Friday, July 28, 2006

Power to the people

I've just finished the book, "Piano Lessons: Music, Love & True Adventures" by Noah Adams, who I guess used to host NPR's All Things Considered, or maybe still does. It was a quick and entertaining read for the most part. At 51, Adams decides he must buy an $11,000 Steinway, even though he hasn't had lessons for decades and does not know how to play. Directly after his piano arrives, he shells out $300 more for a piano lesson course on his old Mac (this is from 1996, so I'm guessing ... System 7.5 or so? 8, maybe?), along with what I can only imagine is an incredibly cheap little electric keyboard. The program teaches as he plunks along on the little keys, telling him if his rhythm is right or if he's off on all the notes. He goes through this program for a while, then pays for another learn-by-ear program, and then goes through a week of intensive piano camp, which ends in a performance for other campers. This all leads up to him playing Schumann's "Traumerie" for his wife as a Christmas present.

I'd read some criticisms of the book on amazon.com when I went to order it (for one cent! Odd). Readers in the music community were insulted by the way he went about playing, intimating that he cheated in some way. They criticized his lack of discipline
and hints of elitism.

And, after having read the book, I have to agree to a certain extent. While he approaches learning the piano with a certain degree of self-deprecation, there's no true humility. Maybe it's because his job allows him to, instead of simply admiring the great players of our time, just go out and interview them. It sort of puts him on their level, if not through music, then through conversation. Maybe people are resentful of first reading that a person blows, seemingly unthinkingly, $11,000 on a piano, and later more on a handcrafted boat for his wife. I mean, should he feel bad for working hard and making money? No. But I just don't smell even a whiff of gratitude.

I don't know who this book is written for. Like I said, it was entertaining to me, but I also recently bought a piano and started playing. That's why my boyfriend recommended this book to me in the first place. So let's say there are those people each year who buy a piano, cold, in their adulthood. We can all read it and enjoy parts of it.

But then who else is there? Is it for the people who can afford all of that? A month every year in Maine; Washington, D.C., digs that allow for a piano?

One thing I've always hated about chess is that people think it's only for the elite -- be it the intellectually elite, the good players, or maybe the people who grew up with a "library" in their house. That's why I like to play on a $2 K-mart plastic set. Also, I have a handmade Chinese chess board with glow-in-the-dark plastic pieces. It's a game for the masses.

And music is for the masses. But America is what it is, and some have more, and some have a lot more. Maybe a younger version of myself would read THIS blog and just want to vomit. Why do I need a little keyboard for roadtrips? Who the hell do I think I am?

Does anyone else face these questions? Let me know if you come up with any answers.

1 comment:

nrrdgrrl said...

Oy, is this ever self-righteous.