By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Getting inside his own sibling’s head is a first for Kurt on the show, though. And the walk down memory lane is a bit of a bumpy ride.
“I used to lie under the piano when Mom would play,” David says. “It’s the most expensive echo chamber in the world. Under there, it’s psychedelic. It’s like the Hall of the Mountain King.”
“I would use it to stand on to get books I couldn’t reach,” says Kurt, and the radio-show producer practically drools at the perfection of it.
“And thus, character is destiny, as Heraclitus said,” comments David, who rates their mother as a B+ amateur player with a repertoire of a dozen pieces she could “really kill” — some Chopin, Bach’s Goldberg Variations and “Misty.” “Did you actually listen when Mom played?”
“Well ... sure.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, I didn’t become a musician, did I?”
Kurt never knew how and why his brother went from being a professional musician to piano technician. He wants to know how it happened. David shrugs. He tuned everybody’s guitars and basses as a kid. He’s been doing it now for more than 30 years.
They weren’t close as kids in the house but made a warm relationship as adults. David was a bully as a kid because he was insecure, but he is fiercely proud of his sibling now. “I threw him off the stairs,” David says of his younger brother.
“It wasn’t throwing off stairs,” Kurt corrects. “We were wrestling in the living room.”
“The epic thing was shooting him in the leg with the BB gun. I remember the trajectory of the BB going out of the gun,” David adds. The boys were playing a game, pretending to die.
“Do you have a Matrix-scene moment of the memory?” Kurt asks. “My memory of course is all focused on being shot.”
The brothers walk into David’s office. There are toy dinosaurs and a plastic shark and Raggedy Ann dolls on the shelves. But what surprises Kurt most is the copy of TheNew Yorker sitting on the coffee table. He is surprised to learn that his parents subscribed to it (especially since he was once a columnist at the magazine) ever since David was 7 years old. Memory is tricky. They stare at a photo pinned to the wall — Kurt as a teenager, senior year of high school. The brothers look nothing alike now: Kurt with the same curly brown mop he had as a kid, the same serious expression; David, frosty-haired and hawkish. “Graduation pictures like that, they always make me think of photos that run in newspapers,” Kurt says. “Like after the fiery crash that killed 10 kids.” He’d have been 17 in the photo. He is 54 now.
“Where are his books?” asks the Studio 360 sound guy, scanning the shelves for Kurt’s novels Heyday and Turn of the Century, or even his parody self-help book, Tools of Power: The Elitist Guide to the Ruthless Exploitation of Everybody & Everything.
“What is this?” David growls. “The fucking Inquisition? ‘Where are his books.’”
Kurt is the straight and narrow. David is the ebullient rebel with a dark streak. Kurt is the magna cum laude Harvard grad; David, the sometime-rocker dropout. Each has come to epitomize the sensibility of the place they’ve lived in for the past 30 years: One brother is the apotheosis of East Coast reticence, the other of West Coast demonstrativeness. One primly shakes your hand. The other offers a hug.
David is a black sheep with a generous spirit. How many times have clients insisted they can’t hear the tiny gradations of sound he takes in? “‘I can’t, I can’t,’ they say. If they think they can’t, they can’t. I show them that they can, and this light comes on. Wow! Bingo! So quit telling yourself you can’t hear it.”
The black sheep/white sheep dichotomy breaks down further on closer scrutiny. They correct each other as they speak, pushing for greater rhetorical accuracy. To the question of whether or not David was the scapegoat, Kurt says, “No, no, no, not scapegoat. Scapegoat implies no blame to the goat.” Kurt remembers David was funny, charismatic, popular, had girlfriends. David counters that academics was the meat and potatoes. The portrait that emerges is of precocious, competitive siblings, each conscious of their respective talents, like a family out of Salinger.
In a bit, the group moves to the garage-turned–piano atelier, where pianist Tamir Hendelman is tapping out a melody on a 1953 Steinway that David worked on for 1,000 hours. “Tamir is one of my top five all-time pianists ever,” says David. “And I thought about it before I said that.”