Here Are This Year's Inspired By KPAC Written Word Entries
Texas Public Radio put out the call for students in our listening area to share how classical music inspires them, and the six finalists include both prose, personal stories, and poetry.
In a normal year, we’d be sharing the work in person at a live event with an audience at our annual “Inspired By KPAC” showcase, but because of the current spike in omicron-related coronavirus cases, we can’t hold a public program. Instead, we hope you enjoy reading the work of these talented students online, who are all advancing to the Final Round.
The first through third place winners in the Written Word category will be announced during our live radio program on Saturday, January 22, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM.
Below are this year’s Finalists:
Gabrielle Beck, TMI Episcopal
Ilya Fitzhugh, NSITE High School
Zoe Gurwitz, Churchill High School
Kyra Keeling, BASIS Shavano
Maria Rivera, International School of the Americas
Daniel Wang, Health Careers High School
"Bittersweet: A story of my grandmother's dementia"
By Gabrielle Beck
Inspired by "Clair de Lune" by Claude Debussy
The memories melt
Subtle and slow at first
Where did I place my purse, my keys?
Did I sign that check?
Masked by nodding, acknowledgement, and vagaries
Then, no longer driving me to the apple orchard
No longer baking homemade cinnamon rolls before dawn
No longer reading mystery novels curled up by the fire
No longer playing the piano, swaying with fluid keystrokes, head tilted down with that slight curl in your lip from intensity and passion as you play Clair de Lune
The past becomes unfamiliar
The future holds nothing tangible
But, there is laughter in the moment
A sarcastic movie line, silly dog running in circles, grandson blowing bubbles
And there are fleeting glimpses of recollection
An old song on the radio from the Beetles where you belt the refrain
And the piano concerto that breathes life into your fingers again
For an instant you are back with me
The flow of notes
Runs through your ears and a spark of recognition ignites
Like your childhood stream
Your legs are carried by song back to the wedding dance
The glow in your eyes when surrounded by loved ones
Flooding with warm embrace
Music imprinted on the soul
Yet, just like the outro, colorful faces of the past fade again
They are out of reach
Emptiness invades this precious space
Forgotten tears slowly trickle down your face
By Ilya Ostanin Fitzhugh
Inspired by Frederic Chopin's Waltz in A-flat minor, Op. 34, No. 1
The pen is coughing
Struggling to write
On the white
He wanders and ponders
Tip to his lip
Brain at a wall
No ideas at all
Closes his eyes
Breathes in, sighs
Sits down once more
To settle the score
Determined but burdened
He scribbles a word…
Then lightning strikes
The bulb alights
And letters grow to
Triumphant he sings
His pen, he swings
And ends up writing
"The Things I Carry"
By Zoe Gurwitz
Inspired by the fourth movement of Camille Saint-Saens' "Organ" Symphony
I bear the burden of the world's problems on my back. The never-ending cycle of political reign and blame, political reign and blame. The pressing issue of the ever-heating globe and the lack of initiative taken by our leaders weighs down upon my back. The worry of walking alone at night and the inability to make choices about my own body add two enlarged textbooks to my already spine-bending backpack.
I contain fear caused by the back-to-school talk of "worst-case scenario" that ends with jumping out of a window, rather than facing a man with a gun who has inadequate access to proper mental healthcare. I contain disbelief that the hardest workers who sacrifice the most sweat and blood pay more taxes than billionaires. I contain disbelief that in a world of disease, too many choose to risk the lives of themselves and their loved ones rather than take simple action against the problem.
I am supposed to bear pride for my nation when democracy was inches away from collapsing at the start of 2021. I am supposed to bear honor for a country that was built brick by brick upon a foundation of enslavement and genocide. Instead, I bear the frustration of inequality despite the fact that we are all human. I bear the dread of democracy's demise.
I hold the lives of my family as I pray to a hardly-present deity that they come home safely from work. I hold the hope that my precious pets live another night so I may once again feel their wet noses on my cheek. I hold insecurities, doubts, and loneliness. I hold my tongue as I fight back my angry tears. I carry the burdens of the world.
But when I hear music, the problems of the world seem to float away. As the notes of a great work like Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 glide past my ears and quickly disperse as soon as they are heard, the music’s impact is everlasting. I cherish the sound waves, like a water droplet clings desperately to a damp sprout. When the hidden organ bursts from the shadows into the light in the last movement of the piece, I carry strength and confidence. I carry comfort when the empowering music rings through my ears–the climate crisis and gun violence seem like conquerable territory, the virtual fall of democracy on January 6th fades like a distant nightmare, the pressing pandemic feels almost at its end. The lonely void within my chest is temporarily filled with the presence of rich chords and melodies. I bear hope for humanity as the music pulsates within my heart. Within me. Within all of us.
by Kyra Keeling
Inspired Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise"
For so long now
You’ve wondered how
How long did you toe the line? The angel’s wings
Were puppet strings
Of weeds and thorns and vines.
A false love, a false man, a false calm
A tug of war
Of consuming storms
Of he and he and he.
A mind protected by a hope
That's slowly slipping away.
With death once more
The heart is torn.
The mind, shattered, decays.
Her smile or her broken soul
Sings somber melodies.
Rest on her spine
Her hands with rosemary.
Steady pond meets unsteady sense.
Help would arrive too late.
Does he think he’s won?
He knows not of her fate.
The Devil's Trill Sonata
By Maria Rivera
inspired by Giuseppe Tartini's "Devil's Trill" sonata
Under the twilight mist, the evergreen trees; once reflecting the sun’s bright gleam, seemed almost invisible. I glanced out the window, panels wide open. The sharp wind had numbed my nose, and sinking snow embraced my eyes as I strained to see. I didn’t quite mind the burning feeling; perhaps I had earned it.
