Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Live the Music, Write the Music

Music has been a part of my life since I was seven years old and my parents bought a secondhand practice piano from a convent for, I think, $200. I can’t say I appreciated the thought behind it at first. Being forced to sit there every day for fifteen minutes with the timer on the oven set. As soon as the buzzer went off, I took off. And sometimes I got away with not practicing. However, we did have a cat for a short time who seemed to love prancing down the keys at midnight.

I think I was thirteen when I stormed out of my last piano lesson and stated to my mother than I was never going back to lessons ever again and I would never touch the piano again. My two sisters had already given up playing piano before that, so I couldn’t understand why I was being tormented with lessons. I was a crap player, didn’t like the music I was playing and didn’t see the point. What can I say, I was thirteen.

Two years later, at the age of fifteen, I heard the beckoning call of the poor instrument abandoned in the basement. It was a beautiful piano, oak I think, but with one small chip on the edge of the key of middle C. The sounds it produced were rich and vibrant, like a wonderfully aged port. Time had imparted a particular deep resonance to the notes when played. None of this tinny sounding honky-tonk stuff – a comforting, inexplicable, full sound emanated from the strings as the soft hammers struck them.

And I was hooked. With additional maturity, I found I was able to play and enjoy more complex pieces. I loved that piano. It was the place where I found solace from the pains of adolescence and anxiety of life. I would lose myself in the music because playing it pushed everything but the music out of my mind. I played that piano whenever I could throughout the rest of grade school and to the end of university.

After university, I traveled for a year and a half and didn’t have the opportunity to play. When I arrived back home, I couldn’t afford to take the instrument with me when I moved to Toronto so it was sold. I wanted to cry.

For eleven years after that, I didn’t have a piano. And then one day I was ‘given’ a piano as a ‘present’ from my then-significant other. It was also a beautiful instrument with a wonderful sound. And it was like I had never been without a piano. Again, I could play more complex pieces and truly appreciate the art behind the music, appreciate the composer, appreciate the mind-clearing reality of music and just be.

It was with playing piano and listening to other music that I was able to write my first novel. Music inspired me, it led me to different conclusions, different methods, a different…me. If I wanted to write something upbeat I would listen to upbeat music. If I needed to write a sad scene, I’d write to sad music. All the moods in the world captured in time and in writing with music.

When my relationship ended with my ex, he took my piano away, took back his present to me, even though he did not play the piano. And so now, I do not have a piano again. I seem to keep losing them in one way or another. I will buy another one someday.

I like to live my life with background music of my own choosing and playing, sort of like that spoof soap opera back in the 1970s named ‘Soap’ with Katherine Helmond. The matriarch of the wealthy family, played by Katherine Helmond, wanted to live her life to a soundtrack. At the time it was just a joke to describe her wacky, oblivious character.

Geez, maybe I’ve turned into a wacky, oblivious character. Although owning an iPod helps me to have a soundtrack for my life. You can never tell where life will lead you I guess. But I will own a piano again and this time it will be all mine. That is a promise.

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