Monday, September 3, 2012

Pardoning Me, I'll be Practicing

Praeludium and Allegro.  EJ has performed this piece for violin several times, the piano part I'm going to try and mangle, to accompany him the next time he plays it, if I can find a piano to practice on.

I played several instruments growing up, played in the local youth orchestra as a teen, competed on the piano. Then technology and science wrapped around my brain and I set music aside to go chase the nature of the universe, sometimes at Mach .82.  Later on I started back on piano again, with the Baby Black Grand that was my pride and joy that I bought as a young woman,with $5000 that Mom had left for me from a small annuity when she passed.

I continued to practice, if only for fun, being busy on a farm and still playing jet jockey part time. It's like anything that requires the mind and eye and hands working in coordination, you have to practice it or when you need it, it will be lost to you.  So practice I did.

Until one day, I came home to find the Baby Grand being loaded onto the back of a ramshackle farmer's truck. Without telling me, my spouse had sold it for pennies on the dollar for some one's six year old to take lessons, to cover his growing debts. I didn't play again for years.

But it is still something very special to me and starting back with the violin 3 years ago and pianos when I can find one, I'm working the rust off.  There will always be a little bit of musician in me, with the scientist in me loving the ordered, mathematical precision of Bach. But there are other composers who speak to me as well.  All have something in common, the intensity of many moods put into a single place, laid bare, immediate and profound, played with a single blotting intensity that lay somewhere between sound and awakening.

Many great composers have expressed the extremes of life: affirmation, despair, the sanctity of grace, the rush of sensual pleasure, fertile touch and barren void. But there are certain pieces of work in which all these emotions co-exist in the infinity of a short song, making it fuller, richer, touching a chord deep within.

We play our music as we love, for different reasons, to redeem ourselves through the expresion of it,  to find forgiveness as well as reconciliation with what lives deep within.  Or perhaps it s nothing more than to discover that love was nothing more than something that led us gently back to ourselves.

 Music is the landscape of the absolute, not as defined by black and white, but in those gray shores where beauty ebbs in and away, like the tide, where everything is contingent and nothing simple, and time is so very brief. A place where, as Henry James’s Madame Merle says, "an envelope of circumstances encloses every human life".

 Truly good music is a place where genres fuse; where concertos become operatic and arias symphonic; where glee and grief, the downtrodden and the sanctified, become one. A place where time is much too short, as with each note we are aware of our allotted span dwindling, time in which we not only have to find our true path, but derive some joy from the journey.

Music is as life is, it flows like wine and spills like wine, a communion with something as profound and rapturous as heaven. It is caressing whisper, it is epithet.  It fills the room as scent does, leaving upon the senses the aftermath of invitation and  temporal promise, that secret affidavit, like scent itself.

Praeludium and Allegro by Fritz Kreisler. This is a piece that one does not simply play, one has to feel it from deep within. The first time EJ played it in my living room, I didn't recognize it and as much as I loved it, I had to ask who the composer was. But I was literally struck mute by the music,  the beauty and the feelings that it brought, to the point I didn't know what to say. Not just anyone could play this, and I'm not speaking from a technical standpoint.

Itzhak Perlman is one of the few violinists who truly "gets" this piece and it shows. I hope someday to do it justice, if only from the background.


  1. I still want to hear a YouTube vid of you playing the violin piece from Young Frankenstein, the one that makes the Monster climb castle walls and try to catch invisible butterflies.

  2. Reading your blog is at once intimidating and inspiring.

    I love Perlman and have several CDs of his, which I have not listened to in far too long a time. I have not played my guitar in many years, and the reason why echoes your pain at losing your baby grand.

    You are helping me reclaim a long lost part of my heart. Thank you.

  3. With an apparent flow of Irish blood, I expect you to call that thing a fiddle and play it with great passion.

  4. I LOVE Bach!
    I used to listen and read music concurrently,
    Mathematical precision, indeed!

    Good Luck!


  5. Bob - that's supposed to be a secret. :-)

    Dusty - don't be intimidated, I'm just the geek next door. I am very happy though this blog is helping you. I always wondered why I felt compelled to write it, as there are days I have other things I probably need to do, but words such as yours confirm, there is a reason beyond being just a creative venting system. Bless you.

    Once Free Man - I'm only half Irish, though I look 100%. There's Scandanavian and Cree in there (the almond shaped eyes are the give away there).

    I do everything with passion, but my fiddle playing still needs work. :-)

    armedlaughing - I'm not surprised.

  6. We used an electronic keyboard in college for piano class a llifetime ago when I was majoring in music. Piano and Music Theory were my Waterloo...

  7. Sorry to hear how you lost your piano. My mother would have ENDED my father if he had pulled that stunt. My mother was a music teacher, so I grew up with a parlor grande piano in the living room.