It was a particularly unremarkable night, yet I found myself contemplating a matter of life and death. I peered over my shoulder, and there, among convoluted bedsheets, laid a rope. A rope I, to the best of my ability, tried to tie.
It might simply untie if I try to use it.
Next to my poorly-tied rope, resting against the wall, stood my violin.
Life and death, indeed.
I had not played for anyone in months—not, indeed, since I played for a fine, young woman in the market. How well I remember it! Alas, the performance was unpaid. Will it always be so?
I was bewildered, truly. Was I perhaps an unworthy player? No; that was impossible. How could that be? Hour by hour, and week by week, I drained my body refining my technique. Even so, if all shall march as it currently is, my life will quickly grow miserable. A wretched beggar with an empty stomach on an empty street, dull-eyed. Wrinkles will mar my face. I will be nothing but soulless flesh. Why, if I had been destined to become nothing but a horrendous failure, I would rather die than fulfill such a prophecy!
Ah! Is it, perhaps, that I have gone mad? Have I been doomed to live such a dolorous fate? I will suffer horribly… No, no! There are delightful things in store for me. I am sure of it. Once the public recognizes my gifts, my reputation will soar beyond the highest of skies. Soon, the king himself will request to summon my presence. Yes, it shall be so.
Why is it, then, that my art is not valued? Well, the answer is quite simple. I reside among ignorant fools. All they value is the simplest of human pleasures. Lord, tell me, in what way is the trivial feeling of intoxication more valuable than heaven’s greatest gift? Oh, the poor, tainted souls!
Finally, I had decided. One more day, I shall live one more day, and if all stays as is, I shall end it all.
I carried this final thought to bed, and as I slipped into the unconscious realm, I sensed the divine watching over me. The sweet, mellow sensation in my stomach; the steady beat of my heart anchoring my soul… oh, how I wished for more nights such as this one…
No! Something was wrong.
Devouring my flesh from the inside out, my stomach was now filled with squirming worms. Horrified, I opened my eyes as my heart ran at the speed of a thousand furious horses.
The scenery was quite odd. Everything seemed to be in place, yet it felt unfamiliar. It wasn’t until I looked at the clock… Oh, the clock! It was completely illegible! There were nothing but driftless lines scattered around the face. Suddenly, however, before I could make sense of this anomaly, a putrid smell filled my nostrils. It was worse beyond the scent of rotting corpses, an otherworldly stench... Oh, and otherworldly it was, for I saw in the corner of my eye a dark cloud emerging out of seemingly nothing! It ferociously spread until it took the shape of an equally otherworldly being. A sly, five-horned anthropoid with a long, deformed tail. With crimson eyes and a crooked smile, he studied me carefully. I could sense the magnitude of his strength.
Although he seemed a being of infernal sin, he spoke with a delicate voice.
“I am the creator, the revealer of all hidden wishes of the abyss.”
I observed my new visitor, stunned. What business did this devil have in my house?
“I have come to make you an offer, for I believe I can grant your deepest desires,” he muttered.
Despite how haunting he appeared, I could not avoid his gaze.
“Grant me your soul, your life’s essence; it is life in its purest form. It is the only thing I seek. In return, I shall be your servant, and grant you your deepest, most cardinal desire,” he proposed.
“My soul, you say?” I pictured myself as a soulless, dull corpse. “Ah, but that is hardly fair!”
“I assure you, young man, it is an extraordinary bargain. How can I prove myself worthy?”
I did not have to think much before I settled for an answer. Silently, I pointed to my violin, and a cunning smile broke on his face.
“The violin, I see… If I play the finest melody you have ever heard, will you accept my offer?”
I nodded. His petrifying appearance mattered little; this was the opportunity I was seeking!
He confidently extended his arm and delicately grabbed my violin, slightly piercing the edges with his long, black nails.
“The deal has been struck.”
In a swift movement, he lifted the bow and began to play what I could only describe as the most impassioned piece ever performed. The vibrant notes encased my ears, and the violin’s lamenting howls struck my heart to physically ache. As though it had a soul of its own, it wept and wailed, hopelessly begging for avail. Evoking the most powerful emotions, the devil played with such virtuosity, I thought he might as well replace me entirely. I knew not how much time had passed; it could have been ten minutes or twenty; for I was motionlessly bewitched by the devil’s playing. Faintly conscious, I sensed infernal influences were at work within my mind.
Suddenly, the music; once clear and vivid, had begun to fade. My breath was staggering. I could not keep an even breath. Despite this, the devil pompously continued as he watched me.
I awoke with a sudden gasp.
Still in a lethargic state, I eagerly reached for my violin, hoping to recreate the devil’s magical tune. Oh, what a performance it had been! But no matter how much I tried, I could not capture the overflowing agony my devil friend had created. Failing to recall what I had heard, I clumsily composed a piece unworthy of comparison. This tune, although mediocre, may have been my best work to date.
I named this tune in honor of my devil friend, who saved my once miserable life.
The devil's trill sonata.
"Grave Matters" by Daniel Wang
Inspired by Louis Moreau Gottschalk's “Souvenir de Puerto Rico"
The clouds are cut by light of moon so old
But these grey beams can’t pierce the misty cold.
Great bells of bronze from tower standing tall
Across the fields of stone project their call.
Another hour, another somber chime
Alerts the gathered people that it’s time
To lay a man to rest in dampen earth
And ponder deeply all his deeds since birth.
Had this man been wealthy, charming or smart?
Did his face shine; did his voice stir the heart?
But why would any of that matter now?
None of it follows him into the ground.
What people remember most out of all
What echoes through their minds when the bells call
The things the man did that were cruel or kind
The heart touches those beyond your own time.
Be sure to listen to "Inspired By KPAC" on Saturday, January 22, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM!