In Praise of the Suzuki Mom

From Alec Wilkinson’s profile of Jason Moran in the new New Yorker:

A piece of Moran’s called “Cradle Song” memorializes his mother. When Moran was a child, she would attend his lessons and take notes. “I’m trying to play, and she was scratching away,” he said. “She’s writing down ‘Watch your fingering,’ and ‘Work on your tone.’ I wanted to say, ‘Can you please stop that.'” The song begins with a simple, almost exercise-like figure. The sound of a pencil scratching against paper intrudes, as if his mother had begun immediately to find a reason to criticize. The scratching persists, then becomes fainter until, about three-quarters of the way through the song, it disappears, as if she had begun to listen, or as if she were gone and he were continuing alone. The scratching, Moran says, is actually him writing to her, saying, “I know I yelled at you a long time ago, when I was a kid, but I almost wish you were here writing notes now.”

Moran’s mother died of cancer.

The “almost exercise-like figure,” as Billy well knows, is the tender “Cradle Song” by Carl Maria von Weber, from Suzuki Piano Book 2.

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