Sunday, October 25, 2015

Finding serenity in piano music on YouTube

Months ago, we got an electronic keyboard for our daughters. Neither my wife and I play music so we don't really set a good example for our kids. I'm thinking that I will take lessons when my daughter takes lessons, but that is still quite some time in the future. Then one day, my aunt comes to the house and it turns out that she knows how to play. So she plays and my oldest daughter is enthused.

Weeks go by and I'm just watching my kids play in the living room. They touch on the piano again and it hits me. I bring up YouTube on my phone and start looking for piano music, something to show my kids what to do with it. My daughter is captivated for a few moments and then walks over to the keyboard to play along.

I started with something like Bugs Bunny playing Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt, but Warner-Bros has done a very thorough job of gutting every decent video from YouTube. The only one I could find has Spanish dubbing. Isn't it interesting that we can find tons of stuff from the Beatles, but Warner Bros? Good luck. At least we know who really cares about culture.

So I found some Debussy, played by professionals and cast it to my TV. Great production value, very well done. I was moved. Emily, my daughter, went to the keyboard to play along. I could see that she was interested, but was overwhelmed since she's only two. Then I found "how to play" videos. Old MacDonald, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - stuff like that. She really liked that.

After that, I started to watch more piano videos on my computer with the headset. I've long had a penchant for Chopin's Nocturnes and I have one old CD full of them. There are a few tunes that I really like and spent some time watching them being played rather than just listening to the music. I found Claire de Lune by Debussy and his Arabesque songs. I enjoyed watching all of them.

There is one video of a much older fellow playing. I recall his serenity before starting and while playing. It's just him in his home, playing a song he loves, peacefully. As he plays, I can see in his face that he's lost himself in the music. While he plays, there is nothing else to think of, there is nothing he'd rather be doing.

A few seconds after he finishes the last note, he raises his head upright and his eyes grow a bit wider, as if waking from a dream. He's back, among us, as if he had traveled to a far away land and had been transported back, instantaneously.

Lately, I've been finding serenity in watching my favorite songs being played. I'd look at my music catalog in Rhythmbox and search for Debussy and Chopin, my two favorites. I like Strauss, but I really like the Blue Danube and that just doesn't work for me on piano. Anyway, whatever I found on YouTube, I found that I preferred performances before a live audience.

As I watched each succeeding video, sometimes repeating one that I had seen the night before or the day before that, I began to take note of the hands and the arms. I noticed how fluid and smooth the hands moved. I noticed the difference between the soft and the hard strokes of the keys. I love how they tickle the keys in high notes the nocturnes.

Since these songs were often performed before an audience, I also noticed that the entire theater was at peace. While the music played, everyone was quiet. The performers each lost themselves in the music, in full concentration of their performance. For a moment, it seemed that everyone had lost any thought of their troubles, their worries, their concerns. There was only the music.
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