Thursday, November 06, 2008

Slouching towards perfection

My first piano lesson in nearly a decade began inauspiciously.
"You're sitting far too close to the piano," the teacher points out immediately, noting that my fingers are touching nearly the tops of the black keys.
"But I can't sit any further back," I whine like a petulant child, at the ready with flimsy excuses.
She ignores my protest and comments instead on the flatness of my fingers."You need to curve your fingers," she suggests.
"But Glenn Gould always --"
I get The Look, a well-honed disciplinary tool perfected by the great majority of piano teachers. It is one of the Essentials at Piano Teacher School. Trying to invoke the name of Glenn Gould to defend one's atrocious posture at the keyboard is nothing less than presumptuous. Hunched over in a very low chair built by his father, Glenn Gould's nose appeared to hover over the keys. It seems that he completely disregarded the rules of piano posture and very likely caused unnecessary strain and pain to his neck and back. Whether the insistence on sitting to play as if you were Mister Magoo was borne of superstition or mere habit doesn't really matter. I get a perverse pleasure out of knowing that he got away with it. Rule-breaking in piano playing is highly satisfying as Glenn must have found out again and again. His many ground-breaking and unconventional interpretations of old chestnuts are proof positive.
Meanwhile, I adjust the distance between bench and piano, hold my fingers as if clutching a tiny ball and try not to curse or apologize out loud every time I hit a wrong note (see previous blog). Glenn, I don't pretend to be in your company but I'm with you. If you can't sit up straight, slouch proudly.

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