Tuesday, 25 February 2014

WordPress Daily Prompt: We Got The Beat

Have you ever played in a band? Tell us all about that experience of making music with friends. If you’ve never been in a band, imagine you’re forming a band with some good friends. What instrument do you play in the band and why? What sort of music will you play? 

Photographers, artists, poets: show us PERFORMANCE.

Group of Singers

Me in a band, of course. I think my first experience was when I started school at the age of five. They immediately recognised my musical talent; even then I had a loud clear voice, although they chose me as the first triangle player in the group. When I did “ping” with my metal beater it was the signal for the other members in the band to tap their triangles as well. I was so talented.

I was also a member of the school choir. I was singing “Morning Has Broken” before Cat Stevens was born, while it was still part of the hymn book we had in the school.

My real musical life began at home. We had a piano. I do not know when this piano entered our family, but I grew up with the piano. It was a large black upright piano and the metal strings were straight and not overstrung, just to give an idea of how old this piano was. I suppose I inherited my talent to actually play this instrument from my mum and Aunt Lil. Every time we had a family party they were called for the music. Reflecting on this family inheritance, I remember that both could play quite well with the right hand. They had large hands and could even span an octave, which made it sound quite professional.

Unfortunately the left hand was not so professional. Mum and Aunt Lil would just do thump, thump on the keys that the left hand found on the piano. The result was that the right hand was playing in the key of C (they somehow never discovered the black keys on the piano) and the left hand played in all variations. I am sure if Charles Ives had heard them play, he would have featured them as soloists in one of this concerts. You know Charles Ives. He was the bloke that developed a programme of experimental music, with musical techniques including polytonality, polyrhythm, tone clusters, aleatoric elements, and quarter tones. OK I got that from Wikipedia, and I am sure that Mum and Aunt Lil did not realise how advanced their musical talents were.

The main thing was that we had a few good parties around the piano and everyone joined in singing the old songs. Their musical gifts were even requested by all. The piano survived many years, in spite of the many glasses filled with beer that had stood on its top, and the many glasses of beer that had been emptied into the piano.

One day it was decided that I could take piano lessons. In the meanwhile I had learnt the recorder at school, but it seems that the tones of this instrument were not so pleasant to the ear and probably it was planned that one day I also would accompany the sing song around the family parties. It was a special offer at school,  class group piano lessons for free, so I had my first experience of reading music notes. This must have been successful as I progressed to private piano lessons, at a special price, and even played a few Chopin etudes and walzes, coupled with Beethovens Moonlight.

There was one small problem. We still had the same piano (it must have been at least fifty years old) and the strings were not so solid as they were. Imagine hammering away at a professional rendering of a Debussy prelude and suddenly there was an explosion inside the piano. Mum came running to see what had happened, but no problem, one of the metal strings had given up. Over the years three strings broke in this way and there were certain notes that I could no longer play so well, as they were just an echo of their original quality.

I am today still convinced that if I had a new piano, my talents would have qualified to win the International Chopin Piano Competition. I was sure that what Vladimir Ashkenazy could do I could do even better, but he probably had a better piano at home.

Today I leave the playing in a band to Mr. Swiss. Since we have been together, and that is many years, he has played drums in various jazz groups as a hobby.

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1 comment:

  1. I played bass guitar in a couple of bands as a teenager. Neither were very long-lived (to quote that musical cliche......artistic differences). I then moved on to keyboards (by this I mean electronic synthesisers, not piano). I decided I wasn't meant to be in a group and spent many years composing electronic music in a similar style to the great German electro-band Tangerine Dream and French superstar Jean-Michel Jarre. I gave all that up quite a few years ago, though. I used to have quite a sophisticated home-recording studio, including a large collection of keyboards, drum-machines and sequencers and an 8-track recorder and mixer......all that remains now is one synthesiser that is quite rare, I'm told. Maybe I'll sell it for a small fortune one day.