A high note on the grand piano. Dies away. From far away. From out of space. Or the sea. Like a depth sounder. Silence. Then again: “Ping!” And silence … Ping!”… Once, twice, three times … A right hand plays quiet triplets of B notes, interspersed with pauses. Now a descending movement, the quartes in F#, then the sevenths in C#. Silence. “Ping!”
Step by step, a world is created. A world of sound. A sound narrative. Is it born of the desire to express inner processes or to describe external processes? Or does the musician reflect his inner thoughts, inspired by the external world? Is the musical work that we hear, a kind of depth sounder, a way of determining one’s own coordinates in the world?
I am describing the beginning of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” because I cannot think of a more apt (sound) picture of how I, at the age of just four, discovered the piano visiting friends of my parents. A discovery that opened up the world of music for me.
I was fascinated by the grand piano, this enormous monster, which reminded me of a whale or an elephant. Lifting the heavy lid, gliding my finger gently and carefully over the keys before finally pressing one and playing the first note of my life – and savouring the sound. Playing it again and again, as though struck by thunder, because it fascinated me so much! I had found something. Something magical, something wonderful. I was alone in the room. Just the piano and me. And the whole world was suddenly there. I felt complete. Completely happy. Silence. Tones. Space. Vibration. Fantasy. Expression. Self-awareness. Freedom!
I hear, therefore I am.
I play, therefore I am.
Carl Orff phrased it this way: “Elementary music is close to the earth, like a child … elementary music, word and movement, play – everything that awakens and develops the spiritual powers creates the rich earth of the soul without which we would be confronted by spiritual desertification. When does desertification occur in nature? When a landscape is unilaterally exploited, when the natural water cycle is disrupted by over-cultivation, when forests and brush fall victim to utilitarian attitudes, when the natural balance is lost due to single-minded intervention. Likewise, we are confronted by a desertification of the soul when mankind loses touch with the elemental and loses his balance.”
(Carl Orff, “Gespräche mit Komponisten”)
My parents fulfilled my dream: I got my own piano! It was in my bedroom beside my bed and was the center of my collection of favorite toys. I could do everything with my piano: I could tell stories about the things I had seen. What I loved and what I didn’t like. What I was afraid of and what I wanted to be.
I felt like a small but free person in a world full of rules and regulations. I didn’t have to justify anything or explain anything. It was NON-CONDITIONAL. Without any external pressure and far removed from overwrought expectations. It was not the results that counted but the experience in itself. Just my piano and me and an endless sea of possibility.
Today I believe that everybody carries the same wish from birth, yet is totally unaware of it: to be loved and protected and to grow up as he is and not as he should be.