By Anna

The problem with a choir is it is often limited to words—no high a note nor song of mercy or grace could summon the grace given through a pianist’s motion and power. What a fortuitous gift I had been given the other night—given and not expected—from a choir concert. The pianist moved me to tears with fluidity of spirit and retribution given to those ivory keys!

courtesy of morguefile.com

From what existence did such a piano arise? It is as its given name suggests—grand, grand in sound and weight, grand in presence and power, but most of all grand in potential to empower and move. The piano entertains publicly or privately and could stand upright or grandly. Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin come alive on the grand piano where they never intended to. The concert grand’s longer strings vibrate with accuracy and 88 keys repeat as a steady foot tempers each peddle with precision; the grand moves the audience to feel the emotion that has lasted since he composer laid notes to page.

The grand exists also to progress. When the world at last is tipped by Axes of Power, an artist is born. Why are we so eerily moved by the band playing on as the Titanic sank, or by the survival of a pianist surviving the horrors of World War II? Because we want music to be played again. Played for the atrocity, played for the loss, but most of all played for the life that was saved to tell the story again and again.

Though we too often ignore it in our scientific, political, and economic successes it is music and art that the previous successes owe to their progression. We must be moved, otherwise we, the masses, will stand still—unable to think for ourselves. Thinking in such copious amounts proves fatal for the masses, thus the artist controls mass panic through emotional manipulation. We must be manipulated because we must not forget that lives were lost and though music may be an emotional hyperbole, it communicates what grotesque horrors feel like.

Thus I come to the next point I hope to make: how can artists approach horrific events justly? How do we tread, but carefully, through the swamp of disaster or the mire of blood?

Quick reviews from the movies I saw this week:

The Damned United

The Damned United is a quasi-inspirational sports story I can get on board with because the British know how to be inspiring without being emotional and irritating. The plot follows the true story of Brian Clough, the manager of most notably Derby County and Nottingham Forest, and then his 44-day reign at Leeds United. The few unsuccessful days with Leeds wasn’t the end for Clough, but was the most personal. Michael Sheen plays Clough with wit and fierce know-how as well as a deep obsession with Leeds United and its previous manager.

Football, perhaps the only sport with tea cups in the locker room, has small players compared to other sports (even Leeds United), but is a hell of a lot more brutal than the copy cat version we see here in the States, and “The Damned United” is nothing short of brute force and will. The will of the film is smart and well made, also unlike its U.S. counterparts (like “Remember the Titans”), and I would recommend it to any British film lover.  Three and a half stars.

Sophie’s Choice

This film felt a lot like “Cider House Rules:” character sketches from a narrator. Meryl Streep no doubt deserves the Oscar win for her inescapable ability to draw the viewer into her intense eyes, but it is her choice that leaves viewers hanging on until the end. The 1982, Holocaust remembrance film has its flaws, such as devoting so much time to development that Sophie’s choice feels rushed in the final 15 minutes, but it is well acted and, deservedly, well received.  Three and a half stars.

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