HCH 11 / July 2016
My conversation with Donald Trump, by Tussah Heera
Me: It’s really crazy that I’m here talking to you right now. Thanks for taking time out of your hectic schedule of bragging about your net worth to have this little chat.Trump: Well, Miss Heera, the pleasure is mine and mine entirely. See, you saved my life today.
Me: I’m not sure I understand?
Trump: (hesitates) Can I let you in on a huge secret?
Me: If you wish.
Trump: When I’m not speaking or being interviewed, I get ill. I mean, physically ill. I could die. If I didn’t talk to you right now, I would be left with a whole hour before my next interview – a whole hour! What on earth am I going to do till then? My precious hair would’ve started crawling back into my head and my skin would’ve shriveled up like a raisin!
Me: Well, I didn’t know that. But somehow, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. All this aside, though, what I really wanted to discuss with you is your undying love for classical music. A little while back, you told me that you have a special adoration for Bach.
Trump: Yes, that’s absolutely true. See, the thing is, most composers were either gay commies like Copland, or lazy motherfuckers relying on government handouts like that illegal alien Frederic. But it was only Bach who was committed and didn’t let anything stand in the way of creating his masterpieces. He was like, “Hey, all of you patsy composers need lessons ’cause you don’t know shit! I’m going to make music great again!”
Me: Wait, when you mentioned a “Frederic” earlier, did you mean Frederic Chopin?
Trump: Hell yeah, I meant Chopin. Pesky little loser jumped over the border to France when the goings got tough in Poland. Then he composed that traitorous song called “Revolutionary Etude” or something. Such nerve!
Me: You do realize that there’s not exactly a “border” to jump over between Poland and France, right? You’d have to jump over the whole of Germany. Also Chopin was a refugee who was forced to flee his country during the Russian occupation. His poignant harmonies and evocative bel canto melodies are a testament to the heartbreak, helplessness, and denial faced in his life, as well as the few glimmers of hope and love that his life offered him. I personally think his music speaks for all of us, in different ways, don’t you think?
Trump: (rolls eyes) Boo hoo. There you go, crying about those “poor refugees” just like the crazy prime minister of the country you’re studying in. I’m warning you – you won’t be in Canada for very long before it becomes Canuckistan, you liberal elitist piano girl! As for Mr. Chopin, he didn’t understand right from wrong and the true values of music, unlike my man J.S.
Me: And what exactly are these true values, Mr. Trump?
Trump: Take one of my favorite pieces in the wide world – the Goldberg Variations. Right away, Bach lets us know that G major is the supreme key. So pure and holy – only one black note in it, if you catch my drift. Just like the dream I have for America. It rules over the whole piece, as is its rightful place, without any other keys butting in and adding their degenerate ways into the mix. Only G major has the authority to drive this great work, endlessly vary the theme, and carry it on till the end with grace, valor, and an iron fist. Bach made sure that every note outside of G major knew its place. What people don’t realize is that we have a crisis now, Tussah. During the Romantic era, unlicensed and undocumented notes just began waltzing into the middle of music and invading keys they don’t belong in, and it has gotten so much worse since then. You do realize that when foreign notes cross the borders of a key, they’re not bringing their best. They’re bringing their drugged-up Neapolitan sixths and sleazy deceptive cadences along with them. And boy, do Chopin and the others enable them – bunch of immigrant-sympathizing wimps! My grandparents did not come all the way from Germany to America just to hear such awful drivel.
Me: You seem to be very passionate about this.
Trump: Damn right, I am. The saddest part is that composers today don’t even care what keys their pieces are in. They don’t realize that they’re destroying the fabric and foundation of music itself. All this polytonality and atonality business is complete anarchy!
Me: Well, I must beg to differ on that one. Atonal music actually represents the opposite of anarchy – rather, it tends to be highly formalistic and structured, such as Schoenberg’s twelve-tone rows, or Ligeti’s use of fractals and geometry in his etudes. And I’m not a particularly die-hard fan of all atonal music myself – some of it sounds like shit, sure – but I must admit that dramatic twists of polytonality add variety and interest to all music – even the tonal kind. What’s the point of listening to a piece that doesn’t ever change key? I think it to be rather boring. Aren’t the most interesting and touching notes in the Goldberg actually the ones that are not from G major?
Trump: You might very well think that, but that doesn’t make it true.
