The idea of a piano

Boldini, Mary DonovanIn my teens, I found my voice pitched in a particular way could elicit vibration in sympathy from the strings of my piano. This completely delighted me, no matter how often I did it. The object was more than an object. It had a personality, and I had a relationship with it. I would wrestle with it. Because the syncopation was so alien to the ways my hands had gone together before, I spent a week on the first four bars of the Maple Leaf Rag, but learned Joplin more quickly afterwards. Then I learned the Pathétique  sonata, and thundered away, and though the tremolo often made my left wrist ache I kept it up until the muscles developed. I have played it to Mark Owen on his piano, and (yes I know a name-dropping story is less good if you have to explain who the person is) he is a member of Take That.

The end of the recapitulation is a moment of sublime darkness and catharsis.

My love of this is one of my greatest gifts from my father. As a toddler I listened to Jon Pertwee singing My Grandfather”s Clock and there was an old lady who swallowed a fly, and to the Emperor Concerto. I drove my mother mad with Couperin harpsichord music. I have just been listening to Beethoven’s piano concerto no. 4 in G major, and it has such full-hearted joy. I wept with it.

Ilya Repin, S.I. MenterPlaying became too much like hard work. Errors creep in, and I was disheartened from slowing down and picking a bar apart, when I had done so, so many times before. Now, it seems harder to learn a piece than in my teens. I have tried with a few, and given up.

This is such a wonderful, exalting experience. Why do I do it so little? I lose concentration and start ruminating, or I get upset, or I get a little bored, or there is a wonderful moment when the music speaks directly to me. Sometimes I follow the drama of it. There are familiar moments where I am with it completely. My sulking gets in the way. Perhaps it might motivate me out of my sulk.

Now, I shall listen to not Mahler or Shostakovich, but the Pastoral symphony. Self-improvement is all very well.


File:Repin Portrait of Mrs Beatrice Levi.jpgI have not learned a new piece for years, but this Chopin waltz in A minor seems manageable. Perhaps I will play it for you, if I get it to a sufficient standard. It helps that it is so familiar: I have heard it many times, and its beauty echoes in my mind. Yet when I start to play it, hands separately, then hands together very slowly, I see what Chopin is doing, and individual chord progressions delight me. Then it is almost too much to play it at speed: there is too much going on, too much beauty.

In Meeting, I considered the fragility and strength, and beauty, of three daffodils. I have time, again, to see all the detail, which in days will be brown and cast onto a compost heap, and if it were not cut would do its task of fertilising and being fertilised, then change to something else. Parts of the waltz run in my mind.

I have the piano, Kate gets similar complete absorption in sewing, she says. Though that is not what I said: I said appreciation of beauty, not absorption, though I can get absorbed. And I could say, she gets the same appreciation of beauty, or sense of achievement, as probably she does, though she did not say it. Sue took her jacket off before meeting for worship, as she is intensely self-conscious of the noise and disturbance of it if she takes it off in meeting. But we can tolerate that much File:Andreyeva by Repin.jpgdisturbance, and if we cannot- I hear it and get irritated and am no longer as gathered as I ought to be, then I wasn’t doing it right to start with.

I would like the calm, contemplative, loving state, but I consider Fred Phelps, say: yes, intellectually I can accept that anger at him is not the right response, that it simply perpetuates the anger and hatred he channelled so publicly. Yet instead I feel relief at his death, and horror that there are more homophobes where he came from. Thinking of him makes me feel tired.

I did not quote all of Psalm 139. Here is the end of it:

O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil!
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

I hate them with perfect hatred. As I understand it, that is not what I am supposed to do. But perhaps I am supposed to do what I will do, and all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing is well.