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Grafica e comunicazione

Euler’s identity*

It was a decisive evening. Sublime and terrible. The beauty that unfolded before me was larger-than-life. A beauty that led me to ask myself, while I in a state of desire, what I was really desiring. How to cross a dangerous threshold, one that is always be best left alone.

I was in Seat 1 of Row 1 in the so-called VIP area. In short, I was up front and center. The woman on stage appeared in two fantastically sexy dresses; a neon yellowish green dress with almost see-through details in the first half (Schubert and Chopin) and a black and blue dress with an incredible slit in the second (Scriabin and Balakirev). In addition to the Steinway, I had her legs in front of my nose for the entire second half. This was the situation.

At this point, I must share an essential detail. This woman is perfect to begin with, not considering what she is capable of producing with her instrument. Desirable, and not just in the physical sense. It’s not just her attitude, expressiveness, and graceful way she carries herself, but also her arrogance and the fact she is a myth. The enigma, the great mystery, sifted through two beautiful eyes.

But her body and her movements, and the paranoid thoughts that come into mind are only 10% of the matter, the icing on the cake. The remaining 90% concerns the mystery of music: she doesn’t play the piano, she “is” the piano. This images is often used when referring to the greatest virtuosos, but that don’t play an instrument but ‘are the instrument. But it’s one thing to say this about someone you will never hear play in person and it’s another to experience it first hand of a February evening in Rome. I was there, I saw it, I heard it, and I have proof: I know it exists, that it’s true. Watching her videos and listen to her records is a lie, a lie that passes for truth. Only live, and so close-up, can one truly comprehend the enormity of her talent.

I heard her breathe at times. I was amazed to hear her breathe. I heard her let herself go in a feeble song, I saw her touch the keys with her dainty hands, accompanied by a childish gaze. I saw her contract and break free, I saw her stretch muscles and tendons, during the crazy, epileptic, yet almost always highly controlled passages, pulled to the extreme possibilities. She’s inhuman. I heard her miss a note and in doing so I was finally able to think that she is less distant from me.

With Chopin I laughed and I cried. I had never her Chopin like this before. First of all: crisp. A Cartesian Chopin, but full of grace and strength, which is nonsense stated in this way. But even the gurus, the steadfast, the bombastic, the Benedetti Michelangelis and Rubinsteins could only kiss her little hands and feet and die for a second time of envy. Compared to the videos and CD, I heard her participate in a different way, a subtlety of interpretation, and an incomparable elegance in touch. I can say this with a certain degree of credibility because I had the foresight to assess these details with my eyes closed, trying to snatch up her presence and her charisma made of meat, ivory, ebony, wood and metal. Obviously I desired her. But what of her did I desire? I know that a part of her body, made of flesh, is the most perfect despite its wonderful imperfections, even though if I were to possess it I would be bored quickly as one is always bored with what they possess or believe to possess. So I realized that what I desired was for that body in that moment (and in this case I mean the whole body, including therefore the ivory and ebony of the piano) along with the sublime music that she was producing ... never to end. I wanted time to stop. I wished that moment could last forever. Long story short: I thought “what’s left in the world after this?” I wanted to die. Not so to speak, but because I haven’t come up with any other way for us humans to immortalize a moment other than to return to nothing.

The fact is, however, that time is finite. Just as the applauses ended, the encore, and then more applauses. So I decided to escape. At the end of the last encore, I ran down the stairs looking for my coat and hat, jumping in a taxi: “Go, go,” I said, “go to the opposite side!”.

But I couldn’t resist. I knew she would be in the bookshop, or about to go there, to sign autographs, and I couldn’t make the pilgrimage to see her and her beauty. I couldn’t put myself in line to beg for a signature and a photo. I also fled for this reason. But I couldn’t resist. Just past the barrier that separates the concert hall, I jumped out of the taxi, running in the opposite direction to a small crowd. She was just entering the bookshop, slowly, guarded on either side by two overlying bodyguards. No one had recognized her, so fragile, tiny, even though they were all there just for her, and despite the deployment of forces to protect her. It was a moment. I thought I had only one option: to get closer and do, more or less, what d’Annunzio did with Ida Rubinstein that evening in Paris: kneel, kiss her foot, and then get up to kiss her hand (not her inner thigh, of course) and finally leave, thanking her. But in a split second, alas, I thought no, I’m not d’Annunzio, and so I saw her pass in front of me and vanish. She got lucky.

However, the taxi driver – who at first seemed to be a false, nimrod or a Roman, was actually a big, good-natured man in his Sixties covered with tattoos - wanted to know about my escape. This worked out well because I really need to vent. I told him everything, everything, everything, even of my despair for beauty that is impossible to hold onto, of our desperation as men condemned to the fire of the beauty that comes on and goes, producing and destroying worlds, things and illusions in our brief time, our becoming, between the nothing that we were and the nothing that we will become. After driving and pointing out the parts in my diatribe that he considered salient with interjections such as “wow” and “really?”, he half turned to tell me, compassionate and very serious: “There’s a solution: you can always imagine that her feet stink.”

19/02/2015 Filippo Maglione

* “Gentlemen, that is surely true,
it is absolutely paradoxical;
we cannot understand it,
and we don’t know what it means.
But we have proved it,
and therefore we know it must be the truth.”
Benjamin Peirce after proving Euler’s identity.