And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
I’m a little late this week; I’m sorry. But I had to get to my piano lesson, my second one. And that’s my moment of happiness, including my first lesson last week!
I wrote several weeks ago about deciding to take piano lessons, because I’ve always wanted to play. I’ve had a piano sitting in my living room for a few years now. My daughter Olivia’s first grade teacher was giving her piano away to anyone who would pay to have it hauled. I always wanted a piano, just like I’ve always wanted to play. I’ve even thought about getting a player piano, so that I could have piano music in my house, and I could watch the keys, or even pretend to be playing it. But here was this piano, from a lovely woman, who took care of my daughter when she was only six years old, and who played a big part in helping Olivia become who she is today. So I knew she took care of this piano too.
I will never forget watching it be hauled up to my second floor. The first floor is AllWriters’. We live on the second and third floors, so there was no choice but to bring it up. I hired movers off of CraigsList. They misread my description of what was needed, and so they thought they only had to get it down the few front porch steps of its original house. They didn’t notice the second floor part, so they didn’t bring a dolly. But between the two of them, and lots of swearing and sweating, the piano made it into my living room.
Where it sat.
I’d thought Olivia might play it. She doodled with it for a while, but then left it behind. It was played from time to time when my granddaughter came over and doodled too. But there was no music. From time to time, I’d pat it as I went by. Being a writer, I’ve always had the habit of giving inanimate things feelings and thoughts. It’s like my ability to pretend never went away. And so…I felt the piano was sad, and I kept telling it, “Someday.”
Which is now.
I took my first lesson last week Thursday and came home with an armload of homework. I had a music theory book, where I learned all about notes and how to draw them. I know a lot of this already, with my high school experience in chorus and band. Then there were flash cards, my nemesis. I was to use them to learn the notes that I didn’t know…which in this case, was the entire bass clef. And then there was the book of exercises and songs.
I came home from that lesson, set the books on the piano, the flash cards too, and my assignment notebook…and then I ignored it all until Sunday. I admit it, I was intimidated. I knew (and still know) that I just don’t understand the bass clef. And homework? I had to write with a pencil! I don’t even have a pencil in the house!
But Sunday, I pulled the piano bench back. I sat down. And I opened the books.
I played the exercises, and I swear I heard the piano sigh with relief. I played each exercise four times. And then I turned to the first song on treble clef. It was “Ode To Joy”. I looked at the notes, and I looked at my fingers, and then, I played the song.
I played the song!
And the song, of course, is about joy. Which it was. I was playing music! Music that I recognized! Music I could sing along to!
The piano sang too.
The next song was for the bass clef, and it was “Aura Lee”. I also know that song, and many know it as “Love Me Tender”, by Elvis. I prefer Aura Lee. This was harder, because it’s that damn bass clef, which I don’t understand. I lined my fingers up with what it showed on the page, and then I played it.
“Aura Lee” doesn’t mention joy specifically, but as I played, my mind ran through the verses. One of them is “In her blush the rose was born, ’twas music when she spoke. In her eyes the light of morn sparkling seemed to break.” Twas music when she spoke.
And the piano was speaking. Music.
I wish I could explain how it feels to be playing music. Putting my fingers on the keys and something that makes sense coming out. What it was like to feel like I was resuscitating a beloved instrument, which I now had the honor of having in my house. And that the piano and I were partners, we were working together, and she didn’t mind if I made mistakes. She just patiently waited for me to gather myself again and start over.
Music has always meant a lot to me. In my own writing process, I assign each of my books a song, and that song, in my mind, represents what the book is all about. Each day, when I sit down to write, I play that song first. The song guides me back into the world of the book, bringing me to the people within the pages, their stories, their needs, and the conflict which needs to be solved. The music reflects the emotion. Years after each book is done, if I hear its particular song, I am brought right back.
My first published novel was The Home For Wayward Clocks, and the song I listened to every day for the three years it took me to write that book was “Clocks” by Cold Play. The book was accepted in 2010 and released in 2011. A total of 13 years ago. Yet when I hear that song, James, the main character, is immediately sitting by my side and I can hear his voice as clearly as I heard it in my head for those three years.
Music, like writing, is magic to me. And now, I am helping a piano to raise her voice, and at the same time, I am raising my own. Not the voice of a fictional character, but mine. My own voice.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.
To see a video of me playing these songs, click here: