Monday, 19 July 2010
Every time I sit at the piano now I remember there was a time when it was my lifeline, and a time when I couldn't play because my brain wouldn't let me. The pleasure of just sitting at a piano is so huge, I don't care what happens.
This is making for interesting playing. Improvisations which might sound hideous to an outsider but feel like me speaking the words which I would speak if I could manage to pinpoint the words to use. Fairly competent playings of Beethoven Sonatas, which get better with every run through at the moment (I know that will change at some point). Grabbing some music that happens to be on top of the piano and playing that. Sitting in the almost dark playing Nocturnes by dim lights.
Now, I identify as a musician. Sometimes just because it makes up the majority of my income, sometimes because I can't identify as a mathematician (when having a complete maths fail day). And to be a musician, I must play music. To sit at a piano and not want to get up and run away for fear of a wrong note, or a bad chord, or just not perfect playing feels amazing.
When I was about 14, I used to shut myself in a room in the music department of my school and just play. One person used to come and try to get some words out of my mouth by asking me questions as I played. Or just come and gently drum on the drum kit in there, so I knew I wasn't alone. They are now at one of the best music colleges in the UK. At that point I wore fingerless gloves every day. Another joyous feeling is to remember the first time I took off the gloves and played with bare hands. I wore gloves to hide scars on my hands, but naturally they impacted on my playing.
College required me to play, I was the pianist at the college, so was expected to. But it was a chore rather than a delight.
Then I stopped playing. Finished college. Hospital had knocked the hope out of me that piano playing could make things better. I didn't sit at the piano for months and months. I played my flute whilst in hospital, came out of hospital and didn't played it for months either.
Then last September, the person who was in my job before me announced his resignation. One thing led to another, and I applied and got the job. It meant learning how to play the beast of all instruments confidently again - the organ. Having to sing in front of others again. Having to be a musician again. But the piano became more and more important. At first it was a way of trying out organ pieces for a flavour of them before going to play them on the organ. Then I got out my old piano books. It took until about May before I could start even thinking about playing something new to me on the piano.
Now though, the piano is my companion again. Sounds crass, but it feels like I can play it again. I probably will always remember the time when the piano haunted me as I walked through an unused music room, but now it is part of me again. I can hardly walk through the room without sitting down at the piano to play something - even if just a few bars. Time gets lost as I sit and just enjoy the piano. Lunchtimes rarely are just eating lunch, they include 40 minutes of playing some days.
It feels new and exciting and I'm appreciating it so much more than when I started playing. Today I chose a pile of music a foot high that someone is trying to get rid of to "good homes". Concertos, short pieces, long pieces, nocturnes, stuff that people may want if I ever play "background" music at events again, old pieces, more modern stuff. I'm excited to have it. It feels good.
I'm OK with the wrong notes, the majority will be right. I'm OK with stuff not quite working, tomorrow it might. I'm OK with the piano, that feels just great.