Now the autumn shudders
In the rose’s root.
Far and wide the ladders
Lean among the fruit.
Now the autumn clambers
Up the trellised frame,
And the rose remembers
The dust from which it came.
Brighter than the blossom
On the rose’s bough
Sits the wizened, orange,
Bitter berry now;
Beauty never slumbers;
All is in her name;
But the rose remembers
The dust from which it came.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay
Oh, let me never grow too old
to be bewitched by autumn’s gold.
—Jean S. Platt
It’s not like astronauts are braver than other people; we’re just meticulously prepared. We dissect what it is that’s going to scare us, and what it is that is a threat to us and then we practice over and over again so that the natural irrational fear is neutralized.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield
Somehow, I feel like this is relevant.
So about a year and a half ago, when I first brought my grandmother’s piano home, I called up a highly recommended piano repairman who specialized in refurbishing old pianos to see if he could come have a look at the old girl and maybe give her a tune up. After about five minutes of poking around, he stated that the piano’s tenor and bass bridges were cracked and would have to be replaced before tuning could be done. He advised me that I could get a used upright of pretty good caliber for the amount of money it would take to fix this piano, but if I really wanted to fix this one he could make her like new. He wrote me a quote for a pretty steep amount of money, and I started scrimping and saving. It’s taken me many many months, but I’ve got almost the whole amount saved up.
Cut to after my lesson yesterday.
The professor and chairman emeritus of my college’s music department also tunes and services pianos. He was working yesterday and I took the opportunity to ask him about my predicament. I’d been wanting his opinion before I parted with the money. When he heard how old the piano could potentially be and that it was still in playing shape despite a few issues, he offered to come by and look at my piano in the morning.
He was impressed with the sound the old girl gets even though she’s so old (he looked up the serial number… built in 1927. Wow.) Furthermore, he declared that he could tune her without any need for repairs. And on top of that, he fixed the broken C5 key for free before heading on his way. He’ll be back in December to give her a proper tuning.
But yay! I get to practice at home again! And I don’t have to part with a huge amount for repairs. So exciting.
Today’s lesson was pretty rough. I was expecting it to be (more so than usual) since my practice time was somewhat limited, and I just haven’t made much progress with the time I did have.
The section I’m struggling with in the Debussy involves a lot of really complicated chords and a recurring rhythmic motive under a melody line. That’s been the bulk of most of the piece, but while the learning has been slow and painstaking, progress was being made. I can play about 2/3 of the piece! Woo!
But in this section I’m asked to not only juggle those things but the chords and melodic lines are such that I have to switch which hands are playing what on almost every chord change. Trying to learn it has been an exercise in futility. I can’t take it apart and learn one hand at a time because it doesn’t make any sort of sense in terms of continuity. But trying to learn it as a whole with both hands just leads to me not knowing what the hell I’m doing.
So, when I got to that part in my lesson and got frustrated and teary, I asked my teacher to tell me how to practice it because I was at a loss. He helped me disassemble it in such a way that it was more manageable but still recognizable. The revelation seems obvious now (the chords were moving in stepwise motion… but because of all the bouncing back and forth, I didn’t recognize it.). Hopefully, I’ll be able to untangle this mess and get on with learning the rest of the piece.
I won’t have a lesson this coming week. I’m going to be knee deep stage managing rehearsals and performances for our local ballet’s production of Firebird. And my teacher is in the middle of playing for a musical at the local college (they opened tonight… break a leg!). So needless to say, the last thing we both need are more demands on our schedules.
So while we’re off, enjoy some fall photography by yours truly and some lovely words about the autumn season. Cheers everyone!
Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.