Friday, November 4, 2011

Piano Lessons

I'm back at the piano again, (maybe) in earnest this time, and having an enormously good time reading and reading and reading. I think I'll have an enormously good time once I settle down on repertoire, too, but it's kind of the difference between dating and getting engaged...when you're dating a piece, you can be all superficial, love the big picture and ignore the problem spots. Once you're engaged/married, you see every little quirky detail and recognize that it's now your responsibility to overcome every challenge. It's great, that kind of hard work, totally great, but sometimes it's nice to go back to the crush stage.

So I'm crushing on some Prokofiev (I'd like to commit to the 7th Sonata, but my goal right now is to stay with smaller pieces, so I'm sticking with The Montagues and the Capulets), the Haydn Fantasie, and I can't decide which of the 20 Scarlatti sonatas I've gone through is really going to hold my fancy. I think I will revisit the 4th Ballade because it deserves to get to the next level.

I'm also planning some fun collaborative work for the near future, and am so excited to play gorgeous music with some wonderful musicians.

Spending so many hours a day working with students or at the piano itself is a little exhilarating. I'm so lucky that this is my life.

I love this Billy Collins poem. So much of his poetry wraps the mundane in the cloth of art. It makes me look more carefully at the details of my life.

It's so much fun to admit that (once again) "even when I am not playing, I think about the piano."

Piano Lessons
By Billy Collins
My teacher lies on the floor with a bad back
off to the side of the piano.
I sit up straight on the stool.
He begins by telling me that every key
is like a different room
and I am a blind man who must learn
to walk through all twelve of them
without hitting the furniture.
I feel myself reach for the first doorknob.
He tells me that every scale has a shape
and I have to learn how to hold
each one in my hands.
At home I practice with my eyes closed.
C is an open book.
D is a vase with two handles.
G flat is a black boot.
E has the legs of a bird.
He says the scale is the mother of the chords.
I can see her pacing the bedroom floor
waiting for her children to come home.
They are out at nightclubs shading and lighting
all the songs while couples dance slowly
or stare at one another across tables.
This is the way it must be. After all,
just the right chord can bring you to tears
but no one listens to the scales,
no one listens to their mother.
I am doing my scales,
the familiar anthems of childhood.
My fingers climb the ladder of notes
and come back down without turning around.
Anyone walking under this open window
would picture a girl of about ten
sitting at the keyboard with perfect posture,
not me slumped over in my bathrobe, disheveled,
like a white Horace Silver.
I am learning to play
“It Might As Well Be Spring”
but my left hand would rather be jingling
the change in the darkness of my pocket
or taking a nap on an armrest.
I have to drag him in to the music
like a difficult and neglected child.
This is the revenge of the one who never gets
to hold the pen or wave good-bye,
and now, who never gets to play the melody.
Even when I am not playing, I think about the piano.
It is the largest, heaviest,
and most beautiful object in this house.
I pause in the doorway just to take it all in.
And late at night I picture it downstairs,
this hallucination standing on three legs,
this curious beast with its enormous moonlit smile.


Holly said...

Skip the Scarlatti and do Handel or Bach. I really have tried to like him over the years but I just can't make myself do it. I'm teaching Montegues and Capulets right now, great piece.

Kerri said...

Oh, Holly, I LOVE Scarlatti sonatas!!! As long as they're the right sonatas, I think they are charming, fun to play, and fit well in the fingers. I do love Bach, but have never ever played Handel (shame on me) so maybe I need to take a look at some.

Holly said...

Handel is very different from Scarlatti, but so heavenly. Every time I play or teach Handel I feel like I'm playing divinely inspired music. Handel is my favorite for organ postlude at church; it's only when playing Handel that people actually pay attention and comment on what I'm playing.