From The Archives: A 2008 Conversation With Barbara Walters
A conversation from the archives with Barbara Walters about her 2008 memoir "Audition," a story of family challenges, celebrity gossip and blazing a trail in TV news.
At age four, Byron Janis was recognized as a musical prodigy. He studied with Vladimir Horowitz and made his Carnegie Hall debut as a concert pianist at twenty. He was the first American artist sent to the Soviet Union as part of a cultural exchange. He went on to become an international superstar in the classical music world, despite a childhood injury left him unable to bend his pinky finger. A severe case of arthritis did not stop his career. Today, as a spokesman for the Arthritis Foundationm, he conducts “mind over matter” workshops for children with juvenile arthritis. Byron Janis comes to the studio with his wife, Maria Cooper Janis, to discuss his extraordinary experiences in music and life.
From “Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal” by Byron Janis. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Excerpted by kind permission of Wiley:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Byron Janis has been called a living legend of the classical music world. His wife Maria Cooper Janis is the daughter of actor Gary Cooper. As well as an artist and a parapsychology researcher, he played through the severe pain of arthritis for decades before becoming a spokesman for the Arthritis Foundation. Today, he continues to perform, teach, compose and write for The Wall Street Journal.
MS. DIANE REHMTogether they've written a book about an extraordinary life in music and the paranormal. The title is, "Chopin and Beyond." Byron Janis and Maria Cooper Janis join me throughout the hour. We'll take your calls, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org Feel free to join us on Facebook and send us a tweet. Good morning to both of you.
MR. BYRON JANISGood morning.
MS. MARIA COOPER JANISGood morning.
REHMLovely to see you, I think that the subtitle of this book, "...My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal" is clearly there to provoke the interest of people. Why did you decide to include that in the subtitle, Byron Janis?
JANISWell, the life in music is obvious, but the paranormal has been a major part of my life. I started having these strange experiences when I was very young and so I thought -- it took me actually -- I started this book 10, 12 years ago and I said, I can't write about this yet, about the paranormal. I thought it was. It is a very controversial field, unfortunately. But then I decided, yes, I wanted -- the time felt right for me to write about this.
REHMMaria, how did you feel about including that in the subtitle?
JANISWell, I was all for it. It's been part of my life as well from the time I was a child. In a very different way from Byron's, but we've both -- it has enriched both our lives so much that it just -- it would have been false to exclude it.
REHMTell me about some of the experiences that you have had that so informed your life?
JANISWell, for my part, I had a lot of early telepathic experiences with my mother that might be considered obvious, a lot of people have. And then I had a girlfriend who -- we were very closely connected in that sense and it was, you know, it was fun. It was just amusing and interesting, but it showed me that life, -- that reality was much more than our five senses could inform us of.
REHMAnd you, Byron, you said it began for you quite early?
JANISYes, when I was very young I said something which I couldn't understand. I said, I want more than music. And I already was playing and I thought this is my life, music is my life. How can I say I want more than music? What is there except music? And then, gradually, I began to understand what I meant by that. It was dealing more in a larger way with human beings. It was dealing in a way beyond music where I could be of some service to humanity.
REHMGive me an example. Give me an example of some experience that you had that so informed your life that you knew it was going to be part of your life.
JANISWell, okay. One of them, I think, was very interesting. There was a period -- we were in California staying with some friends and I went out about -- it was very late and I decided to go back to the guest house to join Maria who was there. And as I was walking out of the main house, I heard these bells ringing. But, oh, unbelievable, what can I say? An unbelievable number of them and it was some sort of an extraordinary sound that they were making and I thought, bells. Where is this coming from?
JANISSo I ran quickly back to the house, got our host, who came out and he said, my God, these are bells. I said, yes, what is it? And he said, well, there is a church about two miles from here, but why at ten to 2:00 in the morning? What is it? Anyway, we found out the church never heard those bells. Nobody else heard those bells except Maria, our host and I. And that is something interesting because very often in this field, some people experience something and others don't see it. Some do and some don't and that's what makes controversy, of course.