    Unfortunately, I'm left handed, right-eye dominant, and wired completely wrong for piano. I ended up playing the trombone - no fingers required. About 15 years after Mom died, I heard from the woman who bought her piano. It was nice to hear that a couple more generations were enjoying its company.

  8. Just my 2 cents - thanks.

    Sport Pilot - I had one in my crash pad until recently. Honestly, I didn't like playing it, I needed more keys and I just didn't like the feel of the keys. Same reason I didn't like playing the organ for church, though I took lessons to be the back up organist for service. Thanks for the suggestion though.

  9. I realize that it's probably been a lot of years since the baby grand fiasco, but still...gah. I'd have taken a piece out of his hide. A BIG piece. Heck, I still want to! That's far wrong that I think he still needs a good smack upside the head. With a shovel.


    We just bought one of three uprights that our church had auctioned off, and we need to get it home. Get it tuned. I can play, but not well, and I need sheet music, time, and lots of practice to sound reasonably good. I plan to insist my kids get tortured with piano lessons, just because the foundational music theory is good knowledge to have.

    Hubby can play (although he calls it "faking"), but he plays based on chord progressions and chord knowledge. He can sit there and make stuff up.

    We both sing (Hubby's a tenor; I'm a contralto), and so music is VERY much a part of our home. For me to not have some kind of soundtrack going on in the house is hard. I can't think in all that quiet.

    My tastes are eclectic, and run from classical to a cappella (we both sang in a semi-professional college choir, and most of our repertoire was a cappella music) to 80s pop/rock mashup to cello covers of popular music to straight-up rock or pop or doo-wop or anything inbetween. (I stay away from anything that answers to country, western, or extreme hip-hop/rap.)

    Music is truly the language of the soul, and there are days when only a certain group or style will do.

    And when the time comes to sing, if it's a song truly coming from the heart, let it come out from the soul like it's supposed to. It makes all the difference in the world.

  10. Auntie J - it's been more than a few years and there are more than few feet of dirt between us.

    He was six four and 300 pounds and as mean as a grizzley sow when cornered. One learns.

    I hope there is much music in your house, I know there is certainly a lot of laughter.

  11. A day without music here is rare. If I don't have prerecorded stuff playing, Small Fry will fill the void with made-up nonsense songs. :)

    My dad shared this link on Facebook today.

    The money quote: "If you doubt that music is the universal language, watch this. The German-speaking teacher, tutoring the French-speaking African, on how to sing an Italian."

    Goosebumps, B.

  12. Auntie J., you're right about there being a universal language, but it has two dialects that are intertwined: music and mathematics.

    I sang bass and played baritone horn in junior high and high school. Then I sang bass in college. And then I got married and quit singing for decades. For various reasons I started going to church again. The first summer I showed up for a service, and afterwards the two women in front of me revealed themselves as members of the choir and recruited me to be the only male.

    After a while we changed choirmasters to a then 21-year old graduate student in music. He's 31 now and makes his living teaching music in high school, being music director for some off-Loop theaters in Chicago, playing cabarets and weddings and various functions, and giving vocal coaching to aspiring opera singers. My wife and kids have bought me a few lessons with him in that latter capacity. All I can say now is, "Why did I wait so long?" I'm going to sing now until I can't anymore.

    And my instrument is a lot easier to carry around.

  13. RonF, 'tis true...when you can sing, your music goes with you wherever you go.

    Once, during a choir rehearsal in college (you haven't lived until you've been collectively informed that you're lazy, you know this piece of music, the prof. realizes it's Monday morning, but you're an EIGHTH of a step flat, so fix it!), the professor instructed the rest of us to "think" our parts while he worked with the basses. I hated that. I never understood it. I can't think a part like that. The piece in question happened to be the "Amen Chorus" from Handel's Messiah. We didn't sit cloistered in parts; we mingled, so I was sitting next to Hubby (at that time, merely a friend). I went down the scale with the basses on that one, and suitably freaked Hubby out.

    It was fun.

    I love being a contralto.

    The human voice is truly an amazing instrument.

  14. Bluegrass playing on the TV as I type...LOVE the DirecTv music channels. Guitar, banjo, mandolin, piano, and harmonica are all close to hand in the corner of the dining room, and well used.

    I had to stop playing most of them for a time some years back, when I crushed three fingers in an accident at work. I went through all the classic stages of withdrawal, and nearly permanently maimed myself trying to play again before things were fully healed, because I couldn't wait another minute. I couldn't imagine not having an instrument around to pick up when the mood strikes.

    Pianos are tough to move and all, but not hard to find. Craigslist is full of pianos for sale, or even "Free - You Remove". And a spinet or more recent upright won't take up much room. Just sayin'. ;)


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