What a very strange weekend this has turned out to be. We started out Saturday morning with no particular plans, and we find ourselves on Sunday afternoon, in a house filled with new-to-us makers of sound energy, in the form of John’s new mechanical movement grandfather clock and my digital piano. This wasn’t planned. John asked why I hadn’t written all week, and I only just this moment realized that I was waiting on a new piano before I had enough to say.
I did not set out to buy a piano today. I have been thinking about getting one, true. I just finished a set of group lessons on a Casio electronic keyboard I purchased used in Chicago in 1996; it was outdated then. I don’t like it much. If there is a way to control the relative volume on the left hand, I haven’t found it, and the action was difficult. But it is a keyboard, and it was paid for, and I enjoyed playing and learning some music (more on that later). In the course of looking for party couches on craigslist this past month, I noticed the frequent appearance of free pianos, and that made me think maybe I should get a real piano. I even figured out where the piano would go, and what I would do with the furniture that used to be in that place!
Then, I found Perri Knize’s Grand Obsession on the new book shelf in the library. Reading it convinced me that a) I need and deserve a better piano than my Casio keyboard and b) I do not have a life for a real piano. I allow the house to range widely in both temperature and humidity throughout the year and I cannot afford the amount of tuning that a real piano will need, not to mention the potential expense of a “free” piano in terms of any other problems. But I kept my eye on Craig’s List. This morning, I saw an ad for a Kurzweil digital piano at a price that made me suspect it might have been stolen.
Apparently not. Someone is not playing it anymore and thinks that because this model is old it is not of value to anyone (wrong about that), and I was the first to reply to the ad and the owner’s agent honored the posted price. Some of the keys appear to be erratically more quiet than they should be but I am hoping that taking the back off and cleaning the circuits and switches with compressed air may fix that.
Perri spends 350 pages describing the her search for the right piano for her, the effect of a certain quality of vibration on her soul when she finds the piano, and her quest to regain that effect when it disappears after the piano is delivered. I know I have lost a fair amount of hearing in certain frequencies, perhaps to the chainsaw and perhaps to life. I do not know if I am capable of experiencing anything of that nature. (It’s amusing to read the reviews on Amazon and see how many people insist that because they can’t hear the difference in pianos, it is a waste of Perri’s time to pursue her quest, and an even bigger waste of their time to (be forced to) read her story.) I know that when I started to play the Kurzweil and noticed the dynamic range, I teared up. It sounded so much better!
For today, an old digital piano offers more of a real musical experience than a Casio keyboard and that will have to do until something tells me I need more.
As we brought the Kurzweil in from the truck, I thought about Floyd Cramer’s Last Date. I am not sure why I even thought of this music, relative to anything else. But I suspect that thinking of it at that moment means I want to learn this piece. I am not at all sure why I want to learn any particular piece of music, actually, and that’s as much a mystery as finding myself playing the piano at 49 is at all. I know I left piano lessons in my teens over a “school” Bartok piece that made no musical sense to me. My teacher’s pedagogical theory said, “stick to the books” and that was the piece for people at my level in that system, and there we were.
In the group class that just ended, our teacher assigned selections from Mozart’s Twelve Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman.” I thought about learning the complete set. For today, I’ll let it go as an intellectual exercise. It would be cool to be able to rip off all twelve. Maybe my niece and nephew would appreciate it. OTOH, I do not have time for “cool.” I am enjoying getting Feed the Birds (Mary Poppins) right; I love some of the sounds and am amazed that I can learn to make those particular sounds reliably. In time, I’ll get all four pages right. In more time, I’ll get all four pages memorized, even.
Back to Cramer. The sheet music is available in two editions, “standard” and “easy.” The page preview at SheetMusic.com looked a bit too easy. I was about to order a copy of the standard version on-line when I thought it might be more fun to check Burrage Music. They list the music in their on-line catalog and I can run by there tomorrow after work. What I save on shipping will about pay for the gas and sales tax, and who knows what else I’ll find as I flip through their collections?
So: What is this thing called “liking a piece of music,” and then what is this thing called “learning?” I’m far enough into Feed the Birds that I’ve lost the stumble memory and just now to the point that I’m recognizing the measures that repeat and vary. Now onto learning something else. Play around a bit with The Sound of Music, but nothing there moves me the way Feed the Birds does (E flat minor, BTW, which is one variable to note; Sherman & Sherman vs. Rodgers and Hammerstein is another). I’m trying to figure this out and there is too little time to work on everything and too many variables to write an equation just yet.
(Wikipedia informs me that the Sherman brothers wrote “It’s a Small World,” proving that they have absolute mastery over writing songs that can drive themselves into your brain.) Is it that TSOM was shown on TV a LOT before I quit watching TV, and Mary Poppins disappeared for a long time so the songs weren’t over-exposed?
Sigh. Perri Knize took 350 pages and years of global travel before she could identify and locate the sounds she intuitively understood she wanted to hear. I’m thinking I’m going to do something similar in a blog post or two?
I went through something similar when I first heard Josh Groban sing, one night in Best Buy when I was shopping for a new TV after my 13” VCR combo died. I was trying to decide between a 13” and splurging on a 19” monitor, and it took me long enough that the NCAA basketball game ended and the TVs turned to MTV, playing the first Groban song to hit the charts. I was mesmerized. On my way out of the store, I stopped by the music department to see if they “had anything by that guy.” They did. I didn’t listen to anything else for a month, and I spent a fair amount of money trying to find the same vocal quality (rich, in less than operatic material) in other artists. Couldn’t. Had to wait for more Josh. (He’s singing a bit higher now than he did in the first album and they don’t stir me quite the same way.)
Maybe I’ll be in Best Buy one of these days soon, now that HD is here for real and I’ll have to do something to make the TV I bought back then (did get the 19” model, BTW) compatible, even if I only ever watch rented DVDs. Maybe someone else will be waiting to move me, or maybe I’ll know / understand more of what it is that I’m looking for.