Last Sunday, on Valentine’s Day, my husband and I attended our local orchestra’s symphonic concert. Subtitled as “Lovers Love Great Melodies” the program included great melodious pieces; but without a question the highlight of the night was Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with a young guest pianist, who performed the piece wonderfully.
As the swooning melodies of the second and third movements stayed with me for a few days, I searched the internet for the several recorded performances of the piano concerto. On YouTube (the fantastic source to get reacquainted with many half-forgotten musical and film performances) I found the recording of the 1st movement of the piano concerto no. 2 performed by Rachmaninov himself (let us praise the recording technology!) as well as video recordings of the music by several artists.
I listened to Rachmaninov’s piano performance of his own creation and then some more; yet what astonished me more than any accomplished pianists’ performances was a blind Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii’s performance of Rachmaninov’s concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Here was this young person who was obviously blind playing one of the most difficult piano concerts beautifully while pouring out all his emotions and energy. By the time he finished the entire concert 33 minutes or so later I was truly moved: he made me think of humanity’s immense possibility. In a way, it is understandable that a blind person, deprived of visual perception, excels in his musical/ auditory ability. Then, I started thinking about the concept of self-identity, prompted by his mannerism that suggests the absence of self-consciousness (I may be utterly wrong here).
According to the French psychiatrist and psychoanalytical theorist Jacques Lacan, humans form self-identity (no matter how fictive or distorted it may be) by going through the mirror state when babies begin to recognize themselves reflected on the mirror. After seeing Nobuyuki Tsujii perform I began to wonder how blind people, such as Mr. Tsujii who was born blind, form their self-identity. I wondered if a blind musician, for instance Mr. Tsujii, has a musical score or melody that he thinks defines him.