next musical note – that is something rather extraordinary and the opposite of f—ed up. And if you give that a bitter after-taste (or before- and after-taste), then shame on you.

There is a synergy between an audience and artist that no studio can give. A synergy in a Golden Hall that has been home to such beauty and artistry of some of history’s and the world’s best talents for over 140 years. A synergy that lingers beyond the 2 seconds the notes are held suspended, a synergy that transcends space and time and I think you must know that, Mr. Jarrett, which is why you record live. So chill. You’re playing jazz, the chillest tunes of them all. Appreciate the joining together to experience a precious parenthesis in time.

I’d like to end with a bit of advice for future concerts:

* to potential Keith Jarrett concert-goers: go, the music will be amazing, but for God’s (Keith Jarrett’s and the concert’s) sakes, keep that trigger finger off the camera icon.

* to Mr. Jarrett: get a grip, chill and have some empathy. If the audience peeves you off, do like Bob Dylan did when he gave a concert in Burg Clam – don’t acknowledge the audience at all. Not one word. Not “Hello” “How are you” or “Thanks.” If they’re like me, sure, they’ll feel snubbed but better snubbed than down-right insulted.

* to concert organizers, you saints, you:

  1.  if tales from a Berlin concert are to be believed, be sure to have the piano tuned before the concert;
  2.  hang up plenty of signs politely advising that the diva “artist” requires utmost concentration and concert-goers who cannot refrain from taking photos kindly will be asked to leave
  3.  give that musical genius a Snickers bar. Or two. Or three. (supposedly they’re good at humanizing divas). And who knows? Maybe there’s a commercial spot in his future and you can turn lemons into lemonade.

Anger advice: It’s better to distract than vent because getting it out can intensify the emotion. Go figure.

I love the podcast the Hidden Brain and this is a fascinating take on what makes Keith Jarrett’s Cologne Concert so phenomenal (though I doubt Keith would agree):
NPR Podcast, Hidden Brain: In Praise of Mess: Why Disorder May Be Good For Us

 

 

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VIEVINUM – VINE LOUSE FOR A DAY

I am not a wine connoisseur. I’m just not. I will admit though that when I once went to a wine social in the US and the “glasses” were plastic cups, I opted for the water instead but I am no wine snob. I like wine. I drink wine. I have no idea what officially makes a good wine, I just know when I drink it, that either enjoy it or I don’t. But my obvious lack of wine 101 hasn’t stopped me from attending VieVinum (http://www.vievinum.com/) in the Vienna Hofburg for the past three years. After all, I might not know a thing about wine, but I do know you don’t serve it in a plastic cup (unless you’re backpacking in the wild). And I happen to agree with the old Viennese song that maybe there’s a little vine louse in all of us.

Steiermark Chamber at the VieVinum in the Vienna Hofburg

Steiermark Wines Chamber at the VieVinum in the Vienna Hofburg

In Austria in the beginning of June  you can let that inner vine louse go wild when hundreds of wine growers come to the Vienna Hofburg to present their best drops of nectar for three glorious days. Your 40 € ticket gets you access to room after room of local and international wineries. Lady Luck shone upon me this year and I won two tickets so I got to spend the afternoon sipping wines on someone else’s tab (thank you, Metropole!).

You stopped processing at the 40 € ticket. Okay, 40 € may be a steep entrance fee price but this isn’t an Epcot Center make-it-look-real-and-pretend-you’re-there façade and doesn’t even cost you a fraction of the price. This is it. The real thing. A once-a-year event. You can spend an entire afternoon (heck, an entire day if you’re so inclined) meandering through the opulent chambers of the former emperor’s palace while nipping on unlimited wines served by growers in Lederhosen and Dirndls. And the ambiance’s completely chilled. Remember all the times you promised yourself you would work to live and not live to work? This is those times – the living, the memory-making. Go for it! And let’s face it, by the third grower, you will no longer be worrying about the steep ticket price, you’ll be looking to the next table, the next bottle, and the next smooth, chilled Veltliner.

