It is the opposite of Mark Twain, whose death was (at first) “greatly exaggerated.” Michel Petrucciani is dead. But I thought he was alive. I only learned last Saturday that he is dead. Indeed, he has been dead the entire time that I discovered he existed. Only I didn’t know. I saw no references to death, only to life. It’s not even a lack of research. Somehow I had learned that he began playing piano at age 4, yet I knew nothing about his passing in 1999 in New York. He was 36, one year older than Mozart.
I felt so sad upon learning of his death, which was fresh news to me, in a strange transposition of events coming from an internet world. I cannot recall how I first learned about his music. Since then, however, I’ve seen him interviewed, listened to his quips in both French and English. Recently I posted a link to a Petrucciani documentary to this blog, and that was still before I learned he was gone!
In the documentary they pull a genuine New York stunt of having Petrucciani play something on a Steinway installed atop a skyscraper. Parts of the scene are filmed by a chopper flying overhead. That same chopper catches some scenes of the New York panorama aloft, including one quick glance at the World Trade Center Towers. Like any American, I felt a tug at just the sight of the towers and thought to myself, “all that was before.”
Now I realize that Michel’s life belongs entirely to “before.” He died without knowing that New York would be attacked, a city he loved thinking, one supposes, that all the world loves her too. His music has something of New York’s famous “energy” with a waft of the depths of French sophistication and classicism and nuance inside it.
Michel Petrucciani is dead, but in a cliche that could not represent a truth more aptly, his music lives on. For me, his music was born after his passing. Après et avant.
Je t’aime, Michel. Et bon voyage à l’univers.