kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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This may be the saddest record you will ever hear

Close your eyes and see this in your mind: A high school girl in the snow in Manhattan, a prancing wind of curly red hair buffeting around her face, fists clenched: she is screaming as a man runs through the snow -- bits of it fly into the air with each footfall -- he has her viola, the thing she loves most, the thing that defines her very being -- clutched beneath his arm, in his haste when he snatched it he has grabbed her scarf as well, it trails behind him -- in my mind this happens slowly and you can see the scarf move behind him like a slow flagella of the crime. He leaves a scent in the air. She searches frantically, the police can't help ... her red viola is gone, vanished into a city of eight million stories. For nearly a decade its absence grinds a channel in her, wearing her away. But each of those eight million stories is a continuing thread, you may miss part of it, but the thread remains -- it has a beginning, and an end. One afternoon in 2000 a mysterious letter arrives at the door of that same young girl -- now grown up, a graduate of the Julliard School of Music -- the letter is from a woman who'd become suspicious that the viola she'd purchased may have been stolen at some point in its history -- markings inside the instrument, and a scarf, lead her to Victoria Voronyansky.

Brick by brick, the story comes together.

If you believe that a person can put some of who they are, some part of their own self into a thing because they love it so much, then the music on Anabasis Red Viola will make sense to you, because laid bare there is a sadness you can't explain otherwise. The recordings on Red Viola are not the story of the joy of reconciliation, but the unslakable yearning caused by years of absence. In The Philosophy of Composition Poe described the symbolism of the raven as a "mournful and never-ending remembrance" -- that is Red Viola. If you own shelves of classical music or if you own none you need this.

Anabasis means "moving from the coast to the center of a country" -- I don't know that it's a particularly useful word, you can impress people by saying "my vacation to Iowa was one of anabasis" -- but then you have to explain it, but its slant rhymes suggest motion to someplace safe. (The journey back to the coast is katabasis.) And you may think of these words and imagine the paths of a thing and a person and how they are taken apart and brought back together and ... you can think on this for a long time and profitably.

Victoria Voronyansky. Clickenzee to Embiggen

I didn't know the story behind all this when I photographed Victoria Voronyansky in May and I hadn't heard her music. Had I, I would have paid more attention to her viola, I would have peppered her with questions.... And now that I have heard her music and her story, I understand how photography has cheated me to the top of an intellectual circle I may never have visited otherwise -- I've butted in line and got to meet people like this.

We shot for about 40 minutes in a disused wing of the Eastern State penitentiary and I was excited to get a note from her last week that two of my photos were on her new album and she was sending me a copy.

Red Viola CD, photographed with Roswell to enhance value.

Clickenzee to Emgiggen

These are big notes, alone in a big room and you're so very close to it. It may be the saddest album I've ever heard and there are no words on it, just you and empty space and something that's been gone for so long.

Video of Victoria playing Debussy's Syrinx from Red Viola.

Buy this album. And the next time the world is cold and grey, put on your best headphones, go for a walk, and listen to this, if they're really good headphones you'll be able to hear Victoria breathing and you'll breathe with her. When you see a flock of birds pass overhead, you'll understand why you're crying.

You can buy it on amazon, iTunes or a physical CD here. She's on Facebook and on Twitter at @VVoronyansky.

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