F or those of you who don’t play instruments, for those who abandoned lessons while they could, let me introduce you to a foreign place where music is the remedy for the struggles you possess.
Fifteen years. That’s how many years I’ve spent seated on that stiff black bench behind a Steinway. Fifteen years of struggle and frustration, then improvement. Fifteen years of letting my fingers crawl their way up and down the black and white keys, over and over, scales, trills, Chopin, Bach. When I play, I’m in this world where music is tangible, a trance, where my eyes can be shut and I gage the tempo: how is the piano feeling today? Where do I get louder, and softer; I sense the dynamics, make them up as I go, and listen to the perfect hum of a solitary piano saturating my ears.
I often play the piano as a form of self-meditation, a way to work out each of my problems as I sort through the patterns of notes, finger sequences; it helps voice, syllable by syllable, note by note, a delicate coming to terms with an overwhelming concentration of loneliness growing more and more potent as time crawls by. And so the piano is there for me, like an oxygen mask, and I press the keys, pumping the oxygen, my breath, over and over, again and again; it doesn’t matter if I make a mistake, just as long as I keep going. Within no time, I’m moving my hands furiously up and down the piano, a storm of music raining down and flooding the house, thundering against the sagging firmament above. I play my hands numb, until they can’t play anymore, exhausted, until every last sorrow lay buried beneath the piles of sheet music in my memory; I call it my own form of self-expression, through the fleeting motions of hands over keys.
And so I’ve been led to believe that hands are a way of expressing emotions. It can be a gesture, one hand slipping into another’s, a high five or thumbs up. It can be the pen in your hand, writing an essay, stories, legal documents, a love letter, poetry. And just as poetry serves as an indirect way to express emotions, music is a reflection of how you’re feeling that day when you play, what emotions are leaking out from you and into the instrument, a hint at something so much larger, more powerful, deeper than just notes on a page.
Thus music becomes a means of conveying the pieces within us, our souls, experience, knowledge, to the world. And through our hands that create this music, we communicate who we are to whoever will listen. Hands bring stories, experience, to the eyes, ears, lips of others, whether it be through writing or music or the holding of hands, as if sending messages to the world that each one of us is just looking for some type of beauty, of love, in each of our lives.
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