Wine Trolley

No. I didn’t get drunk enough to buy this baby but it was tempting even before the first drink – imagine the hissy fit this would cause the US TSA and how eager those guys would be to confiscate it.

My top picks for the afternoon (besides that handy carry on featured on the left):

The surprise of the afternoon was a selection of three red wines from Württemberger Weinberg Werk (www.weinbergwerk.de) – I skipped the first bottle on display and went straight for the Meisterwerk, which was very good but Lebenswerk was even better. In fact, it was so good that all three Austrians who I was making my rounds with praised the smooth, tasty red wine – and for Austrians to freely praise Germans for their wine requires either that the Austrians are drunk (they weren’t, I swear) or for the wine to be that good (it was).

Next, of course, was the Steiermark room. All good Austrians go to the Steiermark for great wine (and wonderful thermal spas) but where to start? We stood in the middle of the grand room, glasses empty, eyeballing all the possibilities and that’s when – like Eve in the garden of paradise – I turned to see the snake wrapped around the bottle. And with a name like Hirschmugl (Domaene am Seggauberg, Seggauberg, Steiermark – http://www.hirschmugl-domaene.at/) how could a girl resist? I convinced a group that didn’t need too much convincing that maybe the snake was on to something. And we were not disappointed. We particularly enjoyed the Muscaris and Sauvignon Blanc. Don’t judge them by their website – I think they are so busy making great wines, they don’t have time to list all their wines. The Sauvignon Blanc smells so lovely – really such an amazing aroma that in an instant I knew what all the sniffing’s about at those stuffy wine events. And if you are interested in a good excuse to do an outing to the Steiermark (as if one needs an excuse), on Saturday, 11 June from 11 am – 6 pm in Leibnitz, Hischmugl will be opening their wine shop and offering a presentation of their 2015 wines.

Vesper, a Grüner Veltliner from the Hohenwarth winery Setzer (www.weingut-setzer.at) was also great. Just the name itself invokes images of labyrinthine, cobblestone lanes in European hamlets, and a lone, romantic table for two on a wine terrace overlooking the vineyards in the warmth of the setting afternoon sun. And at 6.60 € a bottle, you can start saving up for that Vespa to get you there.

Another wine I really liked was the 2011 Grand Cuvée from the winery Reichardt (www.weingut-reichardt.at) called Supreme. It definitely lives up to its name and at 11.50 € a bottle, you can take a bottle along when invited for dinner without looking like a cheapskate (unless you have very uppity friends who can’t appreciate a good bottle of 11.50 € wine which means you should probably decline the dinner invitation and drink it yourself while searching for a new set of friends).

One winery I actively sought out was Antinori (Tuscany, Italy, https://www.vinorama.at/Weingueter/Marchesi-Antinori-Firenze/) and I found the Dirndl-donning server in the Falstaff room. As a podcast junkie I could tell you a million tidbits about a million-and-one topics so when 60 Minutes’ beloved journalist, Morley Safer, passed away and they re-broadcast his favorite segment about an Italian wine (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-toasts-morley-safer/), my curiosity was piqued. This family has been in the wine-making business for 6 centuries(!) and now three sisters are at the forefront of the operations. The wines presented at the VieVinum were apparently newly acquired wines and they didn’t disappoint. Of course, the classic Chianti tasted like the rolling, green hills of Tuscany in a bottle but the one I thoroughly enjoyed as a perfect, light, summer wine was the Vivia, La Mortelle, 2015 (https://www.vinorama.at/Weine/Alle-Weine/Vivia-Maremma-Toscana-IGT-oxid.html). And an extra goody for those living in or visiting Vienna – the family also has an amazing Italian restaurant in the lane directly across from St. Stephan’s cathedral (http://www.cantinetta-antinori.com/en/vienna/cantinetta-antinori-di-vienna). When I dined there once, the food and atmosphere were so inviting, that I think our little group did like the Italians, lost track of time and ended up staying until closing (no slapping down the check with the after-dinner espresso in these places).

