A Memory

The Chopin Effect

The most beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard is an Arthur Rubinstein recording of the second movement of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor. It was done in the 1950s, and though records had long been replaced by compact discs by the time I listened to it, my roommate happened to have a copy on vinyl. I’m not an audio purist, but I am convinced that the sound was all the more enchanting that afternoon because of the recording medium — even the ticks and clicks from the imperfections on the surface made the whole experience richer. Most vividly, I remember that as the movement was coming to a close, I got up, walked down the hall to the bathroom, and threw up nine times.

I know it was nine because after four I started counting, to pass the time. It’s likely the episode was brought on by our pre-music-appreciation activities, which included drinking several beers, eating a large plate of spaghetti, and smoking a joint. Still, strictly speaking, I can’t eliminate Chopin’s piece, or Rubinstein’s interpretation, as factors in the incident.