Trump: At some point we just have to say that wrong notes are wrong notes, you know. You just gotta say it like it is, and whether some pansy liberal statisticians or scientists claiming to be “reasonable people” think it’s true or not doesn’t matter. They’re just jacking off to the beat of their own metronomes. The real question here – the one Mr. Bach asks – is why should we, as American taxpayers, fund those dirty E flats and A flats with our hard-earned, G major money? Let them find jobs in C minor, where they belong. We really oughtta build a wall between major and minor keys, you know, and Philip Glass should pay for it! Some of these notes are actually terrorizing our music with their warped ideologies. We need to start acknowledging radical wrong note extremism and get it the hell out of our music. These notes don’t like our lifestyle and will kill every rendition they get their hands on. Anyone who disagrees is disgraceful!
Me: I feel like you are over-generalizing the definition of “wrong note”. One should distinguish between right notes that don’t belong to the home key of a piece, and notes that are hit during a performance and don’t belong to the piece at all – truly wrong notes. Just because a note does not belong to the home key of a piece doesn’t mean it isn’t a true part of the piece. These notes are honest contributors to the fabric of the music, and add great diversity to it. However, wrong notes have no other motive than to ruin a performance. Those notes – more specifically, their motives – are the ones we should be against. Additionally, we shouldn’t forget that many problems can arise in notes that belong to the home key too!
Trump: Look, if you want to kill a problem, you must begin at the root. We shouldn’t let any non-key note go unchecked. Soon, all those wrong notes would learn to fear us and go back to the moron-land they came from.
Me: Well, even for the most accurate musicians among us, invasive wrong notes are a reality of our existence. They will, sadly, always exist. But we can prevent them from occurring by taking necessary precautions, such as regulating our practicing and not letting them sound too loudly if they do occur.
Trump: All this regulation stuff is meaningless. I say you need to bust out the right notes as loud as you can. It takes a right note played forte to stop a wrong note played forte. You have to go hard on them, or they would never take you seriously.
Me: Wouldn’t that ruin the performance even more?
Trump: Tussah, you’re being naïve. You need to be armed and prepared for anything. Take the Rite of Spring premiere, for instance. Why it got so out-of-hand has always puzzled me. Imagine if Stravinsky had known how to get those rioting jackasses out of his auditorium. He should’ve got someone to either shoot them or knock the crap out of them, and all he would’ve had to do is offer to pay some legal fees.
Me: Let’s move on and talk about the piece itself. What are your impressions?
Trump: That work was truly a product of innovation. I even think that the tribal ritual where the girl dances herself to death for the gods of Spring was pretty awesome – finally something good that came from those Muslims.
Me: Not to belabor a great conversation with boring facts, but the Rite of Spring is actually an ancient Celtic tradition, not an Islamic one.
Trump: Who cares? The important part is that Igor was already into promoting diversity and all that. Just look at the opening bassoon solo. Who knew that a bassoon could play in such a high register? Also I believe that that girl’s fate was a lesson to us all. Torture works, guys. All you gotta do is put some real world applications to it, and then Spring comes, the terrorists know who’s boss, and everyone’s happy. And hats off to him for writing all those insane polyrhythms and polytonal sections which nobody dared to write before. My good friend Sarah Palin once said, “The maverickyest music is the greatest music”.
Me: Whoa, I never realized she was a classical music scholar, but those words are quite true. However, I thought you told me earlier that you didn’t appreciate polytonality?
Trump: When did I say that? I love it more than anything in the world! I also need the modern composer vote.
Me: Either way, a love for Stravinsky is definitely something we both have in common. What I love about his music is how evocative it is of nature, the human condition, and consciousness. I’m currently in the process of learning the Three Movements from Petrushka, transcribed for piano by the composer, and I’m investigating how the musical elements of the piece relate to the narrative. The story is somewhat like Pinocchio – a magician brings three puppets to life, and leaves them to experience human emotions, such as love and loss. Do you have any comments about this work?
Trump: You know Tussah, the more I talk to you, the more I’m contemplating instating a mandatory Stravinsky course at Trump University, after I get all the legal mumbo-jumbo sorted out. I think everyone needs to learn about him. Petrushka is one of my favorite works of all time.
Me: Mine too! What do you love about it?
Trump: See, that piece is the only one that shows straight-up reality both in the story and the musical structure. No bullshit.
Me: How so?
Trump: Normally, most stories lead you to believe that the underdog wins at life, gets the girl, etc. Like Pinocchio, who worked so hard to become a “real boy”. But none of this is true at all, and Stravinsky tries to show us that. Petrushka is a weak-ass clown, alright? The magician really messed up when he brought him to life. He looks permanently sad, everyone laughs at him, and the ballerina he loves doesn’t give a crap about him. Instead, she falls in love with the Moor, the only guy in the story who has his head screwed on right.
Me: I’m not sure that the Moor had his head in the right place, exactly. Didn’t you find him superficial and empty inside?
Trump: That’s the media brainwashing you. The Moor is confident, macho, and doesn’t take no for an answer. And what would Petrushka do even if he did get the girl and live happily ever after? Cry her a river? Once a loser, always a loser. His death was written all over the ballet from the start. And even after he dies he’s still a loser, haunting the magician like that. Yeah, I mean, he was totally at fault for creating such a wimp, but haunting is how one gets revenge? Really? What’s he gonna do, flick the bathroom lights on and off while the magician’s on the toilet? What Stravinsky showed in this whole story is that there are winners and there are losers, and that losers never win. That’s another wall we should be building, just like Stravinsky did – between winners and losers.
Me: I think that the haunting scene was rather poignant. It actually shows that superficiality lives and dies at the will of others, but intelligence and consciousness continue even beyond the grave.
Trump: That’s the media telling you that again. But story aside, the scope of the music is yuuuuge. Who would’ve thought that an F sharp major chord over a C major chord could be so iconic? I mean, it’s so simple, you know, but now it has its own name: the Petrushka chord – kind of like the Trump brand. Everyone knows about how good I am at branding. As a successful businessman, I must say I vouch for the Petrushka chord. Great decisions there. So simple, so elusive. That’s not to say that the piece is not tough as nails though, with all those stretches, chords, and polyrhythms. I must ask you, Tussah. There are so many stretches in the piano version, of intervals beyond an octave. How are you dealing with them?
Me: Well, my hands can only reach minor ninths, so I find ways to distribute larger intervals. Either I can play the bottom note of the chord an octave higher, roll the chord, or as a very last resort, omit the note. It all depends on the musical context, but I must keep my options open. Why do you ask?
Trump: You ought to be punished for that. What gives you the right to omit a note that the composer specifically intended to write? Your selfish “needs”? Pro-omission musicians like you need to learn a thing or two.
Me: I never said I was “pro-omission”. All I said is, in the event that all my precautionary measures fail, I would be pressed to omit a particular note so that the part feels comfortable to play and the end product sounds right.
Trump: Those “precautionary measures” are anti-music and anti-American. Did the composer write a rolled chord? I think not. The only correct way to play a piece exactly as he intended – note for note. If you’re not prepared to do that, then a young woman such as yourself should not be playing such pieces in the first place. If you do, you need to be responsible and put up with the consequences.
Me: How exactly is it responsible to attempt to play the major ninths and tenths as they are, even though I know I physically can’t, miss notes, and ruin the entire performance? Avoidable consequences don’t need to be put up with.
Trump: Look, I used to think exactly like you before. But I’ve changed my mind on this after seeing the sheer potential missed notes have in a performance. Think about it – if you had omitted a C, for instance, you would’ve never hit a C sharp by accident, and it would not have had the dignity to live and become the star of your performance. That’s pretty badass, you know. That’s why I want to defund all music teachers who promote omission.
Me: In the case you present, that accidental C sharp was never meant to be the star of that performance. It’s truly a wrong note.
Trump: There’s no such thing as wrong notes. Only wrong mindsets.
Me: Are you serious? You just told me a few minutes ago that wrong notes are wrong notes, and that we shouldn’t be afraid to admit that they are! I must also say that I’m quite surprised you have such a dogmatic position on note redistribution even as a fellow small-handed person.
Trump: See, that’s not the truth. I once shook hands with the great conductor Karajan, and he said I have strong, good sized hands. My hands are normal. In fact, he reckoned that they’re actually slightly larger, and that I might be one of the few people who could play the opening chords of Rachmaninov’s 2nd concerto without being a coward and rolling them. As I said, my hands are normal, okay?
Me: I’m sorry, but we don’t have much time left, as I have to go discuss Schenkerian analysis with Hillary. I must say this conversation was rather informative. All in all, what advice would you give to this American pianist who’s trying to make her career interpreting splendorous music of great depth and technical difficulty?
Trump: It was nice talking to you as well. You just gotta go for it and get ’em out, you know. Just like I plan to do with the Chinese. And make sure you don’t practice Petrushka until you start bleeding outta your fingers. Or wherever.
Me: (sinks head in hands) Get out.
The conversation is over.
*Disclaimer: by “unlikely”, I actually mean “nonexistent”.
Tussah Heera, Las Vegas–Macau, June 2016
Originally published on Tussah and the Wolf on June 17, 2016