Jordan Knoller (K is silent) liked neither people, nor their children. Instead, he preferred skis during the winter and biking during summertime. He was also a big fan of Glenn Gould: of the way the latter interpreted Beethoven’s sonatas and Bach’s fugues. Not of the man himself – since Jordan Knoller did not like people.
“Glenn Gould is like a newcomer from another planet, though I would never want to visit it.”
Jordan admired turtles. He often took his daughter to a nearby youth center, where there was in fact a gloomy turtle helplessly leaning against a perpetually soiled glass. The daughter (she was four) ignored the creature, whereas Jordan considered it the epitome of the crawling genre.
“Turtles live longer than humans, and that’s only fair.”
Jordan Knoller appreciated cleanliness. He insisted on keeping the living room table spotless, purging crumbs and stains within minutes after the evening meal. It was particularly unbearable when female guests placed purses and winter hats on the table top. Jordan was livid when that happened.
“A dirty table is like a chaotic mind: a lot of things take place at the same time, but nothing really happens.”
Jordan was a cautious fellow. Don’t get him wrong: his skiing routes were among the most complex while the biking distances among the longest. Yet, the most difficult terrain was that of his eighteen-hour day (he usually slept for six hours), with its unexpected happenings and expected uncertainties. Jordan felt that he was not trained for each new day that unfolded before his eyes, a circumstance he found to be quite unfair, mildly speaking.
“Every day is different. Every day is a treachery. Anything can happen.”
Indeed. There was a day when Jordan would receive a random call from Amanda Copeland, his distant cousin and even a more distant relative of a famous composer. Amanda was a bit old-fashioned, preferring phone calls to text messages or Instagram chats.
“How is your day coming along?” he would ask.
Amanda’s answer would be predictive and at times combative.
“Ever since Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, my days are coming along in the same fashion.”
“I see. I thought I would be polite and inquire.”
“Have they finished chemo on her?”
“They didn’t start yet. She is still going through radiation.”
Is she in a great deal of pain? That’s what Jordan wanted to inquire further but thought it was best not to. After all, he was not too much into people. It was important to live up to that reputation.
There were weekly classes with his piano teacher. They were supposed to be daily, but Jordan, an employee of either Morgan Stanley or Credit Suisse, eventually relegated them to once a week. Usually to Tuesday afternoons, when their nanny stayed late with the child, or to Sunday mornings, as early as 7 AM, when everyone was still sleeping in.
“Easier on the right hand. Easier! Lift it up and relax!” A septuagenarian Eliza Goldfarb claimed to be the student of Bela Bartok’s pupil. “This is a mazurka: it is all about lightness. Lightness and passion!”
He tried really hard. Having started piano lessons at the age of twenty-three, his hands were not at the level they could have been. No appropriate mixture of scales and exercises was destined to perfect them for lightness and passion.
Eliza Goldfarb, on her end, believed in sexual relations with every student she taught, even with those forty some years her junior. Jordan Knoller declined her advances twice. The reasons of age, music, and marital commitment were fortuitously intertwined.
Jordan’s current marriage was his fourth one. The first three, of which we don’t know much, produced a series of debts, a nine-year-old son, a deceased golden retriever… and a sense of either earnestness or somberness.
His first wife was allegedly an investment banker. She spent sixteen-hour days at work from Monday to Saturday; on Sundays, they did household chores together and made love. Approximately sixty Sundays later, in 2008, the marriage fell apart. Adding insult to his wife’s injury: the economic times were so rough that bankers received meagre bonuses the year of their divorce.
Jordan’s second wife was a model. A steamy twenty-year-old that advertises underwear, earns millions and then marries an A-list Hollywood actor – she was not. She was an unimpressive model, rather, and that’s why she married Jordan K. After a few months of unimpressive sex, however, Jordan’s second wife realized that she could do better. Viewing her marriage as a sabbatical of sorts, she went back to her modeling career, while Jordan stayed exactly where he was: a computer programmer, making $120K annually, with an Aetna Dental PPO insurance plan.