JANISBut what happened was I became friendly with a great friend of Maria's, Dolores Hart, who was an actress. They were grooming her to be a Grace Kelly, sort of, a very beautiful girl and she suddenly joined the Benedictine Monastery...
JANIS...at age 21. Was it, Maria? And anyway, so I called her and I said, tell me what was this. I had this strange experience, bells. And she laughed. She said, what time was it, Byron? And I said, it was ten to 2:00 in the morning. And she then really laughed. And I said, why are you laughing? And she said ten to 2:00 in the morning is the time that monasteries throughout the world do their most serious praying. And the bells would be, you know, meaningful because monasteries with bells and all that. So that was pretty strange.
REHMI should say. Take us back to your early days, Byron, when you first began to play the piano.
JANISI was given a xylophone by my uncle for Christmas. We were told to bring our favorite things to school that we were given. I took the xylophone. And the teacher was playing the piano. The children were dancing around. I was four years old. And I began to play, pick out the tune on the xylophone that she was playing on the piano. And she was startled, of course, and said, Byron, can you do that on the piano? And I said, I don't know.
JANISSo she lifted me up onto the piano bench and I picked out exactly the same tune that she was playing by ear, obviously. The next thing I knew, they were in my home telling my parents, this is a boy with an ear and you ought to start him studying piano. That's how I really started.
REHMBut early on, there was a problem with your little finger. When did that develop?
JANISI was 11 years old actually and sort of arguing with my sister. And I was chasing her and I stuck my left hand through a glass pane in a, what I think are called French doors. And we moved it quickly and my finger was a mess. It was sort of hanging down and looking awful. I was rushed to the hospital. They operated. I lost -- they cut the tendon. They cut the nerve. I lost a joint and to this day, that finger is totally numb. And the doctor said to me at the time, well, you'll never play the piano again, but there will be something for you to do, I'm sure.
JANISSo I said -- I didn't accept that. I just naturally went on and said, no, no, no. I'm going to play and I found ways of dealing with it. And you know, to lose one, it's like playing with nine fingers because I didn't feel it. And I still don't feel it.
REHMYou still don't...
JANISOh no, nothing, zero, I don't feel this finger. So I learned ways of using my eyes differently, of using my hand differently, of dealing with it. And I never told anybody about this until about 1989 or 1991.
JANISParade was doing a cover story and they spoke about arthritis and then I told them about this finger.
REHMAnd Maria, surely you knew about it when you and Byron were married?
JANISOh, yes, of course, of course. But it was just something that, you know, it was not to be discussed. And Byron, I think one of his ways of overcoming the impediment that it caused was simply, to the best of his ability, to ignore it because he had worked out over the years from 11. I think your whole body compensates when there's an injury and I think that's -- you know, it was just part of our life. And I mean, when I listen to him play, I totally forget he doesn't have ten totally powerful fingers because it's a...
REHMBut he is using that finger?
JANISYes, he uses it, but as there's no feeling, I guess you develop a whole new way of locating yourself on the keyboard because the sense of touch is what tells you where you are because, you know, the fingers are going too fast for your eye to see every note so it becomes a whole instinctive process, I believe.
REHMDo you think it is an instinctive process, Byron?
JANISWell, it was for me. I mean, I simply – well, there's no question I had to continue playing. It was my life and I didn't even -- I just ignored it. It was mind over matter. That's when I learned mind over matter, which is a very important thing for all of us in whatever we have because you know with the arthritis -- and now I'm interested in juvenile arthritis with the children. I keep telling them, you know, you have to forget. The brain can't function on two things at once. It can only function on one thing.
JANISSo if you put your focus on something else other than pain or other than the problem you're having, you will not be able to think of the pain. So the focus with me, of course, was music, but for other children, lots of things.
REHMByron Janis and Maria Cooper Janis together they have written, "Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal." Short break and we'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio classical musician Byron Janis with his wife Maria Cooper Janis. Together they have collaborated on a new book. It's titled "Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary life in Music and the Paranormal." Byron Janis, your book begins with several extraordinary experiences regarding Chopin.
REHMHow did you discover the two lost versions of his Waltzes twice?
