Monday, July 18, 2011

Grace's gold stars

This summer I'm finding ways to reconnect with earlier years, and with the passions that claimed my time. I've returned to time at the piano -- the baby grand purchased when I was seven years old, an unusual instrument due to its two curved sides. I'm working through a collection of solo piano works, now with pages falling apart, which have dates the pieces were "finished" pencilled in by my beloved teacher Grace, along with the large gold stars she affixed to the pages. Many of these dates show the year to be 1966.

Seeing and playing from this book (left on the piano by N when he was last home for a visit, looking for music to sightread) call to mind my awkward childhood self: newly cropped blonde hair, skinny legs and knobby knees, the smell of wood polish in a home that always was so well-kept and cleaned that it looked unused, and even the tension in my back as I struggled with fingers that missed notes.

With amusement I note that even now, my hands ignore the marked fingerings. I wonder if the memory of these piano pieces still lives in my fingers, so that they naturally move in the same ways they once did. Or am I just as resistant and rebellious when it comes to doing every last thing I'm told?

Bringing this same question to my work as a parish priest, I wonder what equivalent there might be to ignoring fingerings imposed by someone else? Hmm. One thing for sure: I'm not looking for accomplishment marked by gold stars.


Blogger Castanea_d said...

Oh yes. Our fingers do indeed remember, for good or ill. When I revisit pieces that I learned in the days when I was not careful about such things, it is very difficult to learn to play them well, because my hands want to do them the "old" way, wrong notes and all.

It is not just the fingers; I find that I adopt the (bad, slumped over) posture that I used when I formerly played the piece. Even the state of mind and surroundings seem to be attached to the music, in the way you described with the smell of wood polish.

It is a principal of the Alexander technique that we should practice "inhibition," meaning the stepping aside from habitual motions and postures for a moment of centering before undertaking them. This is perhaps the only way to change those deeply-rooted things that we all carry, from keyboard fingerings to posture to our manner of interacting with people.

Conversion of life is possible only by the grace of God.

7:45 AM  

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