I know I've mentioned music before. It's hard for me to not mention music. That's because my entire life has been underscored. I cannot remember for sure but I think we always had a piano. The first one I remember for certain that was in our house was when we lived in California. I think I was in the 1st grade. My Mother played. She played brilliantly though she did play a little fast and loose with the "rules". I do not believe she ever played any piece the same way twice and never exactly as it was written. She always felt it necessary to "improve" a piece. Heh.
And she sang. Her voice was magnificent and powerful. She could rattle the crystal in the hutch with her voice. It was awesome and surprising that such a big sound could come out of such a tiny person. Sometimes she sang as she played piano, sometimes she sang along with the radio, other times she sang a capella (that is without accompaniment).
My parents had, not just a record player, but an enormous stereo console and quite the collection of music, mostly symphonies, a little opera and the occasional comedy album. And when my mother spun a record on the turntable, she cranked that volume. She wanted to hear it wherever she was in the house. How loud was it? Let's just say that you couldn't have a conversation if you were in the same room as the stereo if it was on. That's just a fact.
The point here is, that I grew up surrounded by music. It was just a normal and very important part life. It should be no surprise to anyone that of course, my sister and I took piano lessons. No matter where we lived, our mother found someone to teach us. Sometimes our teacher was especially good, sometimes not so much, but no matter, we always learned. And we truly enjoyed our music lessons, even practicing was never a burden.
There is a photo of me, somewhere, maybe age 3, sitting at a piano, little feet dangling, tiny fingers on the keys and a look of serious concentration on my face. Now I was no prodigy, so I have little doubt that I was just crashbanging on the keys in an imitation of my mother. But it shows the desire from a very young age.
Looking back, I am surprised that I took to music so well. It was only many many years later that it dawned on me how very mathematical Music is. And if anyone had introduced me to music with the word "math" anywhere in the intro, it would never have happened. I have had an innate aversion to math from the cradle. It's a mental block I'm quite sure, but an obstacle is an obstacle.
I understood the language. It was somehow, instinctual for the most part. To a small child who is basically still learning English, adding in musical terms was no different than learning any other word. Learning the meaning of the words Adagio and Allegro was no different to me than learning Prestidigitation and Carbuncle. I had no idea that they were not just more English words. Seeing a Time Signature on a sheet of music did not indicate a Fraction to me then so 3/4 time just meant three beats to the measure and the quarter note gets one count. Easy peasy. (I totally get the math now and am not remotely intimidated by it by the way) The notes on the page were logical, rational, sensible and immutable. A middle C is a middle C is a middle C. There was such a comfort in that steadfastness for me. It balanced out all of the upheaval in constantly moving and travelling. I believe that it helped to draw me to the one constant in my life which was music.
And then of course, there was the discipline of it all. They same way that a true ballerina finds pleasure in the hours of repeating the same moves over and over, I found in playing the same piece, the same page, sometimes the same line or even measure, until it was as close to perfect as I thought I could possibly get. It probably drove everyone around me quite mad, but I loved the progress that I heard and felt and that only came from a lot of practice.
And then, lord help us all, I took up Violin. I actually wanted to learn harp, but they couldn't find a harp teacher for me. They could find a violin teacher. I know that initially it sounded like two cats fighting in a small burlap bag, gawd awful! But I applied that same determined single minded effort to improvement and in a relatively short amount of time, my fingers were flying over the violin strings with the same ease as the piano keys. I loved getting lost in the music.
And then I went to college. I had little spare time and no instruments at hand. But occasionally in one of the practice rooms, I could sneak in and "borrow" a piano or violin and play to my hearts content. It didn't happen often but it soothed my soul. And then after school, I married and had three children immediately. You probably think that means that I wouldn't have the time to play. Well it wasn't so much lack of time as it was lack of piano.
And then I inherited my Nana's piano. I was in heaven and made up for lost time. Let's just say that my boys grew up playing underneath my piano while I played. Without realizing it, they hummed Beethoven and Kuhlau and Hayden to themselves while they built great block cities populated with those little Fischer Price people and matchbox cars. I would hurry through chores so that I could reward myself with an hour at the piano or violin. Then do more chores to earn more time. I had to discipline myself that way or nothing else would ever have been done.
This was a hideously ugly upright piano that had the Most Amazing sound and a beautiful light touch. It was a 1910 Storey & Clarke piano that was built in Boston Massachusetts and eventually made it's way up the coast of Maine where it presided in my grandmother's house for many, many years until it came back down the coast to Connecticut to live with me. I loved that thing. Every piano sounds completely different and this one had the most beautiful tone I've ever heard. And I adored it. But then one day we found out we were moving to Colorado. A place that is very very VERY dry. And this old, New England born and raised piano wasn't going to adapt. So I gave it away before we moved and we arrived in Colorado piano-less.
We remained piano-less for about eight years. Tim kept trying to talk me into buying a new one, but either I couldn't find one with a pleasing sound or the price was too high for me to consider. And then I started to develop arthritis in my hands and I knew I would never be able to play the way I used to so I decided that I didn't need to play the music anymore. I still had it in my head. I could hear it anytime I liked. And I made the choice to be happy with that.
But Tim, who often knows me better than I do, eventually bought me an electric keyboard. I piddled around on it for awhile, but never really adjusted to it very well during those two years. And then we moved to Florida.
Of course I brought the electric keyboard with us. Of course I did! Even thought it's a full sized standard keyboard, meaning all 88 keys and of normal piano key size, and therefore takes up a considerable amount of space in a house that does not have space to spare, I still brought it without even questioning the decision. I have learned to listen to my instincts and I'm glad about that.
I must have known that eventually I'd get back to it because a few months ago, I finally sat my fanny down on the piano bench, turned the piano on, plugged in the headphones and opened a book of sonatas. The first few weeks were excruciating. I was so happy that nobody could hear it but me. It was embarrassingly bad. I was nearly ready to throw in the towel and sell the keyboard when all of a sudden one day, the piece I was playing didn't sound horrible.
Not much of a compliment to myself, but Not Horrible, was a distinct improvement. And it was enough of an improvement to encourage me to try harder, concentrate more, dedicate time every day. My fingers began to behave properly and although it still takes me far too long to learn a new piece, I am now to the point where I look forward to 4:00 every day because that is when I stop doing anything else, and sit down at my keyboard to play. And it's getting easier. It's sounding better all the time. And it's making me smile again.
I am not stupid or delusional. I know that I will never be able to play the way I used to again. BUT I comfort myself in knowing that the old masters are no longer turning in their graves when I'm practicing. Though I admit they are still probably twitching a little bit. Oh well, I'm sure at this point they could use the exercise.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.