The boxes from Utrecht arrived on a daily basis. I anxiously opened the weather-beaten boxes that Robert had so meticulously packed in Holland.
For every shelf of books, we spent an hour on Facetime webcam video, Robert showing me each book, and I saying yes or no. Several weeks went by, we tried Facetiming morning and night, provided the Internet was working. We examined every shelf of four bookcases of books and sheet music.
I had spent 30 years collecting the sheet music, a pastime I rewarded myself. It was my prized possession, boxed and shipped from London to the Netherlands, and now facing a consequence of life or death. Whatever I wanted to keep would cost money to send or store. Whatever I was willing to let go faced exile in a music bookstore or library. Whatever could be sold fetched enough to pay the postage for what I wanted to have — now.
In the process of “letting go” I told myself that
- It was time to let go.
- I didn’t have time to practise piano, let alone sightread my collection.
- I didn’t have any musician to play with.
- I did not have access to the piano when I had the time to play.
- Everything is on the Web nowadays, and I should be able to find whatever I want.
And so we threw away the photocopies and donated the library editions (I had paid for).
Shortly after I unpacked the boxes, I put my name on the first page of the music books I transferred to the piano classroom at the college where I teach. I made sure there was no gap between the books in the bottom shelf. It was tightly packed on Saturday 22 September 2012.
The following Friday 28th September, I noticed a big gap. Who took my music without leaving a note? I put a sign up: “private collection of Anne Ku. Please do not take.” I patiently waited until the following Friday. The gap remained. I asked my colleagues if they’d help me. Did they have students who played at that level? Who would have taken my books?
Four bookcases reduced to two bookshelves was difficult. Discovering the books that went missing was painful.
An album full of great arrangements to play at weddings and other occasions:
Ludivico Einaudi’s 3 albums all went missing. I had wanted to introduce his music to audiences on Maui.
Some day when I will have access to a piano to practise on and musicians to practise with and occasions to perform, I will regret not having that music. It’s not true that I can find them on the Web. Some piano solo arrangements, like Saint-Saen’s Carnival of Animals, are out of print. The photocopies were precious because I did not own the originals but wanted them. I took the time to photocopy them. The library copies that I had purchased at second-hand bookstores were sturdy and withstood the wear and tear of time. They could not be resold but should not be discarded.
Looking at the bare collection I have now just reminds me of all that I had to give up.
And those that went missing are the most painful to bear.