To me piano sounds like the golden afternoon sunshine over a cup of steaming tea. It is deeply nostalgic and comforting.
I’ve already written about how much music means to me. It also used to be one of those things that seemed too untangible and magical for me to ever grasp. I had my brief experiments trying to learn the guitar and the ukulele, but they terminated quite quickly. So I concluded that music for me will always remain a distant muse whose beauty I can admire only from afar but never understand or even touch.
Then life went on its winding way and my ways recrossed that of Girl in the Mirror, an amazing producer and all around music-magician. We have been writing songs together since 2020. I give what I can – words and she transforms them into songs. She also has the goodness to answer all my strange music related questions.
Writing lyrics is already closer to the mystery of music than I ever thought I’d get but last November I started to have the longing to learn to play the piano. It was even more than that. I had the sudden conviction that if I started now I could succeed. Me who I have always considered a musical anti-talent.
I’m pretty sure the idea came from Aurora, the protagonist of August.
My subconscious often shows me the way much before my slow conscious brain gets the message. I guess it’s because when I write, I descend to the truest centre of myself.
So during the Christmas break I tried the Simply Piano app (where you can play a digital keyboard for the first few lessons when you learn the notes) and I loved it. Also the discovery and understanding of musical scores was a huge thing for me because – being a visual learner- SEEING music somehow made it more concrete and understandable. So in January I bought myself a beginner keyboard (she is called Kiki and I love her dearly) and I practice whenever I can. And I’m not bad at it! I don’t have illusions of grandeur, but I never wanted to be a concert pianist. I just wanted to be able to play some songs of my favourite artists and this way get somehow closer to them. And it works.
Playing can turn off my brain the same way running can. I have an overthinking, anxious brain that can get so caught up in the uncertainties of future that it forgets to stay in the present. When I practise a song, I’m there in the moment. Yesterday I started practicing a Yiruma song ( one of my favourite pianists), it is pretty complex and it makes me happy I can play it.
I have also recently discovered that in certain Parisian libraries they have pianos that you can use for free if you are a member. So last week I went twice and it made me extremely happy. I love my little keyboard but it has a very well synthetic sound, so playing something that actually sounds like a piano was just magical.
I also think it is great from the city of Paris that they provide this opportunity; things like this make Paris a truly lovable city and not stuff in movies. (Moon Over Pale Water is actually also about this; the non-cliché wonders of this great city.)
This is how piano has found its way into my real life, but it has been present in my writing almost from the beginning:
My first ever novel idea was Hungarian YA fluff called “The Phantom of Rozemund High” and I still love it from the bottom of my heart. It had a mysterious organ player who sometimes played in the school’s secret room and there was an emotionally unaccessible friend who played the piano and who completely broke the heart of the protagonist with his coldness. Funny how this type has been haunting my writing.. Then I got myself one, and he cured me out of emotionally inaccessible pianist for life.
In the World-In-Between that I have mentioned briefly under C, the male protagonist, Cale, plays the piano. In the Limbo, he also might have a dog that can transform itself into a piano, although I’m still not sure how to make that idea work.
In Glasgow, My Love, Otto plays the piano. He is an emotionally distant pianist – scientist par excellence. There is something very mathematical in music – a subject I will surely explore in one of these stories.
In August, Aurora is a young girl who starts to write her own songs thanks to the encouragement of her friends and Alison, a local restaurant owner/ musician (also a Taylor Swift insert – shocker!)
Otto listened to the song intently, transcribing the notes to the paper of his thoughts. When he was sure he had it committed to memory, he sat down to the piano and played it a few times. As the keys sang under his fingers, he felt a sudden pang of sadness that he found so little time for his hobby. Anna admired music, but said she could never truly understand it because it was something deeply instinctive and ephemeral. Otto saw what she meant, but for him music was one of the most logical things in the world. When he listened to a melody, the notes transformed into swirling fractals and symmetrical architectural structures in his mind. He liked these visions, they filled him with something his rational mind couldn’t explain.< GML>
“What I think of the most is our first real date. We’re in the same year so we’d known each other from sight, but it is not until we took extra Music classes together that we started to speak. He did guitar, I did piano and we were recruited for the school Christmas musical. We started walking home together – It was the first time in my life that someone lived in the same direction as me!
What I remember is the golden sunlight among the trees, the heaps of rusty leaves on the ground, the fragrance of autumn around us. I had a red scarf that flapped gently in the wind and Jake’s face lit up when he smiled at me. I thought he was unbearably beautiful. We laughed at our little jokes and played a game where you had to guess a song from the other’s humming.” I sighed. “He wasn’t always a petit batard.”
“Aurora is sixteen, she’s a talented piano player.”
“I wouldn’t call myself talented,” I mumbled, but Isabelle ignored me.
“She also wrote songs for the end of the year school musical that was an amazing success.”
I stared at her with mouth agape. How did she know so many things? Was she indeed a beautiful sorceress who sees the whole world in her mirror that she then transforms into art?
“But I have no idea what I want to do with myself later. Nothing I’m good at is considered “useful” or “bankable” in the adult world.
“Fuck bankable.” Rebecca said. The swearword came as a shock from her lips but it wasn’t dissonant. “People will always need music and art. Never for one moment let someone tell you that what you love doing is useless. Even if this someone is you.”