Category Archives: Piano

the cn tower ledge

For a certain type of musician whatever they can do isn’t good enough.

New people to piano have difficulty playing hands together. One forgets how real a complication that is in the early days. Their faces look at me like I’m asking them to step onto the ledge of the CN tower.

The interesting thing is when they do get there, when they can play hands together, they already moved on.  I might say hey look you can do it! They don’t care now they’re on fire about what I did in my right hand or my left hand or a record they heard and want to know how it was done.

The brain works like that. It’s as though it always wants to compare where you are with where you wish you were.

Some people realize the great lesson learned from this. They know whatever they set their sights on they can learn, they know to be patient and stay the course and maybe there’s another lesson in there too.


In The Fishbowl

fred: i hate bach

judy: bach is a genius

randy: i’m trying to eat dinner. why are you fighting?

judy: we’re not fighting he’s bragging about being stupid.

fred: bach is a bunch of scales unlike music.

randy: that’s fighting.

judy: you don’t get it.

fred: yes i do.

judy: you play piano?

fred: like a fish.

judy: whatever that means.

fred: swimmingly i play piano.

randy: cute.

judy: if you like dad jokes.

randy: food?

judy: in most piano music the left hand is like a bass player.

fred: like perch and halibut – bass. (winks)

judy: how did you get so funny?

fred: read a lot of dostoevsky.

judy: uh huh.

fred: left hand is a bass player, I know that’s not anything new.

judy: and have you seen how it often follows path of least resistance.

fred: how is that?

judy: duh open your eyes.

randy: stop fighting.

judy: you can’t handle the heat get out of the kitchen.

randy: you’re the one crusin’ for a bruisin’.

fred: you can lead a horse to water but can you make it drive a car.

randy: that’s not the correct-

fred: thanks randy.

judy: in the left hand it’s almost always single bass notes or octaves while the right hand tells the story, even if the left is chording the right is being melodic.

fred: true enough.

judy: if you go backwards and look at earlier piano literature the left hand is treated like an equal but over time people dilute it’s power over and over, like they don’t want to think too much.

randy: like language and everything.

judy: listen again to bach.

fred: it’s exercise music.

judy: whatever the right does the left does as well and the lines of movement are complicated for the fingers – almost all the time.

randy: just like language – earlier words have weird pronunciations and later things become spelled more and more phonetic and slang like? same thing.

fred: slang like?

randy: people writing boys b-o-y-z, or fuze guys or dostoevsky sometimes is spelled with Y instead of OE. there’s a million examples.

fred: it was always that way.

randy: no it wasn’t.

judy: bach was a musical mind unconcerned about easy solutions.

fred: and boring.

judy: for those without brains it’s very boring yes.

randy: i like him but i don’t play piano like you guys.

fred: like yuze guys.

judy: the point is he moved in various directions for reasons of musical taste vs. simplicity. he was playing what he heard because there’s no other explanation for the crazy moves his left hand does.

fred: you hurt my feelings when you say I have no brain.

judy: it’s hard to be a goldfish in the same tank with the same two fishes for four years.

fred: were we ever not goldfishes?

judy: we weren’t born to be pets trapped in a bowl.

randy: says who?

judy: this is it exactly. when bach played the piano was new it didn’t have a history of accepting the lowest common denominator. so he wrote equally for the left and right hands.

fred: you’re saying before we were in captivity we were daring and inclined to do things based on thinking things were limitless?

judy: more or less yes.

randy: but the tank is great. we get food at the same time each day.

judy: i guess if that’s all you want then that’s the way it goes. I’m just saying that bach came to his place with no history of short cuts and it’s interesting in that situation that he made up work that engages so much brain activity. He wasn’t interested in dumb jokes and lazy technique.

fred: and then he wrote the well tempered caviar?

Eddie Harsch & The Soundwaves

One night 6 or 7 years ago there was a blackout in our neighbourhood. We went for a walk in the blackness and enjoyable electricity-less sky. At the bottom of the hill we stopped before a house where there was some slow piano music heard.  Never saw the pianist but could identify with their decision that the black out was a good moment to play.

I was sort of expecting them to reveal themselves and maybe I would play too and we’d make friends down the street. We sat down on the curb listening. In my imagination the pianist was an old woman playing pieces based on long ago memories. We walked home.

A few years later I fell into a conversation with an older woman outside the very house and I took a guess she was the pianist. I told her about there time I heard the piano during the blackout – was it her? That was my son, he is ill but he used to be in a big rock band.

I thought on my street there was only room for one ex member of a big rock band. Which band I asked?  The Black Crowes she answered.