Gifts & remembrances

As I was practicing for next week’s house concert with Louis Landon yesterday, I took a moment to just rest my hands on the keys. And they wanted to rest in a particular place — on an E major chord in the 2nd inversion, to be specific. 

(I’m not really sure why, but I don’t play in E major that often. My only 2 pieces in E — other than Tease in Verbs, of course, when I had to compose something in each of the 24 keys — are on my Christmas CD, The Rebirth of Light.) **

So there I was, hands resting on this 2nd inversion chord in E major, and I played the notes. As an arpeggio. Then I played some next notes, and some next next notes; and then I had just the most lovely improvised music, one of those angelic gifts that simply is perfect and beautiful on first playing.

Then I sat for a moment at the piano, soaking in the sweetness and peace left by the angelic gift.

And I played it again. Pretty much. I think.

For me, the second playing of an angelic gift improvisation is always … interesting, unsettled, curious, odd. Like the river being always different, angelic gift improvisations belong to the moment of their creation; we may cling to those moments but we do not get to keep them. Grasping only pushes the sweetness further away. Every moment that passes puts us at a further remove from that one transcendent moment. So the second playing must be a kind of remembrance of perfection, a delicate return, a gentle coaxing of the music. But I personally cannot tiptoe through it, or it eludes me and then is gone forever.

So, I played it again, pretty much, I think. And that I could remember, so I played that many many more times. (As I think about it now, I’d say: the first improvisation is a this, and all playings afterward are a that, until I am secure with the new music and can create a new this each time I play it. That’s what we do as musicians, right? Create a new this with every playing.)

It even arrived with its title: A Warm Autumn Sun, It Was. I’ll be creating a new this with it next week at the house concert. I hope you can come hear it!

… and then …

Another gift arrived this morning, a result of yesterday’s gift. I was about to practice piano and I had A Warm Autumn Sun, It Was going through my mind, when the phone rang and I answered. A friend needed support and encouragement and I spent the better part of half an hour with her. During that time music still played in my head, and without particularly attending to it I believed it was still my new piece.

When I finally approached the piano, I knew before I even sat down that it wasn’t the new music at all. I thought what I was hearing in my mind was the opening of Through the Gossamer Doorway; a different arpeggio, but still an arpeggio. I played correctly what I was hearing and discovered that it wasnt’t the opening of Gossamer Doorway at all. Instead, it’s the opening of a piece I have never recorded and rarely play; which I’ve been trying to remember for the past 3 months. I remembered its title (The Mountain, the Tower, the Forest, the Silence). I remembered it started low on the piano and had some cool chords in it. Until this morning, that was all I remembered.

Now I can play the very opening of Mountain-Tower-Forest-Silence; and I have an idea of how that opening develops; and I remember a bit of the final section. All of this is music I thought was completely lost to me. (I notated the opening immediately, by the way, so that will never be lost again! I do exhibit learning behavior, after all.) If past experience with remembering forgotten music holds, I’ll be able to play it all within the week.

All because of yesterday’s angelic gift improvisation. I have so much to be grateful for.


** Correction: one is on The Rebirth of Light & the other is on A Handfull of Quietness — but it is an arrangement of a liturgical song, so maybe that’s why I think of it as being on the Christmas CD. ~ Kathleen 12/7/16

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