A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler

Sitting under the piano…

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Nikolai under the piano. Photo Christian Steiner.
Nikolai under the piano. Photo Christian Steiner.

It is a dark object that keeps its softness, a ponderous roof, and a gentle.  When you sit under the piano, you must be small. From there the world is a theatre.  You watch unobserved, the darkness is a cushion, the piano is a mother.  Can you remember being held in its arms and looking out ? Music comes out of it. The music is always played by your mother.  Its sounds are too complex to offer a play opportunity to a child.  No questions are asked about where the music comes from.  All you can see of your mama is her feet on the pedals, and any kid knows that they don’t make any music.  So where does it come from?  Well, first of all, you have to think of where you’re listening to it.  It’s the best place of all, secret, protected, your ear is practically in the sound, the music familiar.  Most mamas play the same songs over and over again.  Isn’t this connected on the deepest level to how we all hear music who love it?

Music, if it must be gendered, is female.  Even at its most profound and extreme, it must needs have a lyricism.  The Rite of Spring has lyricism.  The first movement of the Beethoven 9th has lyricism.  Don Giovanni’s descent into chaos has a terrible lyricism, Tosca looking at the knife, a heartbreaking lyricism.  Music is forgiving.  It accepts you.  It doesn’t judge.  It’s hard to think of many pieces of music which are not warm in some way.  Right now I can’t think of a single one.  The content may be severe, the method is warm.  Auden said, ‘O ear whose creatures cannot wish to fall’.  The old, heavy piano is an Eden.  It encloses you.  Its darkness is a lightness.  Its monumental corporality is a lightness.  It may look like a strong and masculine fellow, but down beneath it is the mother.  Its safety is unconditional.  It gives life.

I have a room in my house which has a piano.  My wife learned to play on this very piano.  When I go in there I always feel better.

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