M. C. Richards went to see the Bolshoi
Ballet. She was delighted with the
dancing. She said, “It’s
not what they do; it’s the ardor
with which they do it.” I said,
“Yes: composition, performance,
and audition or observation are really
different things. They have next
to nothing to do with one another.”
Once, I told her, I was at a house
on Riverside Drive where people were invited
to be present at a Zen service conducted by
a Japanese Roshi. He did the
ritual, rose petals and all.
Afterwards tea was served with rice
cookies. And then the hostess
and her husband, employing an
out-of-tune piano and a cracked voice,
gave a wretched performance of an
excerpt from a third-rate Italian opera.
I was embarrassed and
glanced towards the Roshi to see how he was
taking it. The expression
on his face was absolutely beatific.