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Linda Likes Being Down an Octave

Linda told me last week she likes being down an octave. That’s unusual. Most students really love the higher registers, especially repeated phrases that seem to hang sweetly from above, giving time for further reflection. But not Linda. She prefers to bring things down a notch.

Maybe we’ve grown tired of considering it all, stuck at home with our own thoughts for what seems a lifetime. If you play piano, you’re likely a bit solitary by nature. Even adult students would have once been those children who could sit at a piano and get lost in the world of music, had life been laid out that way for them. We often enjoy some time alone, I think it’s fair to say. Even so, 2020 has been tough for all of us. Like Sandra says, “If you’re not a little stressed out these days, you must not be human.”

We like orderliness. Why else would we get such pleasure from completing Sudoku and crosswords and -- best yet -- jigsaw puzzles, pictures all cut up into thousands of pieces just so we can reorder them? Isn’t it nearly impossible to bring yourself to break those little pieces back up? If not for the need to reclaim the dining table, we might want to simply admire that completed 5000 piece puzzle for a lifetime, right?

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t cleaned out at least a few drawers and closets this year. Seems we are making room for all the space we can’t find in our own minds by clearing out the physical space around us. We’ve cleaned out our inboxes, unsubscribed to email lists with a vengeance, cleaned out the basement, the medicine cabinet, culled the dog toys. You name it, we’ve gotten around to it.

But, still, we feel the same. Tackling those lists just doesn’t seem to offer the sense of satisfaction it might have last January, for instance.

I think piano helps. In the world of music, we have the luxury of bringing things into a beautifully ordered state of being. This orderliness is required all along the way, of course. With a disciplined approach and dedication to time, we work to piece the music together, quite literally breathing it into life. It is its own glorious world, and we're so fortunate to be able to immerse ourselves into this beauty that only exists in the living moment. There’s something very comforting about the ritual of it all: the regular rhythms and familiarity of the scales and arpeggios, the unearthing of new music that slowly unfolds, the satisfaction of sight reading, the return to pieces we can play for pure pleasure, the discovery of the myriad ways to articulate a short phrase. In this space, time itself can be suspended, if we allow for it.

I love the saying “the magic touch.” This is the world of piano playing.

I hope it brings you some peace of mind.

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