This article may be a bit of a departure from others I’ve posted. It’s an excerpt from my personal journal and is therefore, personal, with no attempt to be entertaining or witty. Just me. Just truth. I think it’s an interesting experience, however, that perhaps you – dear reader – may relate to on some level. I have, therefore, decided to share it. I hope it rings true with you.
(An undisclosed date) 2012
Today at the end of work, I went in search of a piano. I don’t really know why, except that my soul hurt. I haven’t played in… years. But I felt drawn to it like a parched wanderer to an oasis. I found a Baby Grand in the sound studio and closed the door, removed the mics, and took the hood down to a ruler instead of a yard. This moment was for me. Not for an audience. No music. No fuss. Just me and my ivories.
I sat on the bench — a perfect height – and lightly caressed the keys. As the sensitive pads of my fingers made contact with the cool ivory, a shiver ran down my spine. “It’s been too long, my old friend,” I said. And I began to play.
“To play.” That’s what they call it. “To play” an instrument.
Among the 44 distinct definitions of “play” that I found in my dictionary are these, used as a verb with object:
27. to engage in (a game, pastime, etc.).
34. to represent or imitate, as for recreation or in jest: to play cowboys and Indians.
39. to carry or put into operation; act upon: to play a hunch.
40. to cause to move or change lightly or quickly: to play colored lights on a fountain.
There’s a difference between “practicing” the piano and “playing” the piano. Practicing leads to playing. Practicing makes playing more enjoyable because you can do more with less conscious effort. Having practiced allows the mind to go into automatic mode on the basic things, freeing up the creative mind to “play around” with new ideas.
I did a bit of chording, broken chording and improvising just to warm-up. Then I went to the very basics: scales. I practiced all my scales until the fingering was right. Toward the end of my scale circle I found a chord that rang true with me, and I began to “play”.
More improvisation. The music was, at first, sad: a melancholy minor. I couldn’t bring myself to go major if my life depended on it. That wasn’t truth. Then the sadness grew into an anger: lots of banging; deep and ponderous it was. I poured out the venom of years of asceticism and censorship.
I have heard that music is the language of angels. At the very least, it is its own idiom. It carries with it the ability to express the unspeakable. Exhausted, my impromptu sonata morphed into the unspeakable. I can’t explain it. There are no words. It was the truth of the moment which grew out of the ashes of the firestorm.
Slowly,… ever so slowly,… the major chords peaked in like bright new leaves breaking through the crusted earth. Automatically, as if guided by a power beyond me, I segued into a peaceful musical prayer of thanks. I closed the cover. Put everything back as it was. And left.
As I walked, my chest began to hurt. It felt like a balloon was swelling right dead-center near my heart-organ. That shiver ran up and down my spine again. My hands went numb. The pressure was now so great that tears started leaking out of my eyes and I was shaking uncontrollably.
I went to the ladies room and leaned on the sink. When I looked up into the mirror I was astonished by what I saw. My eyes! Normally, a dark brown, now had this clarity — this ring of seawater blue. So very blue! It was like a dirty window had finally been scrubbed clean of grime. They were so clear! I could see for miles into these eyes!
I think one of human-kind’s greatest aspirations is to know our own self. Today, in an unexpected way, I found a pretty decent-sized piece of me.