MUSIC - IN THE "RIGHT" TIME!
Updated: Nov 23
Bruce, a composer-pianist-broker friend who is significant to my growing musical confidence and knowledge, recently asked why my music love came back to me so many years (58 to be precise) after finding it during high school piano lessons on my beloved and still-sweetly toned little 1955 Baldwin spinet piano? "Ms. Bellamy," my piano, is seen above, and below on video when in December, 2020 I was in the first throes by myself of memorizing and sloooowly learning "Traumerie" by Schumann (I had had no lesson on it) -- to this day one of my favorite Romantic era pieces of all time! Unintentionally on this rather agonizingly slow video I rewarded my tentative efforts with a sip of coffee and some focused reflection after the final chords!
My answer is that it might simply be my good karma to find music again and be awed and continually in great wonder and curiosity about it.
My growing love of and familiarity with music since May of 2019, especially piano music, is accompanied with glorious and delicious feelings earned, perhaps, if and when in much-different past endeavors, I was lucky enough from time to time to be a good and kind person to others? I hope so, because music in all its manifestations and meeting people like Bruce, Joe, and a few online artistic (especially fine artist Jordan) or musical friends, piano technicians, and teachers, feels like my reward for past diligent efforts exerted in other endeavors.
I've often felt like I'm a late comer or late bloomer. That applies in spades to music, but music has always been there, waiting for me. As Itzhak Perlman improvised from the stage when he lost one of four violin strings during a past concert, "Sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left," and as Mahatma Ghandi said, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
Accordingly, I am certain that I have come to music
"in the right time" of my life!
I've been exploring other arts as avocations all my life, such as dance, crafting, calligraphy (for 17 years I actually practiced that professionally on a part-time basis), and painting. From time to time and usually connected to periods of deep sadness or distress, I listened to recorded music on a limited number of classical and pop music records. Curiously, I never attended a symphony until the past few months. The only strictly musical performances I ever attended were two! One was James Brown in concert (marvelous!) when I was about 24. Some 30 years later I was the guest of my bff Jeanette at an intimate Bay Area theater performance by Pilar, an amazingly passionate, evocative jazz singer.
I resonate to Pilar's lyrics in her song "Fierce Joy" (see reference to her in a poem below taken from "Poetical Musings on Pianos, Music & Life--Volume I"):
"How much music can one person bring, and how much grace can I feel when I sing--with a fierce joy and fire in my heart...guiding me home....I know I am part of a fierce joy and I know I'm never alone."
But listening to music is not doing music. In 2019, for some reason I wanted to produce music again, be part of music, not just listen to it as in a spectator sport.
However, producing music takes a piano or other instrument, and in my slightly peripatetic, economically-challenged workaholic life until 20 years ago, there was no piano around. At that time I moved my high-school spinet over from my mom's last home in Concord where I grew up. I could have taken up lessons again, but I was very busy exhausting myself until January 2022 with two demanding careers, one in trial law and the next in owning and operating a unique, very sexy retail and then online lingerie and custom corset boutique.
Nonetheless, from time to time before my mom moved away from the Bay Area in 2006, I periodically attended ballets and operas with her. Opera and ballet were wonderful experiences for me and still are for the multiple arts they combine: visual wonders in stage sets and costuming plus music and acting and singing and dance all in one! So I did have music in my life, but not in a major way until May of 2019.
And in that month and time, I looked at my spinet sitting next to me, thought of music, and both moved to the forefront of my consciousness about the arts. I have never looked back, or even wondered why it took me this long to fall deeply in love with music and the piano, and especially with my Duchess, whom I partly helped create in the rebuilding and refinishing process. I don't look back in regret because I would never consider any part of my life a waste; I am the sum total of all my experiences and I value both the good and the difficult, and believe in the concept of "the right time."
We come to this or that art, or this or that subject in life, and become curious, focused, and thrilled about it, when we come to it. It's a bit like my great, renown Bay Area calligraphy teacher, Alan Blackman, said when eons ago I was a student in his brush calligraphy class. A student asked: "How much should we vary" this or that stroke, and he said:
"Just enough - but not too much."
That was a life -- and a piano -- lesson for me, although I likely did not realize it at the time. In fact, there are many lessons to be learned in the art of calligraphy, not the least of which are (1) patience and persistence, and (2) that the space between and inside the letters is more important that the ink of the letters.
And so it is with the notes and phrases when playing the piano: the space between the notes is more important than the notes! As famous pianist Artur Schnable said:
“The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes -- ah! there is where art resides."
In reading the small but powerful book by another famous pianist Josef Lhevinne, "Basic Principles in Pianoforte Playing," he says:
"The reader is probably surprised by this time that I have taken up so much time with something that is not music at all, but silence. Well, it is upon such 'little' things that all really important artistic progress mush be made."
Yesterday after attending the third in a series of zoom classes conducted by Julliard Professor and psychologist Noa Kageyama, I sat down to practice a focusing technique of humming or singing the melody of some piece as you are playing it. This is said to help reduce nerves and distractions for some, so I decided to try it out. What I observed was, first, that humming actually distracted me (opposite from its desired effect!) from playing all notes correctly and from focusing on expressing more nuance in phrasing.
Yet at the same time it had the surprisingly beneficial effect of allowing me to find the notes or chords in the score, places where I absolutely had to pause in order to breathe. I was thus able to verify that I had the places correctly identified in my score where I must pause, even take a quick actual breath if for only a millisecond, in order to change up my dynamics or touch to keep the piece melodic, moving forward, and interesting to my audience.
I like to imagine that I came to learning the concept of phrasing and singing melody line in just the same way that I came back to music again, namely, "in the right time" -- which is a time when I was ready to learn them!
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Have you time for negativity?
Indulging in relativity,
Debating right or wrong?
It’s all just one’s opinion
Like birds differing song.
But truly blissful and unique
And worth what we might seek,
Is what us all does join:
A love of life and nature sweet,
Music, art, the bumble bee,
Fierce joy* and sweet repose,
A sunset, sunrise, even more–
Things we cannot keep or score,
Love and warmth...perhaps a rose?
*Inspired by Pilar’s song and album of
the same title: https://www.youtube.com/
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