Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Polish Soul Music

During my recent "malaise", there were only two things I was able to accomplish (besides being drugged into oblivion and going to a therapist twice a week):

1. Read as much Shakespeare as possible

2. Try to play the piano...badly (One of the lovely side effects of lithium is that it gives you Parkinson's disease-like symptoms -- mainly, "The Shakes")

But that didn't stop me from trying. But in total insanity mode, I would wake up every morning and dig into Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata, and I did that for about a year -- played nothing but that, and tried to commit it to memory, where there was no mental capability to memorize anything. All internal brain wiring was ripped out and basically I was playing with ten virtual thumbs.

As far as piano playing goes, even when I'm at my unmedicated bi-polar manic-stage, "normal" precision best, my nickname is "mittens" during this period, I guess you could call me "boxing gloves".

If you asked me to sit down and play it today, I couldn't. Of the countless hours spent on it (6 to 8 hours per day, for a YEAR), nothing stuck. This was a total exercise in absolute futility on all fronts.

Maybe someday I'll realize this exercise may be informing me, musically or otherwise, in future creative endeavors, but at this point, I couldn't tell you what that benefit will be exactly. I just love Beethoven; his music is "soul enriching" and I needed nourishment badly. Maybe by hatcheting through his music as meditation for a year, somewhere out there in the Universe, he knows just how much I love him.

I'm known as a "Blues/Rock and Roll/Funky New Orleans" piano what does Beethoven have to do with that?

I have no clue. I just go where the wind blows, musically speaking. No input, No Output, but the direct effect on "output"? Anybody's guess. It's just good music.

So recently, I've been re-visiting my old pal Freddy Chopin. I have always wanted to play the twenty-four etudes

from memory, and this has been a guilty pleasure of mine for years (up until I got derailed by the works of Uncle Ludwig).

Rebuilding facility to play these things is always a drag. I learn about four of them, stop playing them for a year, and then re-learn them again -- over and over, always learning a couple more with each visitation.

But this visitation has been different. I'm actually starting to play the piss out of them. Confidence is high...and there are no wiring issues.

I guess this is normal to legitimate piano players who have been doing this their whole lives, but to me, a new experience in middle age.

The thing about Chopin is the "soul" contained within the flyspecks on the page. This is really early nineteenth century Polish "Soul Music". The feeling I get when listening to Ray Charles, Otis Redding, or Aretha (basically a pre-orgasmic tension and "chill", starting at the small of my back and creeping through and expanding through my entire body; the hairs on the back of my neck feel like they're standing on end) is the same feeling when I listen to Chopin when it's played with great artistic interpretation and commanding facility.

But now, I'm just starting to be able to do it myself, for myself...and I feel connected to the music in a visceral I'm totally in his "soul"...a musical, spiritual, and physical "Vulcan Mind Meld"... the same feeling I get when I pull a solo out of my ass on the fly that even

I think that has always been the carrot that keeps me motivated, musically. Another expansion into the Universe, without a net. I don't always achieve that blissful state, but the few times that I do is enough to keep me plugging away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Only you can manage the sleight of tongue in which you are shamelessly self promoting and self deprecating simultaneously, a genius and a jester in the same exhaustive yet exhilarating breath. My love of, admiration for and mesmerization by you is always underpinned by caution (which you typically cast to the wind). Keep on plunkin', bloggin' and floggin,'and maybe just some day u'll drive the 'fuckus' to filly, and figure out a way two wayward cuzzes could capitalize on the PR brand. If you give me a head's up...I'll even get the piano tuned. YAYAtherapy can make you whole!