I saw the best minds of my generation…

Apologies to Allen Ginsburg, if they be necessary. I'm certainly not the writer he was but I think he'd be okay with the sentiment. It's a crazy time. This is what I'm doing to stay sane. I have not touched a piano in 20 years or more but I loved it and have missed it ever since my fabulous, big-as-a-house old Steinway upright collapsed and my tuner said it would take over three months to get parts — right when I was about to move from my house of 20-plus years — the story of my life at that time. Anyway, I remember how I'd get lost in scales, even. In front of the piano was my happy place. Time to go back.

I'm starting from scratch. I would expect my musician friends to fall apart laughing, except that I remember my old next-door neighbor, who I believe is now teaching in the music department at Occidental College. Every time this brilliant guy, who warmed up, warmed up, by playing the Bach cello sonatas, would see me, he'd say, "Practice. Don't worry that your piano is right next to my studio, that I practice and give lessons there. Practice every day. You'll be good." Bless you, Tim Emmons, and thank you.

So I'm back at it. Anything to get away from the New York Times. Not their fault, but still. This is my rescue kit.

I don't expect my current neighbors to be as kind as Tim, so I got an electric piano, a Bluthner Pro-88. I think it was so cheap, way less than I sold the Steinway for, not even accounting for inflation, because there is a newer model out, but so what. It sounds good. The touch is nice, even adjustable. It came with headphones, which I'm sure the neighbors will appreciate.

So those are the basics. My life is too unsettled to have regular live piano lessons so I'm going to hope I don't develop too many bad habits. At least for now I'm going to limp along on my own.

I found these great apps. There is one just called "Theory" and another called "Tenuto." They give you the basic idea of the whole undertaking: how to read notes and time signatures, the keys to the kingdom, basically. I do better with explanations, so I can lose an hour with those, easily. I read James Rhodes' autobiography, "Instrumental," so I had to get his little book, "How to Play the Piano." Supposedly I'll be playing a Bach prelude in six weeks, all this theory time included. We shall see but I do like the book. And finally, "Mikrosmos," the piano exercises that Bartok wrote for his son. I bought Volume I all those years ago, when I got bored with the stuff my teacher assigned. I loved it, so when I found this, all seven volumes bound together, I went for it. This is all much less expensive than when I sold everything back in the '90's. It's amazing.

So here it is, an hour or so every day when I can say "Donald Who?" It's a lovely thing and it leaves plenty of time to engage with the mess we find ourselves in. And prune the roses, load the dishwasher, you know, real life.

11 Replies to “I saw the best minds of my generation…”

  1. I used to love to play the piano. Now I spend so much time at a keyboard that it just isn’t relaxing to be at another keyboard; I want to be outside moving around.
    Good for you that you are picking it up again.
    My kid is learning jazz and improvisation. Very interesting. Wish I had done that myself.

  2. So you will be in tune with yourself despite the world around you. Stick to what your neighbour said and you will not only be hsppy you will be good.
    I take refuge in cricket

    1. You play cricket? Or you bury yourself in watching those multiple-day matches? That’s what I like about tennis. It takes two weeks to get through a major tournament.

      1. Have not been able to watch it on TV for years as it is on Sky and I won`t pay Murdoch…used to play – after a fashion – but these days I tune into Test Match Special on the radio for the five day matches. Makes the world go away.

        1. I guess in Costa Rica a Freebox won’t do you much good. I admit to having Sky in Paris but the house has Freebox. What about online streaming and a Chromecast? Or maybe a Roku box, something like that?

          1. It is a question of who holds the rights, apparently……and the supine atttude of those who run the game both nationally and internationally…

          2. It sounds like what I go through with tennis. People obviously want to stream it, so lots of sites come up when I Google it. When I follow the links it always turns out that if I can’t already get it on my TV, I’m out of luck. Even if I can get it on my TV, if I’m not actually at my TV, those apps that are supposed to let me watch it anyway generally deny access. Oy. Well, I used to listen to baseball on the radio. As I have watched plenty of games, a good announcer can make it pretty clear what is going on.

  3. Sounds like an excellent way to spend time.
    My thing is to create, and for you, tinkling on the piano is also coming from the need to satisfy that part of your psyche.
    I thought for several years that my neighbour here in France had some excellent CDs with keyboards and vocals….now I find that it’s just her( in between the kids and the cooking and keeping house.
    She has an exquisite voice.

    1. Voice? Oh, I wish. After 18 months, my voice teacher, in the nicest possible way, fired me. How nice to have that just outside your windows.

  4. We look forward to a concert in the future.

    How is your audience (Jacques) enjoying the music?

    Apologies for any typographical errors – sent from a small mobile device.


    1. A concert? Well then, I’ll have to introduce Linda to my friends Pierre-Yves, Desiree and Ashok. The four of them can work something up for us.:-) Honestly, I even spare Jacques my efforts. It’s headphones, all the time, every time. Be careful what you ask for. If I do make it through that Bach prelude, I just may send you a recording. Well, no, you’re too good a friend.

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