Friday, April 30, 2010


Haikulike thought while watching the impressive Maurizio Pollini's Chopin concert yesterday evening:

There's something perfect
about Chopin. I'd better
practice piano now.


This could be a post about piano, or one about Chopin. I suppose I will make it a bit about both, and say that, damn, it's hard to motivate to practice piano! Seeing as I started playing about a year and a half ago, there is no parental unit hovering nervously over my shoulder urging me onward, no threat of impending final exam to goad me forth. Once, there was me myself and my habit of practicing every day, even to the point that when I visited ye olde alma mater I would insinuate myself into a practice room for 20 minutes stolen from dear friends. But you miss one day and that sort of self-discipline falls apart, until you're missing another and another and...sorry, dear keyboard, I will be away this weekend; sorry, dear teacher, can I reschedule my lesson from Monday to Thursday because I am not prepared...and by the way, I haven't even looked at one of those songs, I've only practiced where the spirit's moved me.

This is the problem with purely self-motivated learning, I suppose. I want to learn, and I enjoy playing, but too often the rest of life intercedes. Plus, I'm hopelessly behind. Of course I don't expect to become a piano virtuoso for so many reasons. But I would like to be more competent. Why didn't I start learning when I was five like every other friend, acquaintance, grandmother, and boss to whom I've mentioned my newfound hobby? All those minutes of tiny fingers splayed on keys, anxious recitals, hovering parents, that I can only imagine.

I wish I could learn to play beautiful pieces. I'm terrible at picking them out, though. Kid in a candy store, bull in a china shop. When my piano teacher asks me to choose a piece, there's so much pressure I shut down for a moment. You're going to live and breathe this thing: you'd better like it. What if you grow sick of it? Or what if it's so perfect you'll break it? Plunk down fingers slowly, sloooowly, through a Chopin prelude, wincing because you know how it should sound and it sure don't do that. The day you more or less successfully bull through, one of your proudest.

Because there is something perfect about Chopin particularly. Nocturnes that don't so much shape your nighttime walk thoughts as cradle them. Waltzes that bear the joy and tragedy of a play's final scene. The sheer heartpounding noise and virtuosity of the ostinato in that polonaise, the one that induces a gag reflex because of the uncountable times you heard that highest note while stocking books, taking breaks, melting in the 90-degree basement heat that one summer...but even so, you watch those venerable hands pounding the keyboard and you wish it could be you. Your keyboard, alas, not nearly so poetic.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm. Think about all the people who have no doubt 'broken' it since its composition. Also, think about how learning a piece isn't like destroying something that's already built; it's more like building something according to a well-tested set of instructions (with some room for improvisation). It might take you longer than you wish it did, but you absolutely have all the necessary parts, and you'll eventually build it up into something recognizable. Construction sites are confusing and rubble-filled, but gradually miraculous edifices emerge. Yay! You can play ANYTHING! :) <3