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Playing the Piano by Albert Edelfelt

Believe it or not, but as children my brother and I were forced to learn music. Part of it was my parents’ insistence and part of it was mandated through the school. If you think your music lessons were difficult, imagine not being able to hear it. Thus said, there are many musicians who are hard of hearing and/or deaf (Hello Mozart, Beethoven, and Robert Franz!). So it goes with anything, if you have a passion for something “handicap” is irrelevant.

Both my brother, Mr. D, and I learned the recorder (Gawd, do you remember those days?!). My brother also took up cello and saxophone at various times in school. I took piano, because, honestly “any lady of good breeding knows how to play the pianoforte.” While I felt hoity-toity as a young child sitting upon the piano bench, my playing skills were rather dismal. Mother was convinced we must learn because of the correlation between music and superior academics. Secretly, she hoped the little music from Father’s genes would pass down to us, as my mother was the least musical of everyone in her family (though she thoroughly enjoys it!) Needless to say Mr. D and I were rather frustrated children and we honed our talents in more visual aspects, much to Mother’s dismay. He has a natural gift for sketching and I, for writing (Obviously. With glaring misspellings throughout.) We soon impressed her with said talents and she let music fall by the way side.

For a while I could read music passably. Although, I could never look at sheet music and “hear it in my head.” I could read it by saying “This is an E and this is G, etc.” In order to play I just memorized where my fingers had to go. This does not ensure a pleasing piece since some notes need to be drawn out. If the little ditty I was learning had lyrics, this would be more helpful as my piano teacher or Father could sing it to me and I could read their lips and recall their drawn out notes. Father liked to tap his finger in the air or on my shoulder to add a layer of touch memory to the song.

Despite all that effort, or perhaps because of it, our musical careers were short-lived. My parents had mixed feelings as they were relieved from our practicing but now the house was not filled with music, no mater how god-awful it sounded.

It has been over 20 years since I have last played the piano, but I still adore and respect its pretentiousness and its place in the Victorian era home. Upon relocating to Diamondleaf Cottage, My now Fiancé, moved the upright piano from my parents’ residence to my new place. Let me restate this because it is impressive. My Fiancé with Father’s help loaded the piano onto his truck using a dolly. While I was working at the library that day, My Fiancé, proceeds to drive for an hour then unload the instrument of mass destruction by himself off the truck without the dolly and put in the Cottage. Do you realize how much a piano weighs?! I am lucky if I can roll it two inches across the carpet without herniating myself! He asked to meet me for lunch at the house as a ruse to surprise me. Indeed, I was surprised! He confessed, “I’ll admit it was little bit heavy. Just a wee bit.” I am marrying a strong man!

But I digress, he sat down to serenade me, only for him to cringe and shudder violently. He turns to me and says my piano needs tuning. A few days before our Victorian Christmas at the Cottage, we had a professional piano tuner come in to assess instrument. Mr. Jim tunes by ear (which apparently is impressive), he is also a concert pianist that has played at the Symphony hall. In other words, he knows his pianos. He played a note and tightly squeezed his eyes shut. He turns to me and says it is atrociously out of tune.

My response when they told me my piano was horribly, horribly out of tune.

“If you say so.” I shrugged. As far as I am concerned, if I tap a key and sound comes out, it works. The notes were so discordant, Mr. Jim had to tune it twice. My Fiancé and Mr. Jim were so relieved when the notes were righted. I told them it sounds the same to me. We talked a bit about perception of sound and music. I confided that the middle to the upper register of the piano gets progressively painful, save for the last key.

“The last key?” My Fiancé cocks his head to the side.

“It always sounds like it is broken.”

“Broken?” Mr. Jim asks.

“Yeah, it sounds like someone just dropped a piece of china on tile and it broke in two.” (If you have a piano, you should play this note and tell me this is true!)

Days later My Fiancé stopped by the Cottage after his night shift, when I was asleep, and went through a whole jazz number. I did not even stir. So much for extrasensory enhancement. My sense of touch and light is heighten, people comment on it, claiming it stems from other senses compensating for my shriveled hearing. Biology’s way of survival. . .  I so would have died that night. Not comforting.

–So now my piano is fixed (apparently). I beseeched My Fiancé to reteach me to play. He consented. I want to be a good Victorian and learn at least one Christmas carol, one hymn, and if he can teach me a bit of Mozart before our honeymoon, all the better! It will be a chore, no doubt, but I shall try to punch the keys in correct order and perhaps after time I will graduate to “tickling the ivories” and using the foot peddles (which again, seam pointless to me as a deaf person. They are foot rests, I say!)