Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Aria on the Balcony

The moment of inertia of a rotating body is the resistance of mass to a change in rotation around an axis. A still point around a turning body.

Music fills the concert hall, long after the song is over. O mio babbino caro, Mi piace, è bello, bello, Vo' andare in Porta Rossa, a comperar l'anello! My balcony seat, an extension of my over-stuffed apartment, faces west. I write at Nine o’clock and look at the changing colors of the narrow sliver of sky between the buildings aligning Park, Madison, Fifth, Broadway, all the way to the Hudson. White flowers decorate the trees potted in small squares along 54th street; White flowers are nodding outside my dusty apartment window; White flowers line the sidewalks, impressions on tall, lit buildings. White flowers bloom in a city. Park Avenue is filled with potted flowers and trees with blooms of blue, yellow, pink and white, clouding my internal sense of spring. For, how have hyacinths bloomed so immediately when I have missed the budding bulbs? I play a recording of a soprano aria on the balcony.

When I look far enough toward the west, the flashing buildings and moving cars, coming towards me down the one way street and across the horizontal avenues, look like little Forth of July sparklers. They move against the steady lights in buildings of working midtown professionals. The scene of every day life on 54th is below me, the bars opening their doors at Nine o’clock, letting the bass of hip hop drift outwards to mingle with slow traffic, the conversations outside bodegas floating up to my balcony as the notes of Gianni Schicchi meets them halfway. Sì, sì, ci voglio andare! e se l'amassi indarno, andrei sul Ponte Vecchio ma per buttarmi in Arno! Sounds dissipate into one another, flowing through and into the evening lights. At this time of night, ladies walk by slowly with sequined purses and the local delivery man is carrying a pizza on his bicycle, his little bell interrupting my aria. O mio babbino caro is playing, and I am counting flashing cars passing by my balcony and thinking of the last note in a symphony.

Hovering, suspended, effortless – the last note resounds through the concert hall. Music teachers would say that the last note is the most powerful, the most vital, the most impossible to deliver properly. The last note is the final separation between the sound and the silence, as contrasting as white flowers blooming in a city of lights at night. I am forced to practice the last note repeatedly. Five repeats. Ten. Twenty. An hour of repeating three measures to perfect the motion of a body to deliver the conclusion of ten minutes. Mi struggo e mi tormento! O Dio, vorrei morir! Babbo, pietà, pietà! Babbo, pietà, pietà! That motion beyond the sound – the continual momentum of the bat, long after the ball has been hit – is the sound within the silence, the absence of time in an hour, the absolute existence of a thing within its contradiction (why would the madam move her arms to deliver an aria?).

When the final note is completed, the body holds the breath of music, letting the sound (when the sound has been played, blown, or struck) bleed through the room like a vein carrying blood to the heart. Hands leave the keys, just as the violinist’s bow is suspended, frozen in the air from the instrument as the note moves past the song’s ending and into the concert hall. This moment is an intersection point – a point when music is heard long after the symphony has stopped, when music still breathes long after the sound is dead.
My aria on the balcony settles into the evening above and below, intermingling with the conversation of other sounds, and blooms like white flowers would in winter and bleeds like a vein carrying blood to the heart, long after the sound is gone.