I used to play the keyboard reasonably well. Among the instruments that I’ve tried – from guitars to wood flutes to harmonicas to drum kits – it’s in piano where I first learned to read (and tried to write and compose) music. I didn’t have a piano teacher, so I never really became a virtuoso with the instrument. I think I’ve un-learned a lot of the things I know about piano and keyboard, in favor of lyrics translations and a few attempts at songwriting.
There’s something about learning music that can get so frustrating, and at the same time so rewarding. When you play a piece or write a song, the end result is almost always in your head. You want to sound like that melody or that voice in your memory, imagining that performance as you go along. I almost always write my songs in a notebook with pencil marks, and wear out a few erasers along the way.
Keyboards are somewhat uncool, though. There will always be that appeal that a guitarist or a bassist will have when they carry their guitars around, but you can’t lug a keyboard around, or wheel a piano about your destination every day. Piano players are either for the frou-frou crowd, or for those interested in recitals on “Chopsticks” or “Canon in D.” I played things by ear, so I struggled with notes. Many kids play better piano than I do, so when I found a keyboard that I was very good with (one with 104 keys, not 88), I gave up on piano altogether.
I don’t remember who exactly said it, but there’s something lyrical or musical about a bunch of words put together. When you recite a poem or an essay out loud, there’s music to be found in it. The “hidden meanings” we’re after can be found in the way we associate metaphors and images, but there’s a different and almost transient meaning that there is in sound. There are hidden bars and notes in a poem or in a story or in an essay, and can only be discovered when they’re read out loud. I think it’s that “lyric” that gives a piece its character or personality.
Yet I digress. Sometimes I wish I could sit in front of a piano again and play a few bars here and there, but I don’t think that’s possible when you forget everything about it with time. I couldn’t play a canon or a symphony, or even a round, but maybe I can play something by ear. Maybe. Just maybe. Something fiery, of sorts: not to the ear, but to the soul.