Welcome to my new online journal, Notes From A Studio! In it, I will, from time to time, share my thoughts about music in general, and the piano in particular, with anyone who happens across it.
Why the title? Since I am writing it in my studio, it seemed like a clever idea to incorporate the dual meaning of notes – things jotted down, noted – and notes sounded on a piano. The title also brings to mind memories of walking down the street and coming randomly upon the sound of a musical instrument being played. There’s something magical about the unexpected experience of hearing a piano, violin or someone singing coming from a home. Here is a lone voice, practicing perhaps, or playing for their own enjoyment. I am an ‘auditory voyeur’ happening to catch this sound, not intended for me, or for the public street, but nevertheless able to be shared by anyone who passes by. This experience of the sudden, surprising aural event can happen anywhere, leaving a trace in the memory that far outlasts the sound itself…
Now that I am of a ‘certain age,’ I can permit myself a (limited) amount of reminiscing, particularly if I can justify it as serving some larger purpose, such as filling out the dimensions of this journal entry. Indulge me, then, as I go back in time to some of my own memories of these random aural encounters:
I am 9 or 10 years old, visiting relatives in Cleveland. They live in the middle of the city, and when we go into the house, it has a stairway next to the front door, leading somewhere. This is startling to me, having assumed stairways were always inside of houses, leading to bedrooms. And when I ask, they say that there is an apartment upstairs they rent out. As we go inside, I hear the (to me at the time) glorious sounds of a piano coming through the ceiling. The tenant is a musician! So wonderful, rich and powerful was the sound that I can still hear it today.
On a boat in Hong Kong, at a picnic out in the South China Sea, tropical humidity, green islets, the boat is anchored in a quiet spot, and we are feasting on dim sum. A melody played by a solo flute comes wafting across the water. It is impossible to tell where it is coming from, or to see who is playing it, it is an immanence of the air.
Another flute, this time moving down a street in Tucson, and I can see the player. There has just been one of those sudden downpours typical of the summer in that city, when the air is suddenly saturated with moisture, and the streets are gushing with water. I watch him go by, a moving melody.
The Museum of Military History in Istanbul, I am looking at the flotsam and jetsam of Turkey’s past, things like the massive chain that was stretched across the Golden Horn to defend Constantinople during the last Ottoman siege of Sultan Mehmed II. I hear a male voice, singing a plaintive melody. It is one of the museum guards in an adjacent exhibition hall, the voice amplified by the marble rooms. He sings with the typical ornamental flourishes one associates with Middle Eastern melody. I can literally hear the curves of Ottoman calligraphy in sound.
The above experiences, and others like them (I could go on, but won’t) are unlike the experience of walking through a music department. There, practice rooms blend together to create a jumble of sound. One expects this. But it is the solitary, and chance character of the experience of the ‘notes’ that I am pointing at here.
Do I still have these random experiences? Yes, although today they are more likely to be the occasional vehicle with the booming bass, vibrating through my car as well when we are both stopped at a light. I ostentatiously cover my ears when this happens, and think about the ensuing deafness of the adjacent driver. Investment tip: hearing aids, as entire populations are slowly destroying their hearing through booming bass, over-amplified music, and ear buds punishing the ears at high volume. But I will descend from that particular soap box, and save the rant for another time…
Perhaps you, my current reader, have discovered this journal at random in your wanderings through internet virtuality. If so, then I hope that the experience was as pleasant, and dare I hope somewhat as memorable, as those in my incomplete list above. I invite you to return. And if you are here on purpose, then I hope that you will take some inspiration from my musings, possibly glean some bit of information that may help you in your own music making. If none of these, then judge as you will, move on – the search is endless in this floating world.
Feel free to write me at email@example.com.
May life bring you the joy of wonderful random encounters!