Rebuilding Piano Ties

For over a year, I’ve been work­ing on an essay enti­tled some­thing like “Cel­e­brat­ing Two Decades of Chor­do­phone Sym­bio­sis,” in which I’ve been attempt­ing  to explain an argu­ment devel­oped over my life­time rela­tion­ship with the piano: I am dis­tinct­ly not a musi­cian, which is not self-dep­re­cat­ing, nor irrel­e­vant as it sounds — espe­cial­ly to pro­fes­sion­al musi­cians. The fun­da­men­tal (and ill-dis­cussed) truth in the dis­tinc­tion is that a musi­cian results from a pri­ma­ry focus on dis­ci­plined train­ing with an instru­ment, where­as [title need­ed] like me can­not be made by any­thing but lots of time spent just fuck­ing around.

I don’t remem­ber the orig­i­nal moment of dis­cov­ery, but there are three dis­tinct ele­men­tary school-era instances in my mind of blis­ter­ing my fin­gers from whole after­noons spent pound­ing away in my first two octaves. In all three cas­es, I refrained from stop­ping even after notic­ing them, and — in all three cas­es — blood was the end result. The sound itself was very rudi­men­ta­ry. Dupli­cat­ed hands on a sin­gle-octave spread was all I was capa­ble of. C, E, G, Mid­dle-C, E, G, in the begin­ning. But to coax my devel­op­ing brain to pipe a trick­le of even the most basal uncon­scious infor­ma­tion to the devel­op­ing mus­cles in my tiny fin­gers so that old instru­ment could trans­late it into some­thing I could hear… It’s called impro­vi­sa­tion, and — for me, then and now — it is entire­ly irre­sistible. It is serene.

After dis­cus­sions with musi­cians and enthu­si­asts across the spec­trum — includ­ing one espe­cial­ly-stim­u­lat­ing all-nighter hang­ing with the excep­tion­al Colum­bia Jazz Orches­tra — I believe this con­ver­sa­tion is one of the most impor­tant insights I have to offer. An intense phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al, and intel­lec­tu­al rela­tion­ship with one’s instru­ment like those expe­ri­enced by (espe­cial­ly) pro­fes­sion­al musi­cians requires main­te­nance, and the “art” of impro­vi­sa­tion has tremen­dous poten­tial for reflec­tion and heal­ing.

but when he’d final­ly play, I’d pity
because he must ask first
and his fin­gers are well-read
but they must ask first
and every lit­tle passer­by
draws away his eye
so del­i­cate,
his atten­tion for she that loves him

Scapabo­bidid­dy­wid­di­ly­doobap­bap­ba­pho­bia” by David Blue

After return­ing to my ear­ly adult­hood home of Colum­bia, Mis­souri this week­end after my year spent in Port­land, I real­ized that my own rela­tion­ship with the instru­ment has been neglect­ed more than ever before, sim­ply because I’d had less access to the keys than I have in any oth­er peri­od since I began play­ing as a tod­dler. For my (under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed) fol­low­ing on Periscope, I streamed my first time sit­ting down at my own child­hood upright Bald­win in far too long, and found the ses­sion quite reas­sur­ing. It’s cer­tain­ly not an impor­tant lis­ten — if you real­ly want to hear my impro­vi­sa­tion at it’s best, stop by my Band­camp — but it got me think­ing about what I might offer in future works with­in this sub­ject. To begin, look for an upcom­ing review of the newest album release from the great­est liv­ing cham­pi­on of the improv process, Kei­th Jar­rett, and (even­tu­al­ly,) a com­plet­ed draft of my afore­men­tioned essay.

In the mean­time, I’d love to read any thoughts you may have on the mat­ter, how­ev­er you’d like to deliv­er them.