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Monday, December 26, 2011

Yet Another Morning After

All that frenzy--which in my case was not really very frenetic--behind:  I am left to contemplate the curious stocking stuffers, red and green, that my personal Santa left.

The green tea mints I can understand, but I am a little leery of Fois Gras bubble gum, featuring "artificial liver flavor."  I would probably, to the dismay of pretty much everyone I know, savor a bit of real fois gras, but bubble gum?

More delightful is the BIG gift, a very nice electronic keyboard, way more than a piano, something I haven't had intimate access to for nearly 30 years.  When we embarked on this journey to the tropics, like missionaries, we left behind a junky old upright, probably a church basement castaway, that I enjoyed when we lived in the country and no one could hear me play. I used to tune it myself. (Frequently, in the way you might cut your own hair, a constant touching up.)  I have a tuning hammer, a very lovely crafted tool for which I now have absolutely no use. The upright was pretty much the same piece of furniture I grew up with, a player piano with the player guts removed and which my mother painted white in some fit of purity.  At some point in my disastrous childhood piano lesson trajectory, the piano, which I think was my grandmother's, was moved to the basement where I played/practiced so no one could hear me.  I was a terrible pianist.  I liked the playing part, but the practice baffled me.

When I left home and my basement piano, I went through a self-taught ukelele and guitar phase. My college roommate sat on my uke, (perhaps a foreshadowing of my destiny in Hawaii)  and no longer could I play All My Loving, all cute and Paul McCartney, like a primitive and talentless Jake Shimabukuro.  The guitar saw me through a few more folky/hippie years, but really, my first love was the piano.  I had a teacher whose name actually was Ludwig, who allowed us access to his fabulous upright Steinway; I imagined if I had THAT piano at home, instead of the lobotomized player, I would have been more accomplished.  Today I am distressed now that I cannot find my copy of Sonata Pathetique, the most advanced I ever got under Ludwig's tutelage and vague sexual abuse. (The old shaggy white-haired German liked to stroke our backs as we worked through the Sonatas.)  Not that I played it very well. (Although I just found that I can download the score; it looks really scary.  I need to practice.)  Then the old country upright saw me through a free phase, where I discovered that I didn't have to play what was written, I could play what I wanted.  No practice, no sticky stars on the pages of my piano lesson books, I could just play.  It was liberating. (But I sorta missed Ludwig.)

So now, the electronic keyboard.  What I locate for music are my old Methodist and Episcopal Hymnals from 1939 and 1940:  Christmas music to break in the keyboard.  Not just a piano. An organ setting!  A strings setting!  A guitar setting!  Automatic salsa rhythm! What fun!  Like any number of great R&B legends, I start with that good old gospel music. (Although some of it is Handel and Bach.)  I have three volumes of Hours with the Masters (which my friend and I called "Hours with the Monsters") stored somewhere...most of which is dreadful except for the notation for Fur Elise.  It is possible that the Wizard has discarded them somewhere (he finds Mozart too "tinkly" and Beethoven too...piano teacher-ish. Ah, how I miss Herr Ludwig.).   The Wizard urges me to play themes from Scheherazade, for which I can find some beginner-accessible sheet music.  And it is lovely.

So far, though, I am only performing with the earphones, not quite ready to inflict my unpracticed fingering (including my permanently dislocated left pinky) on a listener other than myself.  Still, to me, it sounds pretty good.   I am much less concerned with playing the RIGHT written notes....just notes that sound pretty and expressive.  It's a little like my Chinese painting.  It's all about the doing, not the done.


YTSL said...

Hi Baroness Radon --

Foie Gras bubble gum sounds sooo wrong. Like chilli ice cream and, maybe weirder still, chili chocolate ice cream. I've tried one spoonful of the latter. It was as icky as I imagined it would be!

Re Beethoven pieces: I have to say that I much rather listen to them than play them -- not least because I feel that Beethoven is one of those composers who must have been quite a big man -- or, at least, had really large hands because he seems to like/require one to stretch for more than an octave... and my little hands make it so that I end up having to staccato rather than play the notes as they were supposed to be played as a result! ;(

sybil law said...

Oh, the dreaded piano lessons. I took lessons at the actual Baldwin building that used to be pretty close-by, and the teacher was a total BITCH. I quit. So then I taught myself, which means I'm not very good. Still like playing, occasionally, though. We have a gorgeous upright that I got for free off of craigslist. Took my husband and 5 of his friends to move it - hence why it was free, and I am SO glad no one had a hernia moving it.
The foie gras sounds... disguting... but I'm really happy you got the electronic keyboard that brings you joy!
Rock out! Try In A Gadda Da Vida! Hahaha!

baroness radon said...

I just watched "Immortal Beloved," the not too historically accurate biopic about Beethoven. Gary Oldman was great though. But we tend to forget the composer's deafness...incredible. Like a blind painter.

@YTSL...funny you say that about the the movies he criticizes someone playing on eo fhis works as being all staccato and no feeling, no flow. In my case, I just don't play what I can't...indulging my own sort of deaf and blindness. My piano teacher, Ludwig, had huge hands.

@Sybil -- did I give YOU my old upright? Oh wait, that was way before Craigslist...and there may have been a hernia involved.