Pictures of a Concert

I am not going to describe last night’s concert, except to say that the place was all hushed, listening to this beautiful performance by the Platon Karataev duo of Gergő Balla and Sebestyén Czakó-Kuraly on the TRIP Terasz. I was grateful to be there, to be able to listen too, along with Zsuzsanna, Mesi, and so many others. It was a full house, the concert was sold out, and no one chatted during it; under the music, you could hear the waves and the breeze. Here are some pictures. The first is from the beginning of the concert, when they started to play “Elevator.”

Here are some pictures from before the concert:

And a few from the concert itself:

And a few taken afterward:

This is one of the great happinesses of life: to listen to a concert like this, knowing that there is no concert like this, just this one, moment by moment.

“Oh come meet me there”: Cz.K. Sebő at the TRIP Terasz

This concert—by Cz.K. Sebő on the Trip Terasz on Friday night—stands out among all the concerts I remember in my life. It left me sad, but in an uplifting way. It opened something up, taught me something, and filled my mind with music that stayed and played onward.

I arrived a little before 4 (the concert started at 7, but the venue had encouraged people to arrive early) and walked around until it was possible to go in. I thought maybe I had arrived much too early, but just minutes later, more people came, and then more and more. So it was wise, not to mention tranquil, to spend a late afternoon on the deck of a stationary ship on the Danube, listening to the sound of water, wind, and traffic. I read Csenger Kertai’s poetry collection Hogy nekem jó legyen from cover to cover, starting at the end, and spent time with particular poems, including “Az elhagyatottságról,” “Dokkolás,” and “A helytartó és a rabszolga.” Now comes the slow reading with the dictionary, but at least I got a feel for the rhythms and some of the meaning.

I was then joined at the table by two friendly people, Zsuzsanna and Timi Mesi, who recognized me from various online comments and who love Sebő’s music. As it happened, Zsuzsanna had her own copy of the Kertai collection with her! Soon Zsuzsanna’s husband joined us too. Now we were a lively table, until the music started and we hushed.

Sebő’s music starts with simplicity and humility, but those are complicated words and can only be part of a complicated reality. Nobody is completely simple or humble. What I mean is that he doesn’t show off, doesn’t rush to the peaks of the songs. He starts playing and lets the songs build on their own. And then when they build, it’s so true that it can break you open. This simplicity can take years to find; you have to play the instrument well and know your voice. Even more than that, you have to be willing to let the music show itself, unforced, both when you write it and when you perform it.

The humility has to do with his admiration of others’ music. This is part of the Platon Karataev foundation too: the knowledge that there’s music greater than their own, but the willingness to give what they have and to keep on searching. The second part of the concert was all covers—carefully chosen and played, and beautiful to the bones. Not for a second does he imitate the author of the original; he sings it as himself. But more about that in a moment.

The place had filled up, and he started out with a thrilling performance of “Eternal Home” (one of the bonus tracks from his Junction EP). Then came “Fear from passing,” then (I think) “Disguise,” then “Junction.” After that, I lose track of the order, but I know two new songs were in there, including “Someday” and one with a Pilinszky poem for the lyrics, in English translation (I believe the poem was “A pokol hetedik kőre,” but I might be wrong). He played “Chamomile,” “Wide Eyes,” “Hart” (which blurred my sight for a while there), “On a fine day,” “Out of Words,” and “The Fox in the Holt,” and there we were, with the sun going down, the water lapping, standing kayakers rowing by, the breeze getting chillier, and these favorite songs living themselves out as they never would again, not in that exact way. The cold was getting a bit stiff; in the break between sets, someone gave him a blanket.

For the second part, he had so much planned, but didn’t get to all of it because the air got still colder. Still, he played at least ten gorgeous covers: first “Purple Rain” (which opened up the song for me, it was so relaxed and genuine), then “In a Year of 13 Moons” by Current Joys, then “Carry on” by Willy Mason, then again I lose track of the order, but one of my favorites was “Rejtelmek” by the Sebő Együttes, whose lyrics are an Attila József poem, and which Sebő had heard many times in his childhood. Another favorite was “The Immigrant Lad” by Eric Burdon and the Animals. He played Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Elvis’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” one faster song whose name I don’t know, another song I don’t know (Damien Jurado must have been in there somewhere, but I don’t know where), and then, to finish things off, a Platon Karataev song in Hungarian, one that I have not heard before unless they played it at Budapest Park in August. (In the beginning, the guitar reminds me of “Fear from passing,” but then it takes a different direction.) You could hear, throughout the set, that these songs had guided his own music in one way or another.

I am grateful that he told us what the songs were. (I missed a few titles when he said them, but he said them.) There was no attitude of “You should know what song this is, and if you don’t, you’re dumb.” The audience didn’t have to prove anything. Being there and listening was enough. I think that’s another part of the humility: being willing to accept your listeners as they are, whoever they are, provided they are listening. Young, old, friends, strangers, cool, awkward, lively, quiet, a great musician can allow for them all, and so can the music.

I think a lot of us felt the greatness of this music and this concert. At my table, that was definitely the case. It’s greatness that comes, in part, from not having to be great, not needing to force or feign.

He mentioned that he was going to be playing solo less and less, since future concerts would include a drummer and a bassist. I would wish for both kinds of concerts; a solo concert is unadorned and direct, but I can understand that when other musicians play with you, you have more possibilities of sound and timing.

After the concert ended, I stayed around for a few minutes, but then left so that I could catch the 9:50 train back to Szolnok, a slow local train that gave me time to think back on the concert and hear the songs in my mind, and all the things they were evoking.

I will end this with the concert’s beginning, “Eternal Home,” which led me to start listening to Blaze Foley. Here’s the second verse and chorus:


Whatever is around me
Whatever makes me blind
Balance and composure sleeps inside
And it’s not so hard to find

When I’m walking in the city
And I’m to lose my mind
I’m listening to some Blaze Foley songs
And leave this world behind

Oh come meet me there,
Let’s jump into that blunted head,
Your home is eternal there
Go deep and shut the world out.

That is what happens at a concert like this, if there is any concert like this. You find your eternal home, and you know you can find it again.

I made a few minor edits to this piece after posting it. The most recent edits were on June 1.

Update: For a sense of what Sebő’s solo concerts are like, see this video recording of a 2020 concert on the A38 Hajó. Both the concert and recording are amazing.

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.

  • INTERVIEWS AND TALKS

    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.
     

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.

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    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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