difficult things

oooh irony. though it is amusing and life-saving at times (humour- wasnt the one of the very few things that separates us from real simians?) i say it could be somewhat inconvenient at times, like this morning, which was NOT serene by any means really. initially i was going to write about the difficulty of life: emotions. the way one feels and interacts with the world. opening up to people and communicating, sharing, being at a distance, emotionally confused or torn, that heavy stuff. but the world does not want me to think about my self-absorbed emotional sphere. instead, im hit on the head with somewhat more objective, practical humour. damned slapstick humour.

i remember talking numerous times about the 'difficulty' of playing a musical instrument. piano, having 88 keys and having one of the most complex looking scores (beside ensemble and may be organ scores) is often considered a challenge (especially if one is teaching the required 'keyboard skills' course, where all are 'taught' to obtain basic piano skills such as scales, chords, playing simple accompaniments, etc). i think actually it's not so bad, compare to things like the piccolo (fundamental and overtones, i understand them but not exactly sure if i would be able to do it. and the fact that it immediately goes out of tune as you play the first note doesnt help the cause), or any wind instruments with many keys (see, the layout of the keys AND the fundamental/overtones really jams my brain). strings are a bit better, as i can literally see where things are. i think for me, the difficult part is to trying to 'see' where the 'pitches' are. with keyboards, it's all laid out. what you see is what you play means usually what you get unless it's out of tune. then as a pianist, you cop out and call the technician. even for harpsichord, ive been acting dumb for ages so i wont have to tune my own. ahaha... but on my defense, if you one is not familiar with the given instrument, the last thing one wants to do is trying to twick it. remember: you break, you buy?

playing different things with changing partners, various locations under often sketchy circumstances (the exact reason why working at the banff centre was one of the most prized experience: high musical standard, familiar piano, great technicians and super-human admin staff, studio access etc), there has been times when i wonder in middle of performance: really?


but at this point, i think i can handle most of things, whether it be string breaking, lost instrumentalist: 'where are you? recapitulation or did you go back to the exposition?' or 'hmm i never heard you do THIS cadenza... come back home to initial tonality baby! if you step on cycle of fifth, you will somehow come back...!' and many more, including in-midst-performance nose bleed, broken nails on the first mvt of rachmaninoff piano concerto 2, where you think: hmm it's only the first movement... do i wipe the keys or..? or the times you JUST reorganized your music and you are missing... which page, you arent even sure (frequent with rushed contemporary music things, as often the pages are being printed as you and the composer dashes to the stage). of your singer all the sudden completely lost in text, but valiantly carrying on with random words (this is quite funny) and you trying to follow the new phrasing on the piano while wondering: hmm. we are on verse 2- are we stopping to cadence or are you going to try verse 3 and hope to come back?

you think it's funny. or you may think it's quite shocking. i think some things are hilarious enough and because most of the time the audience has no idea what's been going on, this particular topic may have to be expanded to a separate piece: what really happened on the stage. hahaha.

anyways. so i can understand someone asking: playing the piano the way you do it is hard? yes it is. especially if you happen to be me, whose aim usually lies in a very simple principle of: minimum work for maximum results. though i am really trying to fix this laziness. but generally, playing is okay. it's not ground-shattering difficult in general. if i have to play chopin cello sonata tomorrow, i may think differently though.

this morning, however, was difficult. it was mad. today being a saturday, i am wearing various hats: house manager and audition accompanist. the second job is easy to understand. the first job is more like being a live-door-knob. you come, open doors, get the rooms ready for whatever is required- in this morning's case, set up 90 chairs and 40 stands. so automatically one thinks: okay, easy then difficult job. you may even have a serene morning, monkey!

ah. not so. sigh.

i was here at 840am. setting up chairs shouldnt take 20 min. and the room looks like it was booked 9-12, including setup/strike time. so i thought, great, plenty of time. then came the pandemonium. the kids arrived early with their clunky cases of brass instruments. everywhere. highschoolers. they are big, awkward and being in a strange place, they are loud and not-paying attention. they all come and fill the hallway. and my keys arent working.

let me repeat:

look, the job is simple. but it is impossible when i cant do it: open door, monkey (very easy), open door with the wrong keys, monkey (impossible). so in conjunction, im calling PO at home, almost half yelling because i am frustrated, running across to another room to get help, stands, bass drum, etc etc. thank the lord, these were american kids from small place in michigan: that usually means that they are really nice. americans as individuals are really nice people, i can really vouch for it as i lived in the midwest for five years. there couldve been more difficult stereotypes, for sure (which i am not going to elaborate further...) so after a half hour of madness, they are ready to sit and honk down band tunes. phew.

i had a full workout. i was sweating, not just from worrying, but from physically moving things and running around like a maniac. now that was HARD.

in 1.5hrs, i am back on the piano bench, playing beethoven, faure and the likes, big things. grown up real music. and im laughing. as it'll be easy. relativity of the universe is a very funny thing. ooh irony, where would i be without you. probably being completely sane and boring, even sensible i suppose! i could really do with a warm bed and a cookbook or something, but nah, seriously, playing the piano will be just fine. it will be a piece of cake. until i realize i brought the wrong scores or something. better not jinx it though.

(silence for 2 seconds)
(check bag madly)


  1. i think the kid who did the picture got the name wrong. that's charizard, i'm sure. not a bad drawing though. I hope the kid goes on to be a house manager or something, a tough job requiring fitness and patience. and for you - from shifting stands to faure: what a day!

  2. ah i misread his writing. it looked like caharizola. the kid is right about the pokemon. if he improves the handwriting, he may go far, and i shall try to improve my handreading.