*This post is based on the newsletter I sent out today, so apologies to those subscribers who also follow this blog.
I’m excited to share something new!
While I have continued to work on Blood Dawn every weekend now since March, I have also discovered a new part of my gig that I’m having so much fun with, I want to make it a part of what I do.
Here’s a link to a piece I have been practicing, that I finally felt was ready to share:
I began practicing this on the first week of the COVID-19 lockdown, in early March, and recorded that video on June 5th, some 16 weeks later, with lockdown still in effect.
It is from an anime series called Yuri On Ice, called the Free Skate Program. This piece had a lot of meaning for me as I thought about getting through to the other side where we will all be free to resume our lives again. For me personally, though, there was also something very freeing inside as I committed to the practice required to learn it.
I have been playing piano since I was 7. I started with Fur Elise, after copying one of the parents who would come early to daycare. My mom put me in lessons, but I didn’t like them, until when I was 9, a new teacher decided to break the rules and let me learn the Moonlight Sonata on the side. That was when my interest in piano took off. When I was 13, I got into piano quite seriously and took all the grades in our local conservatory, up to the final level. I played my way through all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. I practiced Chopin’s etudes often, as well as most of his other works. I tried Rachmaninov, and though I struggled with his maniacal patterns, one dream in my heart was to someday play his 3rd piano concerto.
Then, when I was 20, when told I wouldn’t be able to make much of a living on piano, I gave it all up to chase academic dreams that left no room for piano lessons.
In the last few years as I went full in on writing, I’ve often wanted to incorporate piano practice. Over the last 17 years since quitting lessons, I’ve tinkered with the piano on and off, but never committed to learning anything for performance.
Free Skate Program from Yuri On Ice was my first official commitment to turn that all around.
At first an experiment, where I tried practicing this piece only for 1 hour a day Monday to Friday, I soon couldn’t get enough of that, so I went up to 1.25 hours. I went up to 1.5 hours a few weeks ago and already want to go up to 2 hours. When I sit at the piano, focused on one piece and the creative problem solving required to perfect it, I feel liberated inside, tapping into something I never knew I loved so much, and I can only get excited about what lies ahead.
I was worried this side quest would mean my writing suffers, but in fact, I’ve found that something about the magic that goes on in my brain when I’m immersed in piano notes transfers to my daily writing sessions. I’ll never be able to measure directly if and how it improves my writing, but I can certainly say I’m sharper than I’ve ever been, and every week am doing the best writing I’ve ever done.
The good thing about piano too is, it’s active. Most of my work involves sitting at a desk reading articles, or sitting in a chair reading a book, or sitting at a desk typing on a computer. Sitting, sitting, sitting.
On piano, I’m sitting on a bench, but I’m moving the whole time. It’s a full-on arm and finger workout (and, perhaps, improves typing skills).
Right now I am learning Chopin’s Etude #23, “Winter Wind”, which is so difficult it might be windy winter by the time I can perform it. But I will learn it, and share when it’s done. I also will do a 2nd recording (without cat toys in the background) of the Free Skate Program, once social distancing is lifted and I can get my piano tuner in.
If you want to follow my piano recording progress, go and subscribe on my YouTube channel after you listen to the video. And please click “like” if you enjoy it:
And share too — the more mileage I see this video get, the better. It will encourage me to practice more so I can make more videos.
I have no idea where this piano side quest will go, or if it will at some point take over my life, though as it has forced me to give up a lot of extraneous work, it’s helped me understand how deeply I want to do what remains: like write Blood Dawn, and Highbrow courses, and the reading and research I spend hours a day on.
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