The third wife checked all the boxes on the surface. She was Jewish; she came from a family of respectable doctors; she had a Master’s degree from Brandeis. They even had a traditional chuppah wedding, with a signing of the Jewish contract called ketubah. She proceeded to decorate their lovely one-bedroom apartment in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. In the end, she turned out to be a lesbian. Not only a lesbian – one who refused to identify herself as such. Adamant she was: upon parting ways with Jordan, she actually had the temerity of calling him a homosexual.
At times, he wished he were, like Peter Tchaikovsky, his idol.
All those thoughts and doubts were dissipated upon meeting Nora.
“I don’t like people,” he told her during the third or fourth date, definitely after they went skiing but before their first joint biking excursion.
“Then we don’t have to talk,” Nora countered. “We can just ride.”
“Exactly!” Jordan said.
Nora was all about the lack of pressure. For the first time in thirty-eight years, he felt there was no scrutiny and a very minimal agenda. He eventually proposed to her in a stress-free environment, in the express aisle of the Whole Foods supermarket (he placed the ring with a 0.4 carat diamond inside a mini-baguette). They had a child within the next two years: a dark-haired girl who bore a solid resemblance to Jordan’s late mother. Eventually they bought a house somewhere in northern Jersey.
When Jordan killed himself several years later – a no-nonsense gunshot delivered while listening to Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto (first movement) – it was clearly unrelated to Nora or their family life.
Perhaps Amanda Copeland had something to do with it.
Jordan did, after all, check in with Amanda about her cancer-stricken mother every now and then. This was a way of reliving his own mother’s oncological sickness and ultimate death.
Perhaps it was something Amanda said that made Jordan question his attitude of not liking the human kind. Or, it was possible he started disliking people even further. Either of those conditions could have turned him suicidal.
Jordan usually justified his misanthropic behavior by thinking of Richard Wagner: the man hated everyone, especially the Jews. Yet, he remains immensely popular in every country, except Israel.
Others speculated that the decision to terminate his own life is linked to Jordan’s inability to express himself musically. Specifically, there are two theories that were put forward.
The first one argued that Jordan’s technical skills were inadequate relative to those of his peers, creating an “inescapable inferiority complex”, in the words of a fellow musician. Thus, Jordan K. could have killed himself because he could not master the basic tenets that the art of piano required.
The second theory claimed that, while on technical merits Jordan was performing just fine, his fiasco was in the lack of original expression. Every time he played a certain Liszt piece, for instance, whether a sonata or a rhapsody, a professional, like Eliza Goldfarb, could clear discern influence from some famous pianist, such as Sviatoslav Richter or Martha Argerich.
Unfortunately, it was no longer possible to follow up with Eliza about her assessment of Jordan’s musical anguish: she herself was no longer among the living. In 2018, Eliza Goldfarb suffered a cardiac arrest during a sexual intercourse with one of her students.
Finally, Jordan’s death could have been work-related, tied to the company he worked for: either Morgan Stanley or Credit Suisse.
He could have been disenchanted with the annual bonus he received in January, when he earned mere five thousand dollars instead of the promised fifteen. Unlikely, though! The suicide itself took place in August, making it doubtful that Jordan would have been severely depressed during such a prolonged multi-month period over $10K.
There are other reasons, no doubt.
He could have had a secret affair with a colleague and, fearing exposure and a fourth divorce, chosen to terminate his own life rather than face disclosure.
Or, there may have been a broad and generic philosophical disagreement that Jordan had with corporate America. Knowing that he earns a six-figure salary, while others receive a minimum wage of $15 per hour, he could have decided to call it quits. Jordan always had respect for the disadvantaged: after all, there could be a Mozart-like genius lurking inside some of their impoverished minds.
Yes, the minds!
Jordan meticulously and of his own accord chose to deliver a multi-millimeter hole inside his own.
It is unclear, where he got the gun. New York state, after all, is not a place with an easy access to firearms.
Regardless, he did it: a clean shot straight through the temple, sometime around one in the morning, when Nora already slept.
He left a note behind: I am departing this world, like Mahler, disenchanted and disgusted.
Musicologists and Wikipedia readers later claimed that Gustav Mahler died not of suicide, but of bacterial endocarditis.
None of them realized that Jordan was not referring to Gustav in his farewell epistle. Instead, he was referencing Mahler’s younger brother Otto, also a composer.
Otto Mahler shot himself in February 1895, approximately one hundred twenty years before Jordan K. did the same.