February 2, 2018

piano piece

I want a piano for my birthday.  Again.  A spinet this time.

I think this is a passing fancy.  The passing fancy must be on a YMCA walking track, though, as it comes by time and time again, in a loop.  I can hear the crunch of gravel under sneakers as it approaches.

I've had pianos before.  It never turns out the way I imagine.  I don't suddenly become impassioned by its presence, spending hours re-learning hymns and Rhapsody in Blue and the prelude to Messiah, then the first four pages of Listz's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (because starting on page five, I do not possess enough fingers or, indeed, hands to continue playing).  The piano sits and gathers dust and I sit and gather resignation.  Eventually, it gets sold and we regain valuable space in the house.  Until the next time.

I can tune a piano myself using my "ear for music" if I have a good pair of pliers.  Having relative perfect pitch helps when I tune my son's cello, too.  Then it turns and torments me when my son sits down to practice the cello and one of the strings is off.  I go running down the stairs to the basement with my arms waving and cry out in agony for him to staaahhhhhhhhhp so I can fix it.  It's turned into a comedic ritual in our house.  Sometimes I think he does it on purpose now, the little shit-biscuit.

Maybe a piano would help him do it himself.  He could turn around and plunk out a few notes.

When I was seven, I took piano lessons.  When I was twelve, I took piano lessons again.  I was as compliant with them the second time around as I was the first go.  I would look at the red and white cover of my second-hand John Thompson's Third Grade Book for Students of Piano with disdain, and then whip out a cantata we were singing at church and learn to play it instead, because it was big and complicated.  I'd memorize it, of course; I had the skill level to sight-read "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on a good day.  What I remember is the feeling of kinetic joy that came from the coordination of mind and ears and hands and eyes, the swoosh of both sides of the brain firing together in rhythm and the synaptic resonance of motor memory.  Only the complex, memorized pieces provided that, so John Thompson's juvenile tripe didn't hold water with me.  The depression was enough to keep me from practicing my assigned little pieces.  Playing the piano "for real" was one of the only things that could pull me out of the Fracture for a little while and give me respite.

The lessons didn't continue terribly long.  My teacher, also the choir director at church, gave up and could not, in good conscience, continue to accept checks from my mother for the lessons.  I never practiced, so sight-reading never came to fruition.  It did later, but only for choral singing, not for piano playing.  I like to think that the high-level choral sight-reading now means the piano lessons were not a waste.  They were a critical building block.  I've said this to both of my parents because I still feel guilty for not practicing.  They weren't exactly swimming in extra money.

Sometimes, typing produces an echo of the sensation I had while playing the piano.  I type as fast as I speak, and if someone is dictating and I'm typing what they're saying, the same coordination of several brain centers is involved and the feeling of alignment and rightness is similar to what I felt when touching cold ivory keys and hearing resolved dissonant chords and working the sustain pedal with my right foot, on that old upright piano my daddy bought.  It's an echo.  Just an echo.

I want a piano for my birthday.  Again.  But I know that I would find excuses and avoid sitting down and beginning the difficult task of re-learning what I've lost over twenty-eight years of not practicing.  There would be laundry, and down moods, and dogs to bathe, and dinners to cook.  When I did manage to pull up the bench, my impatience with inanimate objects and things I suck at would synergize and probably cause sheet music to fly across the basement and I'd stomp back upstairs, angry with myself.

I can close my eyes and remember playing.  I'm not sure that is a possible future self.  Maybe?

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