#DailyWings: “Music is the strongest form of magic.” -Marilyn Manson
Blogging From A to Z is an annual month-long challenge in which bloggers around the world are invited to write a blog post every week day for the month of April, with each day corresponding to a letter in the alphabet (26 week days = 26 letters). For this year’s A to Z challenge, my theme is personal anecdotes, or “childhood memories.”
Alouette, gentille alouette, Alouette, je te plumerai.
On the first page of Alfred’s Basic Piano Library, a colorful illustration of a bird with large, cartoonish eyes wearing a black beret and striped shirt smiles dreamily, its mouth open as if to sing.
“Alouette” was one of the first songs I learned how to play on the piano. I started piano lessons at seven years old per the will of my mother, who had my sister Hope playing the violin at an even younger age. My parents bought me a piano and we set it up in the living room, between our squishy green couch and a floor lamp. I want to say it was a Yamaha – the piano, I mean – but my memories aren’t perfect.
Every day after school, I would come home to my family’s tiny apartment in Boston, and play piano for an hour. Once a week, my piano teacher — a splinding Chinese woman in her mid-30s — would come over in her signature green sweater, sit on my left side and work through basic scales, chords and songs with me. Sometimes my mother sat with us.
As a beginner, I started by learning simple songs like “Alouette,” “Clair de Lune,” “Kumbaya” and “Swan Lake.” My piano skills grew along with my height, and sooner or later my tiny feet reached the gold pedals. Eventually, I moved on to more difficult pieces and my portfolio expanded to include sonatas, preludes and whimsical nocturnes. But my favorite song to play will always be “Für Elise.”
With its three wildly different movements, “Für Elise” is passionate and emotional – just like me, I felt. One of my piano teachers used to compare the song to a tea party, but to me, the song symbolized a person’s entire lifetime. The first and most recognizable movement starts out being naiveté and romantic, a birth. Not long after, the song bursts with jubilation like a child skipping in the rain, as if to celebrate freedom and the prospect of seemingly endless possibilities. Suddenly, a storm rolls in and the fiery notes of bass clef take over. You feel rebellious, wild. Finally, the song ends with the first, most recognizable movement once again, representing the beautiful, onerous process of self-acceptance. Every movement is like a jolt of shock to your spine, surprising you when you least expect it.
To this day, “Für Elise” is probably the only piano song that I can play from memory. I haven’t tested that theory in at least two years, though.
When my family moved to North Carolina in late 2000, we gave my little piano away to a young girl in a different neighborhood who couldn’t afford her own. I still have Alfred’s Basic Piano Library, the piano book for beginners from which I played “Alouette,” but the front and back covers have fallen off. It’s buried in a white cabinet along with all the other piano books from my childhood. I think about the condition of my piano when we gave it away: Unlike the sleekness of the brand-new Wurlitzer my parents bought for me soon after, there were scratches all over the surface and the keys had cracks in them.
I hope the young girl didn’t mind the cracks and scratches. I like to think that she loved them, and all the notes emitted from the keys. My dad told me that playing piano was one of her dreams. I like to think her dream came true, because we gave her the piano. I wonder where it is now.
Did you ever play instruments when you were younger? Do you still play today?