JANISThat is -- that startled me the second time, I must say. I found -- you know, both times were totally accidental. In Paris in his Chateau the first time and they were in a trunk marked old clothes and we were looking through it and I just saw these manuscripts somewhere. And when I told the (unintelligible) he said to me, oh, those are just things my mother was scribbling down -- my grandmother was scribbling down. I said, no, they're not. They are Chopin waltzes and one of them has no manuscript that is known. It was published after his death. Nobody knew (unintelligible) here was the manuscript.
JANISAnd this whole story became very interesting and the New York Times put it on the front page and Walter Cronkite -- it was all over the place. And I'm telling you that for a reason because five years later – five, was it, or six? Five, yes. At Yale University, I was giving a master class and they said, would you like to see some of our music? They have a tremendous collection. And just before I leave, we have no idea why, which is the mystery in this whole thing, I pointed to a shelf. I said, what's that? And this professor climbed this thing and he said, oh, it's marked Chopin. I said, oh, can I see it?
JANISI opened the folder. I'm happy I was sitting down because there were the same two waltzes, the same two waltzes in earlier -- written a year earlier. And, yes, that's one of them.
REHMAnd Byron, I can see your fingers moving even as you're listening to this music.
JANISThat's a reflex I get.
REHMMaria, what was your reaction to all this?
JANISWell, you know, I think when something is so big, one is astounded and you don't know what to do except say, oh gosh, you know, here it is. What was an amazing moment, when Byron performed the waltzes at the Chateau, there was a special evening with -- which CBS filmed actually. And then there was a fire and it got lost. But (unintelligible) was there and Sergeant Shriver, the Kennedy Family, some were there. So this was the first time those waltzes were heard since Chopin wrote them.
JANISI mean, you know, 'cause they had been...
JANISAnd, you know...
REHMGo ahead, Byron.
JANIS...it gave such a -- it was so interesting to see how a composer changes his mind from year to year just like we performers do, if we're any good. We never play the same twice.
REHMBut are you saying that even though it was the same waltzes, there were different...
JANISOh yes, differences. And the published one was a -- first one was 1832, the next one's 1833 and the next one was published in 1835. Very, very many differences.
REHMThe question becomes why, after hesitating ten years ago about including anything regarding the paranormal, why now, Byron?
JANISBecause it was something -- as I was writing my memoirs, I had to include -- I had to include this. It's a major part of my life and I wanted to try to tell people, hey, this is not so abnormal. You know, in the fourth century St. Augustine said, miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature. And that is the whole thing. What we know -- we know so little. Einstein said we know 2 percent of how the universe functions, 2 percent.
JANISSo 98 percent we have no idea about. Can you imagine what those 98 percent are going to show us? All right. And people have this fear, I think, of the unknown. This is what the cause is, they are frightened of the unknown. I love the unknown. I'm frightened of the known.
REHMAnd you, Maria?
JANISI feel exactly the same way. I think the reality that the paranormal which is the wrong word...
REHMWhat is the right word?
JANISWell, Byron coined the right word.
JANISYeah, I call it the unknown normal.
JANISI like that much, much better.
JANISAnd I think the word paranormal evokes in most people because there have been so many, you know, bad, bad, bad spooky scary, you know, ghosts and spooks and oddball off-the-wall things. You know, for us the paranormal is a part of our everyday life. And it -- for me it makes us aware of how much we overlook. You know, little synchronicities, things -- telepathic exchanges that happen between people. You know, you think of someone you haven't talked to in ten years and suddenly the phone rings and there they are.
JANISI mean, and I think we all tend to say, oh well, yes, ah-ha, coincidence. But you put those together and they're -- I think they're telling us something. I think they're signposts on a road that we really have not traveled far enough along at all. And I think many people are afraid of it. And I think that's a pity because there's so much beauty there and there's so much richness in our own growth.
JANISWell, it's the one place that can help us, the unknown, with things that we are experiencing that are great problems and such. Not too long ago NASAs researchers found a bacteria in the bottom of a lake in California that lived on arsenic. That was the only thing that it lived on. I mean, arsenic was -- is killing to us but that makes you think what is there out there with -- what kind of life is there out there, and it lives on arsenic alone? And there must be many other kinds of unknown...
