Ruined Piano

I can’t remember when exactly this all took place, but it must have been about 15 years ago.  I was in Denver at the time, living in my mother’s house.  I got a call from my best friend from college, Brian.  He was flying into Denver after visiting his family in Oregon, and wanted to know if I could pick up at the airport and take him to Boulder.  I didn’t really want to, but my mom convinced me that it was important to do these kinds of favors for your friends.

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I met Brian at the airport.  It was early evening, and a very rainy, foggy night.  I was driving my stepdad’s pick-up truck.  Brian was waiting outside when I pulled up.

Man, am I glad to see you, he said as he opened the passenger door and throw his backpack behind the seats of the truck.  That trip was brutal.

We pulled out of the airport, and got on the highway to Boulder.  As we left Denver, the rain and fog grew heavier.  We were only driving about 30 mph down the highway.  Brian pulled out a joint and said Let’s smoke this, and lit it before I even answered.  I pushed a cassette into the car stereo.  We smoked the joint and listened.

It was a recording by Ross Bolleter and Richard Ratajczak.  In college, both Brian and I played music with Ross.  His specialty was ruined piano.  This specialty started sometime ago when he was walking the Outback of Australia and found a piano left for dead.  He came back later with recording equipment, and recorded a remarkable sonic improvisation on the ruined piano, a recording called Nallan Void.

On this rainy night, in the confines of a pick-up cab filled with smoke, Brian and I listened to a collaborative project with Ross and Richard Ratajczak.  On the recording, Ross plays prepared piano, and Richard plays double bass.  This recording, however, is an experiment in Jungian synchroncity.

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Carl Jung was the great Swiss psychiatrist.  Amongst other things, Jung expressed the believe that consciousness can be shared across time and space.  Synchroncity, in Jungian thought, is when two people experience the same thought, dream, or moment of consciousness simultaneously.

For the this recording, Ross and Richard couldn’t hear each other, and were in two different time zones.  They sought unity of consciousness through their music.  The two performed simultaneously, the separate recordings were beamed together via satellite, and aired on the radio in both Sydney and Perth.

Brian and I drove in smokey silence, listening to the atonal washes of the piano and the double bass.  We hardly spoke.  The air was thick in the cab, and outside the heavy rains continued.  The steady beat of the windsheild wipers provided a background to the music.  Strangely, I still think of this night as a night of real bonding and communication, despite the fact that we hardly said a word.

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