Last week I took three days off from the piano to focus on classical guitar, and for the other days I was only playing 15-30 minutes a day. I seemed to be getting steadily better, however. I suspect it is because I was really focusing on targeted practice, working on the different bars carefully. Muscle memory is growing. I mostly focused on that excerpt from Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze and Bading’s Canon.
Today I decided I needed to play more piano, so I did around 45 minutes of the above pieces but also a return to “let’s freestyle play/compose another piece that I throw into the universe and may lose because my music theory and notation skills is not good enough for these things I play when my eyes are closed and it’s like my fingers are possessed”.
Because I need to remember why I am doing this. Why I will put myself through the shame of sitting for an Initial Grade, Grade One and so forth exams (yes, even though I am enjoying the process of learning, I could have done this all much earlier than this — I would not have been able to afford the luxury of teachers but I could have bought these books, I could have taught myself like I am teaching myself now because I already can sight-read).
No more short cuts. I’ve been putting these things off for years. Making excuses. I’m so ashamed of myself. But today I remembered.
This is how I play with my eyes closed. This is who I am.
I don’t want to call myself a composer now because I don’t have enough music theory. I even removed that bit from my author bio about wanting to compose for orchestra. Let’s not set ourselves up for ridicule and disappointment. I never wanted to be a career composer anyway. But I want at least some of these countless pieces I’ve thrown into the void of forgetfulness to be down. On paper. To be played. To be remembered. And yes, I’ve started to dream (as in literal dreams while sleeping) about composing songs for orchestra. But I’ve been playing music in my dreams since I was a kid. And it was so painful and fraught all through my teenhood because of no access to any instrument except for my melodica. It hurt so much. I had to make music with my voice and with that, and with anything I could make percussive sound with.
Then I got my classical guitar aged 19 because I told Dad on the phone (who was a long distance Dad for most of my life because of the divorce and his transfer to East Malaysia) that I was going to work in a supermarket while waiting for exam results so I could get a classical guitar. He sent me the money for the guitar and classes so fast, it was unbelievable! “No daughter of mine, bla bla,”.
Oh Dad, you were so adorable but also so classist!
(I wish I’d been more rebellious and had worked all those jobs I wanted to work while I was waiting for results. I would have had more experience in diverse fields of work. Instead apart from legal internship, it’s been academia and publishing)
I only bought Kalliope (my secondhand reconditioned Kawaii) in 2007, but within a month I’d “written” the Lady Dissonance Suite and recorded it — and people liked it — sure, they were friends but I have the kinds of online friends who won’t lie or buff me up — if they like something they tell me, otherwise it’s tactful silence.
But — I haven’t really recorded anything since then. It’s as though I’m afraid that magic was a one-off thing. I need to fix that.
And so I go on, working quietly, quietly into the night so that these fires are not dimmed, so that even if they are, I leave an ember for someone else to fan into a flame when I am no longer on this earth.
But also, I want the pleasure of one day being able to play Claude Debussy with my eyes closed. That has been a gnawing in my gut, a longing, an almost animalistic desire denied since teenhood. I am denied many things in life — this, this I am willing to work towards. Music is a compulsion, an animalistic need more than anything else. But as with most things in life I’ve believed that I didn’t deserve this. Well. Maybe I don’t deserve other things, but I deserve this and I feel so driven now to make up for a lifetime of putting this off. Not anymore.
And that is why I do this. That is why I do all of this. I guess this means I’ll budget for a piano teacher next year. I think I can manage it. I mean, what am I going to spend that money on that’s more important than this, right.