JANIS...unknown things that people -- that we say we can't live on that are going on. So every time we make a discovery we are making something that was thought impossible or abnormal, not normal.
REHMTell me about your mutual discovery of each other the first time the two of you met.
JANISIt was a magical moment. Many people say that. But actually it was quite a series of coincidences because I had had -- I'd been given a recording of this virtuoso American Pianist Byron Janis, Prokofiev of Third Piano Concerto. And I fell in love with it and I was doing some etchings at the time. And I started working inadvertently in time with the music so intuitively that I frayed the tendon in my right wrist. And I had to have surgery.
JANISSo my mother remarried a wonderful doctor and they were in the South of France on (unintelligible) staying with friends and my mother said, you want to come over? It's July. Join us. And then, the night I arrived, a party was being given for the bride and groom, my mother and her new husband. And one of the first guests to walk in -- to walk out on the terrace was Byron Janis. And I couldn't believe it 'cause here was this -- the man whose face I'd seen on the cover of the Prokofiev of Third album, and in fact, who had caused my wrist. And my arm was in a cast still from the surgery.
JANISSo it was kind of an amazing moment. And we were just introduced and we looked at each other and we both knew something about each other, that we weren't strangers. I mean, it sounds corny but it absolutely was true.
REHMByron, describe that moment from your perspective.
JANISWell, I was in a -- it was an incredible moment, but then I was in -- about to be divorced in a very difficult situation, unpleasant. And I was rather depressed. And here was someone -- I looked at Maria and I said, I've known this girl before. I've know this -- I just knew it. I just -- I knew her. Strange. It wasn't a feeling of overpowering love for someone, but -- that came later, but I knew her.
JANISAnd later on, she told me she had exactly the same feeling. So that is -- it was written down in her diary actually so that was kind of interesting that we knew each other. And for the -- what was so important for me was, my goodness, hope returned. Hope returned to my life after really I was very down in the dumps.
REHMHow long have the two of you been married?
REHMForty-six years. And because of your own upbringing, Maria, you had very little fear about being involved with someone as famous as Byron?
JANISOh, absolutely no fear. I mean, I was -- it was certainly very helpful to have been raised in a family that was creative, that was intense. I had a very real awareness of what a performer needs, when he needs his own space. You know, walk through the room and don't talk. Shut up. And yet the -- I've always been totally comfortable with the intensity that goes into being around a person who has to perform.
JANISI mean, my father was a much less volatile quieter type than Byron, but still in his own way, you just know there are certain parameters that you respect. And I know, you know, girlfriends of mine would say, oh well, how can you this and how can you that and don't you feel rejected? And I said, oh, come on, no. You know, this is exciting. It's a privilege for me to be part of a creative act.
JANISI mean, I find it very hard to go to a city just as a tourist because for all of our 46 years traveling, you go to a town and you're giving in to it. You know, Byron is leaving something there. He's giving to it and the response with the people. And it's not just a taking thing. And even though, you know, I'm not performing but it's part of the whole thing.
REHMMaria Cooper Janis and Byron Janis. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." How old were you when your dad Gary Cooper died?
JANISI was 24.
REHMHow well did you know him?
JANISExtremely well. Extremely well. Of course, it's always too soon and certainly he was 61 years -- he was 60 years old and that was much too soon for me because...
REHMMuch too soon.
JANIS...you know, now I wish -- I'm naturally shy as, I guess, quite like him. But now I just wish, oh, I could've talked so much more and I could've asked him so much more than I did. But nonverbally we had a wonderfully close communication. And he taught me so much by example. And just -- and he and my mother were a wonderful team. I was really lucky because I knew I could never play one parent off the other.
REHMAnd speaking of teaching, Byron Janis, how did you come to be taught by Horowitz?
JANISI was -- my first concert with orchestra was with the NBC symphony, Toscanini's orchestra when I was 15. The next orchestra concert was in Pittsburgh, my home, which I left when I was eight, but I played with an orchestra -- I was 16 and there was a great conductor, sorry, named Lorin Maazel, conducted the Philharmonic for a long time.
REHMHe was how old at the time?
REHMFourteen when he conducted that.
