Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Fickle Finger of Fate


I’m dating myself with this title and challenge readers over 50 (60?) to name the TV show that is from. (Answer at the end).

But the key word of today’s post is “fickle” and I’m not talking about my love life. Well, actually I am, the love affair I have with music in general and the piano in particular. Or to be yet more specific, my turbulent relationship with the Muse of music (Muse/ Music—feel the connection?) and her frequently changing, capricious, variable loyalty to me as one of her of voices.

Because there are days when nothing is coming out of my fingers that is worth saying, the resistance from the piano is palpable and I wonder why I even bother to keep playing some 61 years after I started. I call for the Muse and there is not only no answer, but there’s no answering machine. And sometimes a voice that says, “This number is no longer in service.”

But sometimes, the Muse descends and fills me with the energy of a god. The sounds that pour forth are thunderous, tender, equally comfortable with lightning technique and speed and ambling stream-flowing ease. I can literally play Bach alongside Rosalyn Turreck of Glenn Gould (well, some of it) and match them note by note and feel equally comfortable playing a similar feel to Red Garland or Bill Charlap or snippets of Keith Jarrett or Chick Corea. No arrogance here, I know I’m light years away from their level of control, hearing, command, confidence, but the Muse will tease me and give some moments when I can ride the coattails of their inspiration and I think, “Damn! I sound good! “ And then of course, I get up from the piano bench and feel good.

And no one is around to witness this. My wife mostly closes the door, my upstairs neighbors are waiting for 9:00 pm when we agreed I should stop, the people passing by in the street keep walking. And tonight, with both my wife and neighbors out of town, I had the extraordinary experience of having the luxury to keep playing until 11 pm!!! Because the one lesson I’ve learned is that when the Muse knocks on the door, you better answer it. She doesn’t come around that often.

Though of course I wish for more consistency and the perpetual presence of inspired playing, all of this is probably as it should be. I was never cut out to be a musician musician. I think more as a writer than a musician, sentences in my head instead of musical phrases and my particular daimon/ Muse/ genius has something to do with music as a vehicle of personal, collective and community health and well-being. I don’t have to be an amazing musician to release music in others, just a loyal and faithful one. And when it comes to that, my Muse may be fickle, but I am not. I’m in it for the long haul, committed until my last breath.

My dang, it sure feels good to play well when the moment strikes. I’m grateful for that.

PS The TV show was Rown and Martin’s Laugh-in.


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