Why I Play the Piano

JUST A LITTLE MAGAZINE ITEM ABOUT PLAYING THE PIANO.

This is just a whimiscal piece about being a life long pianist

...I began piano lessons at the age of 4 years and showed very early promise, with distinction at Grade 1 and first class at the music festivals. This plateaued under the later years and years of grim tuition of a less than inspirational teacher. Then off to music college to discover what I had been missing. But this felt too late for me, surrounded as I was by musical prodigies. I didn’t seem to have the stamina to learn, so I became and singer songwriter instead. Wonderfully, in later life I have that stamina available to me and I am playing better than I could ever have imagined. Here is my tribute to my piano hands, written when I first noticed the progress I was making:

Once upon a time there was a pianist

I am that pianist

I am inside the music so deeply these days.

I look down at my fingers.

It’s almost like you’re not mine.

Confident stretches, leaps and bounds.

You little pattern makers:

My fingers.

You are dancers, athletes, little personalities. What metaphor will do? Systems of levers and counter levers and pulleys interconnect to hammer out the tunes that I invent. I can’t tell you how much delight they cause me when they finally crack it and take a new tune onboard into their very way of being. ‘Cos I’m not playing with you for epic daylong sessions anymore, you are slower at this business. I remember assaulting-coursing you through Billy Joel techniques until wrists objected and ceased up. You ached and begged me to rest. I just wanted to be some kind of butch female pianist occasionally. So now we play together for snatches, often borrowed moments, as often I just can’t walk past the beautiful old piano. Quarter of an hour will do to put you through the paces of the Nick Cave I’m learning. Just yesterday we cracked it and words, vocal line and fingers dance together in a delightful synchronicity. It feels bloomin’ good.

The stiff old Broadwood filled my deceased grandpa’s dingy room. Days and days spent with Beethoven sonatas. The Waldstein page one, but Hey! NOT page two. The Moonlight’s First movement: I was pretty good at that if I say it myself, but WOW! The second movement needed pure gymnastics. The first few poundings of the Pathetique and NO MORE. Yet in amongst all those unattainable pages of my two green bound Beethoven sonatas were so many of my best pals. The more accessible movements and even some whole sonatas that in time a mediocre yet quite good pianist could learn. I just loved that license to roam. Later Bartók, Fauré and Schönberg and at last a decent teacher came too late to strip down my technique to its early potential. But by then song writing had kicked in. I was there with Joni Mitchell and Carole King and most influentially with Laura Nyro. These excellent women pianists.

Sometimes delicate.

Sometimes pounding the keyboard.

This little girl grown older still delights to see her fingers dancing in wonderful synaesthetic completeness.

Unexplainable satisfaction exudes.

And Nick Cave’s in my head and my heart and I’ve got his song into my brain.

I know because my fingers told me so.


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