JANISHe was 14, I was 16. And by chance, Horowitz had played a recital the night before and he was in town so they invited him to the concert.
REHMThis is Horowitz.
JANISHorowitz -- Vladimir Horowitz. And he came and he came backstage to see me and I was of course thrilled. And he was -- made some very nice remarks to me and he said, when you come to New York call me. I'd like to hear you play some more. So that's how we met and that's how our relationship musically began. I was the first student he ever had, you know.
REHMHow was that relationship? How would describe it?
JANISWell, he was -- he was a very interesting, in retrospect, teacher in the sense that he never over taught. He would say something didn't seem right. You go home and think about it and bring it back to me next time. He did not teach, oh, you've got to do this, you've got to do that. He left it up to me and that was difficult but I think so important.
REHMUnlike an earlier teacher who had you at the keyboard with water...
REHM...a glass of water on your hands. And if the water spills, what happened?
JANISA ruler would come down on my hand...
JANIS...and it really hurt.
JANISHe was Russian. He said, that's the way we were taught in -- he was Russian in Leningrad. So I was -- when I -- actually it was Joseph Levine who was another great pianist who heard me when I was eight. I was brought to New York to play for him and he said, we would like to teach this boy. So I went to New York but he -- I hoped he wasn't from the same conservatory. And he was from Moscow. I'm fortunate they didn't use rulers in Moscow.
REHMHow outrageous. What a way...
REHM...to teach a child.
JANISI agree but he said, this is what we did in Russia.
REHMAnd the hands had to be absolutely...
JANIS...still. Yeah, and, you know, you can't be totally still when you play a scale. You can't. And I -- but always spilled quite -- but then he did teach me -- I must say I began to play fewer and fewer wrong notes. So maybe it worked.
REHMByron Janis with Maria Cooper Janis. The book is titled "Chopin and Beyond." Short break and right back.
REHMAnd we're back with two extraordinary people here in the studio Byron Janis with his wife, Maria Cooper Janis. Together they've written a new book. It's titled, "Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal." And for the first time Byron Janis and his wife have talked about their experiences with the paranormal, something that, ten years ago, he thought he'd wait and now has talked about his own experiences and their experiences together.
REHMWe have many callers. I'm going to open the phones 800-433-8850. First to Pensacola, Florida, good morning, Jeff, you're on the air.
JEFFGood morning. I lost my hearing about ten years ago to a surgery and I'm a brass player and I just recently picked the horn back up. And I found the difficulties of the physical disability to be something I can overcome, but it's been the mental approach to the music that I'm having more difficulty with. Yet, maybe so much as, you know, as you perform, you project part of yourself through the music. And when you're confidence has been destroyed and trying to rebuild it, it's very difficult.
JEFFAnd I wanted to know if there was any sort of advice that was given to people who are, maybe, post-op for arthritis surgeries on the mental approach towards their music after such, you know, career -- possibly career ending surgeries that they regain their music.
JANISWell, yes. I think – look, my life and what I've been through with arthritis in my little finger and all these things showed me that almost nothing is impossible. Now, if you have got to feel that music is the most wonderful, beautiful thing in the world, which, I imagine, you must feel that. And, you know, I had five hand surgeries, by the way, five on my hands, one which shortened my thumb. And through all this, though, music was the most beautiful thing in the world to me and it still is.
JANISAnd it -- I think it's spiritually more important to people than it should be, I think than even religion because goes to another part of us. Religion has caused so many wars, unfortunately, and the spiritual part of us is very important and that's why music is so important, I think, to -- for children, for everybody. And I just think you have to say I love music and why -- you know, mind over matter again.
JANISIt was quite amazing to see Byron in the process of the recovery from the surgeries. As soon as the doctor said he could, he still had a cast on his hands, but three fingers were exposed. And Byron said, well, can I work my scales with those three fingers. And the doctor said, yes, so there he was at the piano, still with the cast on, but he was exercising with the three fingers that worked.
JANISWell, you can do anything you really want to do, believe me. It's just...
REHMJeff, good luck to you. Here's a tweet, "Byron is said to be good friends with Uri Geller.
REHMDo you still believe in him?
