Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Idea Of A Horror Story

I bought a DVD in Hong Kong of the fantastically brilliant Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman playing Chopin and Schubert. I have a number of Zimerman's recordings, and he is inarguably one of the greatest piano talents on the planet. He's especially fantastic with Debussy and the works of his fellow countryman, Chopin.

He has also become famous for interrupting his U.S. concert performances to speak out angrily against this country's military aggression. Normally very taciturn, he has a couple times declared a boycott of U.S. performances, first in 2006 until George W. Bush was out of office, and later altogether. Also in 2006 he criticized the U.S. extra-legal prison at Guantanamo Bay, and in 2009 he stopped a concert in Los Angeles to denounce President Obama's continuation of a missile shield in his country.  "Get your hands off my country" he said in a quiet but angry voice. A number of people got up noisily and stormed out of the hall, some shouting obscenities. (This fact itself astounds me; who is so unable to brook criticism of a controversial political-military decision by their country that they publicly shout obscenities at a resident of the other country who objects to the policy? How perfectly Bill O'Reilly to impulsively shout an obscenity-laced objection in a packed auditorium.) It seems some in the audience cheered him, while others "told him to shut up and keep playing."

I'd boycott this place too if my very legitimate frustrations were treated thus.

But reading all about this I learned of an even more horrific factoid. It seems he has an even more tangible and personal reason to hate this country with the fire of a thousand suns. Like many of the greatest pianists, Zimerman routinely travels with his own personal Steinway, but unlike most pianists he is a master technician and has personally altered and finely adjusted his instruments. Into this china shop let us introduce the bull of the TSA:
"Shortly after 9/11, his piano was confiscated by customs officials at New York's JFK airport, who thought the glue smelled funny. They subsequently destroyed the instrument."

They WHAT??!  You've GOT to be kidding. Some coven of strutting, high-school dropout martinets don't like the smell of a crated, $120,000 Steinway D Concert Grand shipped in from Poland and they have it destroyed?! "Just to be sure," one of the reports said of the TSA agent. Sure of what? That you're a weapons-grade imbecile? I am just absolutely speechless at this. Just getting fired for that would be nowhere near penance enough, even if the country paid to buy him another (and I can find no mention that it did). An artist of this caliber has a connection to his musical instrument we cannot begin to fathom. Would a TSA agent be allowed to destroy a Stradivarius violin that they thought "smelled funny?" Do they get to kill your dogs if they think there is cocaine in the digestive tract? Couldn't they quarantine the instrument and call in a Steinway technician?

To have such a thing destroyed on a whim is unforgiveable; I'd be on a lifelong personal vendetta against any and all who were involved. At the very least they should be subject to extraordinary rendition and free housing in the secret, black-ops prisons we seem unable to function without.

Meanwhile, I'm off to buy a couple more of his albums to help fund his recovery.

No comments: