Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Yesterday I had a long chat with a distinguished Professor of Psychology (a woman) whose specialty is visual attention. I thought we would be talking about my work. We did that to some extent, but what we really talked about what the passion involved with music study.

It turns out that, despite the obligatory twelve years of piano lessons, she cannot read music--never could. This mystifies her to this day. "Isn't it like reading words?"

Well, no it isn't. Tone does not behave like anything else; it has its own intrinsic logic that defies both visual representation and verbal metaphor.

Despite (because of?) all her training and expertise she could not wrap her mind around that possibility. She could, however, express her "agony" (her word) about not being able to play the piano even when, widowed and alone, she decided to give it another try, this time without a nagging mother and competitive siblings to complicate things.

I described to her the secret I have finally discovered after decades of puzzling it out, that the grand staff corresponds to the layout of the hands in both closed and open positions. This she could grasp. "Ah! If you embody it the notation takes on concrete meaning!"

We left it that she should get a piano.
"The best I could do in my limited space is get a keyboard."
"That will never do; a keyboard will never enter your dream life."
"I have no space for a piano."