It seems as though my self is constantly seeking to balance itself. Yesterday I was all gung-ho on the exercise action, today the pendulum swung and the piano was where I found the most joy. Getting out of bed this morning was tough, likely as I’m starting to feel the results of all this activity. Even though I got up early enough I almost talked myself into putting off exercising until the afternoon, which sounds an awful lot like ‘You’ve been doing so well, why not take it easy on yourself?’ So well? It’s only been 2 days! C’mon! Jeez.
The nice thing about coming back around to the piano after an absence of dedication is rediscovering those artists who are piano dominant that I love and tend to forget about. I’m talking Norah Jones, Tori Amos, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner, Fiona Apple. When I say absence of dedication that’s not to suggest that I don’t play almost every day. But I don’t play as actively. I don’t run through scales, practice sections of songs I’m not so good at many times over, rather than just glossing over it, “I’ll learn it some other time..” I do that a lot. While learning something new, actually sticking to the drill of learning one hand and then the other, then both together. The tendency to try and learn both at the same time, to hear some semblance of coherency within the music, to feel like I’m picking it up might satisfy in the short term. But it often results in my knowing little bits of many different things, because I only play as long as I don’t get bored of the struggle to learn it. Also, with that type of learning style, there is no opportunity for the hands to strengthen themselves individually. It could be that there are people out there who can rock it ambidexstyle, but it’s not me. I know it’s not me, still my impatience sometimes wins out and muddle through something, feeling a (short-term) sense of accomplishment. It also sucks because then I’m dependent on the sheet music. The hands don’t know their individual parts well enough to do without.
I’ve noticed a change in my playing recently as well. I’m much clumsier than I ever was. There are pieces I could play flawlessly before that I can’t play at all anymore (yet!) because there are too many instances of the left hand needing a certain amount of reach. Just a bit more than my half-mast thumb will afford me, at this point. I have a tendency to rely on the sustain pedal so that I can jump the left hand key to key without losing the sound. But none of this is what I’m talking about. When I play, I really play. I’m extremely present. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the feeling just isn’t there, those are the times I usually opt to do something else and come back to playing later. But I really do feel quite a bit more passionate than I used to. I’ve played since I was 8, off and on again. I’ve taken it as a given that I will always have music in my life. I know that when I finally decide to settle somewhere that somewhere will have a piano. It’s a constant. The guitar is a hobby, singing is a joyful distraction. The piano is something tangible, something real in comparison. I’m not quite sure how to explain that. When I was really broke, both in Europe and Canada, and nowhere near my folks place to escape and play, I would fancify myself up a bit and go to music stores, trying to appear solvent enough to perhaps purchase, so they would let me sit and play. No matter how shitty things were at the moment before, as long as I got to sit and play one song, it was better. One note. If I couldn’t manage to get a chance to mess about, even just being in the shop, in the presence. I don’t know what it is, but I always took it for granted. Then I had my thumb ripped off. Lying there in the hospital, waiting for the decision whether or not to reattach to come through, it suddenly occurred to me that I might never be able to play the piano again. I realized soon after how completely melodramatic that was, if Django Reinhardt could play the guitar with 2 fingers and a thumb (and that wasn’t his strumming hand) surely I could adapt to playing the piano without a thumb. Ok, yes, octaves are likely out of the question, but there’s always a way. My second thought was how much I’m going to suck at video games without a thumb, but that was so far removed from the piano tragedy.
As it turns out, the thumb was reattached successfully and quite well, albeit sans tendon which makes thumb wars a near impossibility. So my piano playing continues more or less unchanged. Big shout out to Dr. Dimitri Anastakis by the way, without whom I would be able to hold a beer left handed toast him. Every time I play, every time I use my left thumb to hit a note, I am so hyperaware of how completely delightful it is to do just that.
And I love that I didn’t notice until I had started playing winter that the piano plant has started to flower!
And look at that! Crazy Tori Amos has written this song in the key of G flat major! Six bloody flats! The only natural is F! Insanity. Hauntingly delightful insanity, but insanity nonetheless. Although Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin is played for part of the piece with 3 flats, part with 4 flats, suddenly switch to 5 sharps and back to 4 flats a little later! Madness. Genius. Interchangable terms, certainly.
And to round it all off, Alejandro and I were being all arty, so it’s only fitting that we share.
And we had a squirrel visit! Which is apparently unusual. The residents were quite attentive for this monumental event.
Until the next darlings. Remember, appreciate opposable digits, being able to snap your fingers, clasp a beer, wrap a hair tie…play the piano. Good things happen with thumbs.
Thanks Dr. A!