Keys to the Heart: A Love Story Between Two Players and A Piano

I met Isaac Green Diebboll last fall as a colleague in the Good Work Fellowship, (A fellowship for creative change makers, small businesses and socially conscious leaders in the Hudson Valley Bio-Region) I knew him then as a person working for community development through politics and creative social action in Callicoon, NY, with contagious enthusiasm and authentic goodwill.  I also knew he was an excellent documentary filmmaker and asked him to come document the infamous Nasty Women exhibit this past February.  During the event I brought Isaac on a tour of Instar Lodge, leading him to the antique attic theater.  Isaac immediately put down his camera and went straight to the ancient, dust-covered piano abandoned in the corner, and began playing the most incredible sound.  He then and there asked if he could perform a piece of his titled, ‘Requiem for My Father.’ Without question I affirmed! As we have arrived closer to the performance, clues have emerged indicating there is a story worth learning behind this piece. Isaac recently mentioned having drawings and books he would like to share at the performance. When I saw these documents I knew we needed to sit down and have a chat.  What follows is a brief recount of what I learned in conversation.--Dawn Breeze 4/30/17

Isaac practicing at Instar Lodge on his father's birthday a few weeks back.

Isaac practicing at Instar Lodge on his father's birthday a few weeks back.

‘Requiem for My Father’ by Isaac Green Diebboll is a phenomenon you will not want to miss. It is an originally composed piano solo, except it’s not that at all.  It’s a sound piece imagined and created by Diebboll in collaboration with the spirit of his Father, notable architect John Diebboll.   It is not a piece of written music, it is a collection of fractal sound patterns arranged in the mind of Isaac, that move through his hands touching the white keys of the piano.  The very specific keys that showed him the path into the instrument, which ultimately was the key to the shared heart of a father and son.

When Isaac was 21yrs old, he held his hand over his father’s last heartbeat.  A father whose love was deeper and older than prehistory, he says.  When Isaac felt the last beat from the body, he felt soul-love move into him, a love that literally led him to the piano.  Isaac had never played a piano before his father passed.  But pianos were a part of his life through his father’s fantastical creations of re-imagined piano’s. 

Isaac was in undergrad school majoring in Interdisciplinary Sculpture, and filming a documentary about his father’s passing, documenting the last bites of life.  With abrupt suddenness he was stirred to put down the camera and begin again, by telling the story of the love of his father through the piano.  He realized that the cinematic effects of sound better illustrated the picture he saw, felt, and wanted to share; the piano was a conduit for connection.

For most people an inspiration that calls you towards a tool and a discipline that you don’t know, or are not trained in, goes unanswered.  But not for Isaac (which is a historical pattern of his nature: moving towards inspiration with radical curiosity, audacity, and sensitivity) he instead went straight to Craig’s List and found a free piano.  Generously, his professor at the time let him put the Piano in her office, and Isaac began playing it.  He began by following the ghost lines from the players before him.  He could see which keys had been marked with use and time, and he followed them as his guides mapping his way forward.  ‘Requiem for My Father’ is a relic of this journey to the heart of love, it is the lullaby of the soul.

Isaac’s music which he’s reluctant to call music and prefers to name ‘sound’ has echoes of Philip Glass and other modern composers, like John Cage.  An element of this piece is that it’s never meant to be played on the same piano or on a tuned piano.  Each performance is a unique and dialogical relationship between the piano, himself and his father’s spirit. He seeks piano’s that are forgotten, lost and broken.  He listens with his hands to their unique calling, setting their sound free, while also acknowledging that he is permanently altering their sound by playing them.  Each piece like life—touching and beautifully dying.

Isaac is a rare gem, with infinite facets of brilliance.  His first love was drawing, but he feels his artistic inquiry alive in: math, science, civic engagement, politics and now going forward in urban planning for healthy cultural ecologies.  He is not afraid of being told “he can’t play piano” because he can confirm the magic that he can make sound—like love…which he meets on their terms…

Come listen to love.  Come see ‘Requiem for My Father’.  We will also have original drawings of Isaac’s available at the performance, alongside his father’s highly collectable piano drawings and book ‘The Art of the Piano’.

One of many freehand drawings of Isaac's which will be available at the performance

One of many freehand drawings of Isaac's which will be available at the performance

Learn more about Isaac Green Diebboll by visiting his website

Requiem For My Father: Friday May 5th, 7:30 $10 donation at door, RSVP to ensure seating