JANISAbsolutely. And for all those who don't, and there are some who don't, certainly, just look at his website and there's a new film that the CIA has released on their early work with him at Stanford University, which is our defense department. And it'll show you what he could do at a young age. And CIA, as I say, is not to be sneezed at so, I think...
REHMAnd you, Maria.
JANISOh, it's -- there's no doubt. I mean...
REHMWhat is it about him and his work and his being that creates such faith on your part?
JANISIt isn't a question of faith. I mean, is the sun going to come up tomorrow, you know. Unless the world blows up, it's going to come up. It's a question of concrete knowledge. It's also something that's being researched by science. It's part of an energy system, our human ability, our electromagnetic field and its ability to interact with matter and other people that we just don't have the answers to yet. But it isn't -- I mean, things have happened to Byron and myself, you know, away from worry.
JANISIt isn't -- but I mean -- but his -- he is gifted in his field like Byron is gifted in music.
JANISIt's a gift.
REHMAnd yet, to many, for example, those who have followed the work of Randy...
REHM...they believe that...
REHM...Uri Geller has been totally debunked.
JANISHe hasn't -- well, not at all. You look at the list of scientists now who said, at first, I wasn't sure, but now I know -- and these are the top scientists in the world. Just look at his website. I mean, one of the most interesting facts is about bending metal and spoons and so on, children are doing this all over the world. Now, how can children do it, if it's not real? Because they don't think it's impossible. They don't have society saying you can't do that. It's not...
REHMAnd how important do you think that spoon bending is as it applies to everything else regarding the paranormal?
JANISWell, the paranormal -- when I say mind over matter, that's a very big part of the paranormal. It is and, I mean, the fact that he can, on command, do something like that -- that's only one of the things he does, but is a truth, really, that, you know, the mind is the most powerful thing we have.
JANISWe were together in England at Birkbeck College with -- in the room was Arthur Koestler, Arthur Clark, John Hasted, the man who discovered the black holes, and Uri bent the metal. But there was a big compass, you know, set into the ground and simply with his mental power tried to move the compass. It's an energy that we don't understand, but, clearly, I mean, I saw it. We saw it. All those scientists saw it. You know, the compass needle starts swinging around.
JANISI remember Koestler said to me, what is this -- these were his exact -- I remember his words, what is this world coming to? And anyway, that was one remark, but a lot of them, you know, they were -- you know, there was no question in their minds. One of them, who was Clark, said -- later on, he said, I was hypnotized, probably. And months -- about a year later, he said, no, I wasn't. This really happened. No, I wasn't. This really happened. So people -- it's hard for people to accept this.
JANISI've had people see Uri and they've tried to straighten out the spoon they were so annoyed -- upset that he could do that.
JANISRandy's a magician, of course.
REHMTalk about the first time you went to Moscow in 1960 becoming the first American artist in a cultural...
REHM...exchange. What happened there?
JANISWell, in 1960, you know, it was the height, really, of the cold war. Before I arrived -- about three or four months -- the U2 -- I don't know how many remember that.
REHMOh, I remember it very well.
JANISSpy plane -- it was an American spy plane, which Eisenhower said, what's a U2. I never heard of a U2. And, anyway, it was shot down. The pilot was put in prison and I arrived there three months later. Okay. Anyway, I walked out on the stage for my first concert in Moscow. Wow, and there was no applause. What there was was shouts of U2, U2. They were -- the propaganda had totally made us into the most evil people in the world. They were spying on things, et cetera, et cetera.
JANISAnd that was where this mind quote over matter really came into use because I just quietly -- it was very hard, but I quietly sat there until it stopped. Because it was really unnerving and I didn't -- and I started to play.
REHMWhat did you play?
JANISI played a Mozart sonata then I played some Schumann then I played the Chopin Funeral March Sonata. And at intermission, I mean, they exploded with applause. By the end of the concert some of them were really -- they came to the stage and were really weeping. And I thought, why are they weeping?
JANISIt's not just the music, it's that the enemy was -- I was the enemy, but I was a human being. They loved the way I played and they saw that I was not an evil fellow. So it was very important and, you know, that music -- that's what music can do, actually. There are no words to it and people can dream what they want, but it had the effect of really changing their minds.
