Playing the piano again
This entry may come ve-e-ery slowly as I am typing with one lame hand. I have been irritably reminding myself–as I violently shake both hands to encourage the circulation–that the reason I decided to take piano lessons (over thirty years since my last one) was because starting bell ringing again (a mere five or six years after my first attempt) was making my post-ME hands hurt, and, I said to myself, Piano Players Have Strong Hands. Worked a treat too: a few months of Hanon and my dorsal interossei and lumbricals rippled when I moved.* And then this composing thing started creeping up on me** and since Finale began allowing me do it on the computer*** I have slid further and further into a sad pattern of bashing my strange warped noises out on the piano only enough so that I can get them on the computer . . . and then taking the result to Oisin to play for real. My lovely piano deserves better. Well, my lovely piano deserves better than me, but me is what she’s got.
And I’ve missed playing just to play, despite the horrible reality of my ability that this entails. So I’m revelling in all the renewed pandemonium and discord this week . . . but I’m also being reminded of things I’d forgotten, like that the people who do the fingering for most classical sheet music are either possessed by demons or have differently jointed appendages than I do . . . and that There Is A Tavern in the Town† requires serious upper-body strength, particularly in the left hand: the version I play is halfway to being honky tonk†† and your left hand is rocketing around like a hungry jumping spider. ††† Twice through and my left hand is numb. I would have thought that the daily deployment of hellhounds would keep the Schwartzenegger aspect in full repair but hellhounds are mainly about shoulders and thumbs,‡ and don’t do much for the, er, lumbricals and interossei–and bell ringing doesn’t differentiate. If you can grab a rope and pull, the bell doesn’t care what anatomical structure in particular is taking the strain. Maybe it’s all those fists Finale is compelling me to shake in despair that are keeping the bell ringing muscles in good fettle. Ah well. Pity Beethoven never did an arrangement of Tavern though. Possibly the fact that it was composed fifty or so years after he died has something to do with it.
* * *
* Gods I love the internet. You go to google, you type in ‘muscles hand’ and lo!, you are swimming in diagrams.^ In the first place they’re there and in the second place no one says suspiciously, What are you doing with that Serious Medical Volume? Do you have a legitimate aim? Are you going to use it for the purpose for which it was intended? Are you going to be careful to use it accurately? Are you going to do something silly?^^
^ I took anatomy while I was in homeopathy college but I don’t seem to remember+ anything about the structure of the hand.
+ Seem to remember is a crucial phrase when living with Middle Aged Brain. Ask me tomorrow. I might have remembered my flexor pollicis longus by tomorrow.
^^ Actually I own a book of Serious Anatomical Diagrams. That too is from my time in homeopathy college. The anatomy-physiology textbook we were supposed to be using–which did have the virtue of being cheap–had those awful Textbook Drawings in Beach Ball Colour Crayons: you know, the pink blob is the stomach, the purple one is the liver, and the green is the spleen. I guess they give you a vague cruising familiarity with innards+ but most of us hated them. I, however, was not only old and had a house with real bookshelves but a job which left me in possession of a certain amount of discretionary income, so when one of our tutors++ brought in a book of proper anatomical drawings in all their gruesome exactitude, I rushed out and bought a copy. The curious thing about this is that generally speaking Queasy Thy Name Is McKinley: I’d never make a surgeon+++ and one of the tangential attractions of homeopathy is that you don’t ask people to show you where it hurts–no, no! I don’t have to see it! Aaaugh! Just tell me how it’s affecting you! –And one of the reasons I never got round to taking the EMT training++++ when I was an ambulance driver is because being the driver was enough. But that book, in its Anita Blake Every Grisly Detail Vampire and Other Icky Things Hunter way, is a joy, and I still have it, and I still use it. And it never asks me if I’m about to be silly either, the way reference librarians sometimes do.+++++
But at this minute, it’s at the cottage and I’m at the mews. No, I rarely know what I’m going to write about when I start a blog entry: or rather I think I know and I am frequently wrong. And yes, this is one of the drawbacks of living in two houses. Wait till Third House is fully functional.
+ The thing that was really worrying about this textbook is that it’s one of an official series for training nurses and other health professional types. I tend to want my health professionals to have better than a vague cruising familiarity with innards.
++ Who had himself been a nurse in an earlier life
+++ Aside from the whole medical school thing
++++ Aside from being relatively sure I’d flunk the exams, speaking of the medical school thing
+++++ SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS are reference librarians, okay? But some reference librarians are a little intimidating, and I sometimes wonder if perhaps Reference Librarian School discourages creative thinking.
** It’s bizarre what it’s done for my relationship to other people’s music–Mozart to Messiaen in one long leap, for pity’s sake. And I’ve gone and bought myself tickets to two cough-cough-cough modern operas, well, post-Verdi anyway, and I’m going to argue that Janacek was ahead of his time, his Jenufa is one of them, plus Britten’s Peter Grimes. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never seen a Britten opera staged, and I’m still cross that I missed Turn of the Screw last autumn. But that was during the period of Really Extreme Hellhounds, and I couldn’t face worrying for the seven or so hours it takes to see an opera in London about what was going on in my absence, or about the prospect of coming home to a traumatised dogminder declaring that nothing would induce her to look after them again, and sweet, charming and beautiful does not cover this case. But we have the hellhounds fixed, right? The occasional retrograde motion^ is merely a result of the fact that after two and a half years of recurrent mayhem it will take time for the new pattern to become reliable. So I can think about maybe doing something like going to an opera. Maybe. Because while I’m too old and confused to learn what to do with an orchestra I think composing a nice tortured song cycle for voice and piano would be nice, and it’s all about story arcs.
^ Er . . . sic
*** Although allowed is a perhaps over-generous term for Finale’s attitude
† Books of songs like There Is A Tavern don’t have fingering, so you can make your own mistakes
†† The ragtime end, not the country
††† ‘The jumping spider family (Salticidae) . . . can . . . jump 20 to 60 or even 75-80 times the length of their body.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumping_spider
‡ The thumb operates the brake.
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