Posts tagged memoir
Posts tagged memoir
Prompted by 2DTeleidoscope’s writing challenge.
I was never good at keeping time. “You’re playing too fast,” my piano teacher would tell me as I ran through Bach’s “Minuet in G” for the fourth time, and she would wind up the metronome, set its weight to adagio, and let it go. Tock. Tock. Tock. Tock. If it was slow enough, I could follow the regimented time, my fingers pressing harder on the keys on the downbeat.
But the rhythm in my head and the rhythm of the metronome never stayed in sync for long. It was like my brain was telling my fingers to hurry up and get to the end of the measure, the end of the piece.
Some time in high school, I stopped playing classical music and started playing jazz. Now there was a drummer to keep time, but the thing with jazz is that sometimes you don’t play on the beat: you slip the notes between the snare and the bass drum, fills and chords and riffs dancing atop the rhythm section. It is a delicate and precise syncopated dance, though; even a quarter or eighth note early or late and it sounds as clumsy as a dancer with leaden feet, fumbling and stepping on his partner’s toes.
And so I would sometimes come in too early. “Watch your tempo. Feel it,” my band director said. And I would try. I would get it right about, oh, 75% of the time. I’d practice the entrance over and over, but I’d still slip. And every time I tried to feel it, it would be off.
But when I was alone—either at home when my parents were away, or when church youth group had ended and I sat by myself in the dark with the piano while the rest of the kids played, socialized and did other things that didn’t come naturally to me—I would play what I wanted. They were just chords, cadences, and arpeggios, flowing out of my fingers, the sustain pedal pulling back the dampers and letting the notes echo through the empty room. They were pop melodies, I-IV-V-relative minor languid sappy concoctions that reeked of virginal angst.
Often, I’d close my eyes when I played these musical doodles, and with no metronome, no drummer, no teacher telling me when to start, I’d let myself go. I played as fast and as slowly as I wanted, following the tempo of my own emotions. Years of lessons and practice had taught me where things were on the keyboard; it was up to my mind, heart, and fingers to explore, in silent rhythm, the curse of being out-of-sync with the rest of the world.