Copenhagen, Denmark


Dear Readers,

Today was a good day. I got my own TV show! Don’t get too excited – or roll your eyes – I know I’ll probably never host my own TV gig. What I mean is I was the sole guest on a Danish late-night interview show – and I actually got to play music at the length at which it was intended. No one-minute cutoff, no requests for fast and happy showpieces, just artistic freedom and a nice conversation and some goofing off with a thoughtful host. Some hints: Ysaÿe, Bach, “Down in the Swamp”, the first piece I ever played, hula hooping, the Danish release date of the Schoenberg/Sibelius album, and The Eleventh Hour (to those of you who are Danish and watch TV, this last clue will mean something).

The good news? Though we taped today, the show hasn’t been broadcast yet. You’ll probably be able to stream it live online if you don’t get Danish TV in your living room. The bad news? The station’s streaming isn’t too compatible with Macs, so if one of those is your portal to the great beyond, you might be out of luck. Unhelpful news? I don’t yet know the broadcast date. Keep checking my homepage and this journal for more precise information as it comes available. Finally, for the embarrassing news [drumroll, sigh]: For the station’s website and behind-the-scenes footage, I wound up doing some strange things: hula hooping while talking, puppeteering while making up a storyline, and kissing a stuffed dachshund with the longest snout I’ve ever seen, and inventing abstract music for piano and drums on the deserted set of a famous Danish TV show for kids, among other random activities. The only excuse I can offer is the mounds of free chocolate lying around – they must have laced it with something.

But before I move on, let me just point out that it is highly, highly unusual for a TV station in any country to devote all of one show to a classical musician. I can’t count how many times people working for me, asking about even a two-minute appearance, have been told by apologetic (or not so apologetic) programming directors, “We don’t do classical music.” This is not limited to a certain type of show. This rule prevails through hordes of mainstream shows, women’s shows, music shows, late-night, early-morning, midday, afternoon, and prime-time shows, celebrity shows, personality shows, interview shows, entertainment shows, and intellectual shows. Although I have played on TV on rare occasions, I’d never been asked to present “as sad a piece as she can play,” or been given 8-10 minutes to perform in front of cameras, as was the case here. I’d also never been told in a TV setting that my artistic comfort was the most important element. For the interview segment, the host and producers made sure I knew ahead of time that I could go into any detail I wanted, and recount any story, without worrying about being interrupted. (They also pointed out that I was free to spit out any and all obscenities, which although oddly reassuring had no impact on the interview.) Needless to say, I’m grateful for it all – and still thrilled. Valentina is now comfortably settled in Bern and I’m here for another night, but this invitation fit perfectly; the Bern concert isn’t until the day after tomorrow. This experience was worth every millisecond.

As the clock down the street tolls some quarter hour and “The Age of Love” runs unwatched, muted, on the hotel room television, I’m thinking about how to cap off this day. I may already have: when I returned to the hotel earlier this evening, I walked down the block and into a men’s store, looking to buy a present, but I walked out with two hats for myself instead. Now I might go for something authentically Danish, like a cheeseburger. I don’t tend to visit American franchises, for some reason, but when I first came to Copenhagen years ago, before figuring out how to eat on the road or where to eat in Denmark, I wound up having a memorable meal at the Hard Rock Café. I have a hankering to try again, accompanied this time by the latest podcast of “This American Life”. (How could I ever be homesick with Americana all around me?) Then I’ll come back and watch “House” on channel 4. In English. With subtitles – because of course, if I’m going to learn Danish someday, I might as well get a head start.

Yours from Copenhagen,

Hilary