REHMI wonder what happened to those brilliant young musicians of the '50s who faced real physical and even mental problems. I think of Ben Clyburn who dropped out because of the pressure, Leon Fleisher who lost the use of...
REHM...one hand, but now is certainly performing with great brilliance. Gary Graffman, he lost the use of his right hand. What do you think happens?
JANISI -- you know, I can't answer that really, but I think sometimes in striving for more virtuosity, we can injure our hands by trying to do too much with it. A young pianist named Murray Perahia did that and he hurt his hand totally and he couldn't play, but now he's playing. So I think it's -- they just don't know, but that would be one of my guesses that they just went too far trying to play octaves, eighth notes too fast or too -- whatever.
REHMPracticing long hours?
JANISPerhaps practicing long hours and perhaps too much. I don't know, but I think people do practice too much. They should live life a little more and put that into the music because, you know, you can't -- you can only practice technique. You can't practice feeling.
REHMAnd you mentioned your work with juvenile diabetes.
REHMArthritis. Talk a little about that.
JANISYes, that's -- I've always -- 25 years ago, it was Nancy Reagan at the White House who announced the fact that I had arthritis for the first time. The Arthritis Foundation wanted to do it at the White House so it would get maximum publicity, I suppose. And I gave many benefit evenings for the Arthritis Foundation. And, lately, I have been drawn to children and juvenile arthritis, which there are 300,000 children in this country who have juvenile arthritis.
JANISAnd arthritis is -- 60 or 50 million people have arthritis in this country. It's a very serious problem. It doesn't -- you usually don't die from it, but your life -- you can -- there are many ways of dying. Life can change so much that you don't know quite what to do.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." How did you cope with keeping your arthritis secret for so many years?
JANISI did because it was -- I think about it now and I think how did I, but I did because it gave me great -- the secret of that gave me power, you know. I thought, I'm not going to tell anybody because I say to myself, I don't have it -- nothing -- I don't have arthritis. I just threw it out of my mind and concentrated on the music. And, believe me, it was extremely difficult, but that's the way I chose. And after 12 years, I decided to talk about it.
REHMMaria, how did you help him during those years?
JANISWell, when you love someone and you see them suffering terribly and yet determined to go through with what it is they've committed to do, and, in the case of music with what they love, I think you just have to be as much of a support as you can. I learned therapeutic massage. I learned -- I traveled with a lot of different equipment, like things -- as pain relievers. I learned hypnosis to sort of to help with pain control.
JANISAnd, I mean, when I think back now, the times that I'd be back stage and see Byron about to go on with his hands so painful and so inflamed he -- you know, he would say, I don't know if I can do this.
JANISBut he just sort of walked out and, all of a sudden, this incredible concert would come out. So it was...
JANISYou can play through pain like athletes we know are doing it all the time. But you can play through pain. I would feel it and the moment I got involved with the music, no more pain.
REHMAnd here is Byron Janis playing the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3.
JANISIn C sharp minor.
REHMAnd you are hearing the prelude in C sharp minor and not the concerto No. 3 and you love playing that.
JANISYes, well, it's favorite -- one of the favorite pieces of many people, actually. It's one of his favorite -- most famous pieces he wrote, I think.
REHMByron Janis playing the Rachmaninoff Prelude No. 3 and his new book written with his wife, Maria Cooper Janis, "Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal." Thank you both so much.
JANISThank you so much.
REHMPleasure to have you here. Thanks for listening all, I'm Diane Rehm.
A conversation from the archives with Barbara Walters about her 2008 memoir "Audition," a story of family challenges, celebrity gossip and blazing a trail in TV news.
A conversation from the archives with former President Jimmy Carter. In January 1993 he joined Diane in the studio for his first of twelve appearances on the Diane Rehm Show.
Foreign policy expert David Rothkopf on the war in Ukraine, relations with China and the challenges ahead for the Biden administration.
In 2014 Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel wrote in The Atlantic that he planned to refuse medical treatment after age 75. Now 65, he and Diane revisit his provocative essay.
Commentscomments powered by Disqus