I may have missed some of the best wines at the VieVinum. But frankly, I don’t think so. I’ve noted the ones I enjoyed and I’ll be sure to somehow acquire some bottles for home (they all said to send them an email). And every time I drink a Sauvignon Blanc from Hischmugl or a Vivia from Antinori, I’ll remember our afternoon at the VieVinum and the wine will taste all the better for the memory – not just of a beautiful afternoon with good friends but of the wine makers and that twinkle they get when talking about their wines, the history, the barrels, the soil. You listen, swirl the wine in your glass, inhale the fine aroma, and no sooner have you savored the fine texture, and unique flavor, that you find yourself turning to the winemaker with a “Wow ! That’s great stuff.” Immediately you see it – for them this is more than a hobby, more than a product, a business, a way of life – it’s their Lebenswerk, and when done well, a Meisterwerk.

And a special treat for you – a Viennese classic to accompany your Achterl – Hans Moser singing about his former and future life as a grapevine louse.

I weiß ned was des is,
i trink so gern a Flascherl Wein.
Da muass goar ka bsondrer Anlass oda Sunntog sein…

I’m not sure what it is, I really like to drink a little bottle of wine, And it doesn’t even have to be  a Sunday or a special time… I must have been a vine louse in a former life… And when I die I want to be born again as a vine louse…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MAY – PARADES, MAY POLES AND THIEVES

Just gotta call it fate. I post the maypole article below a few days ago. Then just two days later, I am walking through the first district past a cozy little restaurant near the university and low and behold, what greets me — a stolen maypole. Some cheeky students snatched the maypole from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences of Vienna (Boku), transported it on the Bim (do maypoles need tickets, Herr Schaffner?) and erected it at that restaurant to hang out for a while and spread May good-cheer to the lawyers, politicians, tourists and students who pass the 1st district eatery on their way to their next appointment.  LOVE IT! (see featured photo at beginning of text). Rumor has it that the green-with-envy Technical University students have asked if the stunt qualifies their Boku brethren for extra credit points because everyone knows, “while the TU students are working their butts off for every point possible, the Boku students are racking them in with far easier tasks and twice the fun.” Well, TU students, if you’re good, maybe the Boku students who swiped the maypole will invite you to the Jause and beer that will no doubt be demanded as ransom.

In any case, I’ll keep my readers updated as the story progresses…

Original post about the maypole tradition:

While flag-waving workers and balloon-tied toddlers led by SPÖ politicians parading to the beat of marching bands through Vienna’s street culminate in a sea of red at the city’s Rathaus, another Austrian tradition takes places in what may appear to be tranquil town squares throughout the country. Perhaps it’s the chimes of the church bells or the gurgling of the square’s fountain that lure you into the belief that here is one place in the the world at least, where one can sip one’s Melange, admire the budding window boxes and enjoy the scent of freshly baked bread tempting you from the bakery next door.  No worries. The universe of this little town square is on its proper course.

But then you look up to admire the town’s symbol of pride. The pole that you noticed the townspeople raising the day before with music and fanfare, the tall, slender, wooden pole that towered above the highest house in town with the small pine tree attached to its tippy-top, it’s different now. There’s something missing. The tree! The tree is gone! And from the corner of your eye, you spot ’em. Two young men stealthily stuffing the last remaining pine branch into the back of their Opel before they speed off in the direction of the neighboring village.

maypole

maypole

Yes, in an annual attempt at one-upmanship, villages throughout this serene land of white windy winters that melt into spring, engage in a tradition of a more mischievous thing. They steal each other’s maypoles. And because the maypoles only rival the Gamsbart in their display of pride and masculinity, they are guarded round-the-clock. But some villages prove more clever than others. Upper Austrians, for example, have been quite crafty. In 2012 a group from Engerwitzdorf, a town outside of Linz with just 8000 inhabitants, managed in three nights to steal a total of twelve maypoles from neighboring villages. And afterwards they even had the audacity to cheekily  display their bounty along the highway.  In Lower Austria, another group of thieves chose an even more brazen place to display their prize — the lion’s enclosure of the Haag zoo.

