Off to a Running Start
Stepping onto the treadmill. A hum of a dozen violins, not discernibly major or minor, in a distant recess of the mind. Arms stretch behind the back. Turn on the
new load of classes, still unclear how I will possibly balance my work this semester. Will I have to work like a
machine. Feet begin to move, hastening smoothly to a trot in a manner of seconds; a few more seconds and—was winter break long enough? Am I relaxed right now?—they are rhythmically stomping. By compulsion, basically.
But the strings quickly assert their disorder. Horns and trumpets assist in a scurry of frenzied noise that hushes for a moment, only to spring up instantaneously in a nearly full orchestral counterpoint of tension overlaid with dread. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is still very far away from
any breather, Pesach vacation, summer, or even
Elysium. A quarter mile now behind. Blood vessels sufficiently dilated to accommodate oxygenated blood. Inertial pain in the past, too, though lactic acid not yet an insufferable flood that will eventually end this trek. Somehow the music doesn’t progress quite linearly—Another semester, somewhat closer to a set career path, though not quite—as a hum of relaxed flutes, which interrupt the aggressive first movement more than halfway through, already float to mental surface.
And suddenly there are drums. Middle of the second? Yeah, middle of the second movement. Sneakered feet boom boom boom to the beat of timpani. A clarinet and oboe melody races along, almost impatiently. Which readings to do, which to skip? Speeding up by a pace and a half. And the frantic, screeching violins are back. I just gotta get out of this prison cell. One day I’m gonna be free, Lord! Just over a mile. What does Queen have to do with German classical music?
Arms waving like two spinning turbines. Did I make a good impression in the first week of classes? Definitely could’ve been more precise in that logic proof. Could’ve been more convincing in that textual analysis. Sometimes focusing on individual stressors is more effective management. One, two, three. And suddenly the blank wall ahead is a morning beach. Not a machine beneath, but sand, and fellow barefooted Olympics runners in front and behind. Running to the beat of an acoustic piano over a soft, yet audible surf. Synthesized French horns introduce Vangelis’s sweeping piano theme, iconic from Chariots of Fire and countless running
not away from unease and concerns, no, that’s not quite right, running with those things, I take them and run towards them, I am not their object, they are my
tributes. A feeling of neurons firing in the throat and skull. Muscle pain is good pain. No pain, no gain, I think they say. A sheen of sweat on forearms and forehead. Hands in the air, impossible not to beam from ear to ear.
Because the greatest symphony ever composed is back. No longer imagined sound alone, but a full concert hall too. Eight miles per hour, why not nine, yeah, nine, seems apropos, no? A crash of violins; ten-second recollections of the first three movements; each movement duly rejected with a harsh screech. It’s Beethoven conducting in 1824, but also Bernstein in 1989, Dudamel in 2018. There are no more confines, is no more danger. The word is
joy, sounds correct, joy, because the current apprehension is not unique, the collective history of me, the collective brotherhood of mankind, has managed, we’ve always seen through the misty early voyages the
FREUDE. FREUDE SCHÖNER GÖTTERFUNKEN, implores the bass soloist—joy, beautiful spark of divinity. The full orchestra, now accompanied by piccolo and contrabassoons too, majorly seconds the sentiment of the “Ode to Joy” chorales. Sprinting, soaring, darting, flying. By the woodwind-and-tenor dominated Turkish March, there’s no question as to the imminence of runner’s high, fully euphoric from feet up to temple. Things make sense now. There is order in the universe. Pacing along patiently, but not for long, because the full choir is about to sing and
I’ve made it this far, the music is almost done, DEINE ZAUBER BINDEN WIEDER WAS DIE MODE STRENG GETEILT, your magic binds again what convention strictly divides, the song always there to revisit, but for now, almost done, almost served its full purpose, hearing that
its words are sincere. The coda is pure celebration. And then, with a standing ovation, it is over.
Outside now. Brutal cold, one of those winds that won’t suffice for just the head-nod, insisting on a full-body embrace. The air howls over Rubin and Belfer Hall. January in New York. Eyes close, then, and there are hills, rolling green hills in every direction. The gale is music insisting on an encore. But there’s no need. Look at the
real world outside, just some ugly buildings and streets, but, in a weird way, kind of nice. I can feel free, even in this
cement jungle. Light pollution is only so thick a mask. SUCH' IHN ÜBER'M STERNENZELT!—seek Him above the canopy of stars! The air hints freshly mowed grass, Adirondacks quality air, sunny days, pleasant evenings. FREUDE SCHÖNER GÖTTERFUNKEN, GÖTTERFUNKEN!