Voice by Emily Tu

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Voice, by Emily Tu ‘16 after Igor Levit’s performance of J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 4 in D Major

I never liked Bach. My fingers would strain as if they had molded the same mound of clay into perfect right angles for hours and hours, stiffly pushing to lure each line out, but the pianist onstage easily alights his pinky and index finger to form an octave, flexes his fingers into a flock of starlings—in bare flight, then blithely dipping—with clear voices at the arrival. If I could speak the way Bach does, I think I would be more willing and open. What I mean is, Bach can sink a burning pitch inside a pair of blue lips and glide it down your throat to the tips of your fingers without you ever having to open your mouth. I haven’t sat at a piano for more than five minutes at a time in three years and seven months, haven’t felt keys since Christmas, and I wonder about all the notes that I have deserted still aflame on my tongue, squished between my teeth, forgotten behind my gums. Bach would know to pluck them out and place them in another pair of hands—hands like the ones on stage now, hands already open and ready to cast those blazing voices into the black like falling stars. Maybe your past hands. Maybe my future hands. Next year, after Princeton and what has become familiar, I know I will still have this— Bach’s dusty residue rising to the rafters in the aftermath.


The way my fingers will always curve instinctively into arches. A small, small heart lined with the burning and burned gold of a piano’s interior.