PIANO: Right at our fingertips

Short, sweet, (and a little deep) for this month!

When you play your instrument, what are you playing?

Is the notes?

Is it the rhythms?

Or is it something beyond that?

Music is rarely the notes on the page. Just like the letters of a word can’t tell you the meaning. All the letters (and notes) can do is suggest the sounds of the word (or phrase).

But notes and rhythms are NOT the meaning of the music alone. So what is?

I believe communication needs intent. Have you ever had the experience of either in a foreign country with a halting grasp of the language…and still you’re able to order food? Or perhaps the other way….if someone is trying to speak to you in broken English, but they are so convicted that you can understand them?

Music is no different. But what we are communicating is even beyond words. I think it’s at times even beyond emotions. It’s not necessary to physically feel sad to play sad music….you don’t need to be in a rage to play Beethoven.

For me, what I feel when I express something musically is almost a super-emotion. There’s a breath and a space around the first note, and the sound seems to come from my fingertips….but I am feeling connected to a place outside the realm of normal emotion. This place feels quiet and calm….and suspended. My mind is quiet. The music unfolds through my efforts but I don’t have any sense that I am active. And most of all, I don’t feel like Adriana. All the energy focuses on the feelings elicited by playing and listening to the sound.

True confession time: I don’t play like this all the time, though I’d like to. The self-criticism and wish for more practice time often occupy my thoughts while playing. However, when I have taken the time to think about what the music means, what it wants to say, what I want to describe to the audience through music, I have a better chance of accessing this state. Perhaps the music wants to convey heartache, or nostalgia, or the feeling of being with a close friend. Perhaps it’s joyful, sarcastic, playful.

I’m not saying this realm will feel the same for everyone, or that everyone ought to try to access it. For me, this is the reason I keep playing piano. For the experience of something beyond our world, right at our fingertips.

Have you experienced this state or something similar? Please share your comments or drop me a note!

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