THURSDAY MORNING COFFEE – Distracting dissonance


I was dragged to piano lessons at the tender age of seven. They said I was too old to learn. Now though, my teenage musical kid needs to learn enough keyboarding to accompany herself as she sings, and… piano. Electronic and portable, innocuous, and very, very distracting.

It wasn’t just she and her music teacher who played it – or with it – today. After I helped her set it up, I had to test it. Way back, when my first and second Czech teachers got fired for political reasons and I was dismissed as “tainted” with the rest of their students, my grandmother arranged for private lessons with an old, sour woman prone to outbursts of yelling and spittle. She didn’t want me and I didn’t want her, but she was paid to have me, and I was told the lessons were already paid for and, therefore, not negotiable. Oh, torture. What kid would ever want to practice under such conditions? I loathed the whole situation.

Now, though. A piano. Wow. An old enemy who’s aged a lot worse than I. Puny and sleek on its foldable stand, it has none of the pompous bulk and intimidating gravitas of its varnished wood predecessors. It’s toothless, and small, and dare I say – inviting.

I walked around it for a bit, I fussed with the height (long gone are the phone books and pillows on the piano bench), I plugged it in and made the little red indicator turn on. A demon I can unplug. How utterly delightful!

More circling, more fussing. Then the inevitable pass over the white, plastic keys. Not ivory anymore, not ebony either. Just harmless, solid, fully weighted plastic that felt reassuringly solid and surprisingly responsive. And we all know quality control is so important. Who was I not to inspect this latest addition to our musical collection?

Half an hour, my older daughter emerged from her lair, dressed for work, ready have lunch and make herself a bento dinner. “Mom, are you playing scales?” She’d seen me mess around with a number of instruments, and slaving over scales was just about unknown. Now, though, their familiarity was almost soothing. Scales, and a few old exercises.

“No, just broken arpeggios.” More broken than arpeggios, with fingers like wooden pegs after decades of misuse. But I read the etudes off the page and made them come to life in slow, halting segments. Reading both the treble and the bass line. Simultaneously. Could be, five years of childhood torture weren’t a total waste after all.

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