But it’s all in good fun. And tradition doesn’t only stipulate the amount of days that the trees can be stolen (three after being raised) but also the means of return. The home village loads some kegs of beer onto a tractor and drives the ransom payment to the hostage-taking village in return for the “missing” tree.  Unless you are the mayor of Linz, in which case you may decide not to pay the beer because the tree went up 4 days before May 1 and was guarded 5 days, and then stolen 10 days after it went up. Whoever said math isn’t useful in the real world? And that sometimes it pays to turn a blind eye to numbers and stringent rules in the name of good fun.

Is stealing a Maypole Illegal: According to this gov. flyer if you keep to the tradition, it is rarely ever penalized: http://www.bmi.gv.at/cms/BMI_OeffentlicheSicherheit/2014/03_04/files/Brauchtum_und_Recht.pdf

Krone report about stolen maypole in Vienna and its subway adventure: http://www.krone.at/Oesterreich/Studenten_mit_gestohlenem_Maibaum_in_Bim_unterwegs-Spassaktion_in_Wien-Story-508471

 

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DISTANCE HURT – Austrian word of the Week

Print This PostFernweh: Oh yeah. Americans feel it too. But maybe the-powers-that-be thought it wise not to allow it into the English language, for fear that the English-speaking wage slaves amongst us with little to no paid vacation time could be chronically ill with Fernweh. Wittgenstein knew exactly what he was talking about when he said the boundaries of our language are the boundaries of our world. No name? No reality. Better to let those European German-speakers name and suffer from their Fernweh ailment as they plan their month-long annual jaunts to distance lands, exotic beaches and tropical paradises. Because who the heck isn’t suffering a bit of distance hurt whenever Poldi from three cubicles down, keeps sending the company Whatsapp group amazingly gorgeous photos of hippos or

Hippo

Don’t be fooled. Whatapp Hippo Photo sent to induce Fernweh and envy.

rhinos and clear blue African skies while the rest of us peons are battling the last of our winter colds, suffering through Lugner Presidential raps and elbowing Omis in Billa for the last pack of the spring’s first ripened strawberries. Yes, unbelievable but true, even if you are fortunate enough to reside in the world’s most livable city, you can suffer from bouts of Fernweh. So if

Vacation Sign

Vienna store sign bragging about being on vacation instead of simply posting “closed.”

you’re like me, it’s not that you weren’t desperate to get out of Dodge while living your hamster-wheel 9-5 existence in small town USA, you just didn’t realize there was a proper name for it and that folks just like you all over the globe were suffering from the exact same thing – Fernweh! Yes, Fernweh! Print This Post

More Words of the Week

Beuschlreißer: Lung Ripper

Panama Beach

Beach in Panama – guaranteed to grant Fernweh sufferers relief while experienced – unless they’re too busy trying to hide something else.

Blechtrottel: Tin Idiot

C-80

Eierbär: Eggsbear

Eifersucht, Frühlingsmüdigkeit, Hungerlohn, Torschlusspanik, Schadenfreude, Weltschmerz, Katzenjammer, Freitod, Holzpyjama, Lebensmüde, Fernweh

Fetzenschädel: Rags Skull

Geistesvernichtungsanstalt: Spirit Annihilation Asylum

Gespritzer

Häuslpapierfladerer: House Paper Thief

Hatscher

Krautwacher: Cabbage Guard

Putzgretl: Cleaning Gretl

Saubär: Pig Bear

Treppenwitz: Stair Joke

 

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