I swear I can hear it laughing. Honestly, if you keep really still and hold your breath you’ll be able to hear it as well. Just a slight tinkling, not so loud as to draw attention but enough that I know it’s doing it.
“Ha ha ha” it says. “All those Saturday mornings, cycling with that leather case dangling dangerously from the handlebars, in rain, occasionally in hail, rarely in sun. Slow on the way there, fast on the way home as the weekend was now yours. Dreading the practise, the exams and the weekly showdowns. What was it all for?”
“Ha ha ha” it says. “All that time and effort and for what? I sit here, day after day, gathering dust whilst you tap away on THOSE keys, those inferior little plastic keys, what can they do for you? Can they lift the spirits? Can they move and sway the emotions?”
Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin all join in to mock me. “Remember us?” They say. “Once upon a time you could play us, your fingers and mind were nimble and able, but now? Ohh sure you can type at 48wpm but can you dash out a chromatic scale over three octaves? No, I didn’t think so.”
I sit and receive the taunts, deflecting them the best I can but some get through and jar a memory into life. My first hearing of Joplin, my one and only public performance in front of the entire school on a grand piano, the exam halls, the theory and the constant scales and arpeggios. From the little fat fairy plodding away at the practise tunes one finger at a time, through to the dramatic flair of the cross-hands, full fingered chording, or delicate trills.
I hold five certificates from the ABRSM, Grades 1, 2, 3 and 5 practical and Grade 5 theory (well the Scottish bit of it that is, RSAMD I think? Guess I should have dug out the damn certificates). My piano teacher (who was much more than just a piano teacher as he introduced me to Dylan, Big Band, and so much more – he is also the first adult I heard use the word “fuck”) was putting me forward for the Grade 7 exam when I quit (Grade 8 allows you to teach I think) so I must, at the very least, have been capable.
Yet I still ignore it, shying away from the keyboard, offering excuses easily; it’s an electronic keyboard you see and doesn’t have “touch” sensitive keys so every note is played at the same volume no matter how hard or soft you press, you lose so much emotion from the music that way; I don’t have the right kind of music, it never matches my mood; I can’t get comfy I need to buy a stool.
It’s probably one of the few true regrets of my life. All that time, effort and money that was ploughed into the lessons for what? Granted I can still sight-read a little, and the few times I have sat down at the keyboard to play it has been fun, trying to remember fingering combinations and the like, yet I just can’t get my head into the right mood, the right frame, the right key.
Maybe I should buy a piano?