How to Practice During a Pandemic II: Further In

Further reflections on practising during the coronavirus pandemic in the form of three poems by pianist Beth Levin

Look at a page of music

as a space to breathe

dissect the voices see where they lead

as if you are a camel in the desert

and music eternity


Perhaps you’ve looked over 

performances from the past

been interviewed even zoomed a concert

Perhaps you’ve reached out for a future engagement

Now is the real process

a musical phrase an inhaling and exhaling of time

a lonely escapade


Let the slow new work begin to live

ask why and why of the music more often

the urgency of a recital date gone

but another urgency taking its place

one’s drives and demons propelling the work forward

into the unseeable, incalcuable unknown


To play in strict time is bracing
no meandering off like a python out of its cage

“Keep the left hand steady
said my teacher
slacken a bit in the right”
a subtle direction
at twelve I knew the idea must be felt
in the body

Some days you just need latitude
notes in the margin crossed out
a furtive amble away from the tour guide
a hidden escape clause

The trick is keep the underpinnings solid
a left hand of resolve
allowing for creative fluctuation


There was a time I’d decide whether
to jump double dutch in front of the house
or in the back alley

Once I climbed a tall Sumac
got lost in the hilly park grass of Fairmount
lay down and took a nap

Time was a pomegranate
its seeds popping
rich dark red

Time the ropes
looping upward, lapping, interlocking
a sine wave in air

The aroma- the ripest melon-
inhabits me as I lace my shoes

How to Practice While Sheltering from the Virus

beth20levinBrooklyn-based pianist Beth Levin is celebrated as a bold interpreter of challenging works, from the Romantic canon to leading modernist composers. The New York Times praised her “fire and originality,” while The New Yorker called her playing “revelatory.” Fanfare described Levin’s artistry as “fierce in its power,” with “a huge range of colors.”

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