Frank O’Hara, Addicted to Music

Unknown“So you think you’re going to be a great pianist,” my father said to me in 1943, “say, like Rachmaninoff?”

“Yep,” I said, “and a composer too.”

“Hmmmm,” my father said. My mother was eating an apple.

“What’s the matter, don’t you think I can?”

“Well, I think it’s more difficult than you do, apparently.”

My mother put down her apple and sighed. “I may as well tell you, Russel,” she said, “that he’s already told me about his great plans. I think it’s depressing. The other day when I was in Worcester I stopped in at a bookshop and read some of Mozart’s letters. Really, that poor man had such a miserable life! I’d just die if I thought he was going to be a composer. They have such terrible lives, I can’t begin to tell you.”

“So what?” I said. “And anyway, all of them didn’t. Just a few.”

“Now wait a minute,” my father said, glad to have the opportunity to be more permissive than my mother, for once. “If we don’t let him, he’ll always think we stopped him. And it isn’t so very much money, after all.”

My mother sighed again. “I’m not going to argue with both of you. But when it all began, remember, we just wanted him to have some general culture. I didn’t want him to become an addict!”

– from “Autobiographical Fragments” in the volume “Standing Still and Walking in New York” by Frank O’Hara. While we don’t remember O’Hara as a pianist/composer, this book of miscellaneous prose pieces by O’Hara does offer essays on Ben Weber and Morton Feldman. I believe that’s Larry Rivers standing to the left of O’Hara in the cover photo above.

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