The person who symbolizes righteous intent more than anyone else to Alexey is Rex Lewis-Clack, a fourteen-year-old piano prodigy who also happens to be blind and severely autistic. As a little boy, the merest touch or sound was torturous. Rex was never expected to walk or talk, but when he turned two he received a toy piano that changed his life. Rex is in possession of what Alexey calls “unbribable ears”—he is completely incapable of perceiving music as anything other than purely visceral expression.
Describing Rex, Alexey says, “You are in the presence of a tangible miracle. It is an incredible example of art surpassing any limitations of the body—he is some kind of a strange symbolic representation of everything Classical Underground is. The whole source of his connection to life is pure art, sound and music. He is overcoming something monstrous, it’s something you cannot fathom, with ease and grace, and you know what? You connect to him immediately and strongly! He doesn’t respond to the weaving of words, he responds to intent, and you cannot fake him on that.”
Rex is a living bullshit meter—he cannot be impressed by words, reason, or sight, but he is taken with Alexey. At their first meeting, Rex began as he usually does when introduced to new people—with a recitation of his remarkable litany of achievements. Alexey immediately interrupted him with, “Rexy, Rexy, all that means is that you can really play music, right?” Then came the bear hug and the donkey’s bray, and Rex fell in love with Alexey right there, as he cracked up uncontrollably. He is now a frequent guest at CU, and plays whenever the mood strikes, even when he is not listed on the program. He loves the concerts, where he says the music is “so big in his ears,” as if he’s playing the piano even when he isn’t. Rex has been on the same bill as world-renowned chamber musicians, a combination Alexey sees as the democracy of the CU brand, “the absolute pinnacle of sophistication and the absolute pinnacle of raw talent.”
There must be some inherent skepticism about a man who values above all the singularity of focus but intends to do so many things. Any attempt to sum up his mission slips inevitably into grandiose, sweeping pronouncements about the state of Life, Art, and Everything. Not exactly the stuff of levelheaded journalism. But then, trying to contain a giant in three pages of words is a losing battle, as futile as trying to do justice to that laugh. A donkey’s bray, a throttled seabird, the mating call of a velociraptor… A honking loud burst of joy.