Monday, November 9, 2009


I haven't played the piano for you in quite a while—I haven't played the piano for myself very often either, but sometimes I walk past the thing and remember that I like to play. I don't play in public because I'm mediocre at best, and what I really like is getting lost in old music I learned in high school. Make me learn something new or be concerned with accuracy, and I just get frustrated.

Mr. Stevesand, my piano teacher in high school, was an old bachelor math teacher who lived out in the country with two mangy Himalayan cats and a grand piano. He was a slob and left filthy pans on the stove, and the cats would eat what looked like old beans and tomato sauce out of them. His hair stood up on end, and his fingers were chubby enough that he had trouble playing as cleanly as he would have liked, but he was a great teacher.

As a teenager, I was drawn to melancholy pieces (which means I like to play them now), and Debussey's Rêverie was one of my favorites. The notation in the first bar says "dreamily," and that's sort of what happens when I play the piece now over 30 years after I learned it–I drift off. Appropriate to the title, I get lost in the playing of it, and when I look up from the keys, I am sometimes two pages beyond when I last looked up. I don't count, so the notes aren't of equal value, and the tempo is anything but steady. Still, it puts me in a dream state.

I doubt my recording will do the same for you, though, so keep your expectations low. About one minute in, you'll hear No. 1 and Eustacia walking in from running an errand. They didn't know I was recording and were talking in full voice and rattling plastic bags in the next room. When No. 1 realized what was going on, she said, "You can't post that," but I feel like I have to. This is what you'd hear if you were visiting me on a playing day. A cat might try to jump up in your lap, the phone might ring or a daughter might giggle.

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