When I was a bored pre-teen, I used to sit at the family piano and hit keys on it, trying to figure out how they worked. I knew music somehow came out of it, but music itself eluded me. I was too caught-up in why music was music. WHY WERE THERE BLACK KEYS AND WHITE KEYS? WHY IS MIDDLE C NOT RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE? SHOULDN’T IT BE THE KEY EXACTLY IN THE MIDDLE? And so on. Not finding any joy in being forced to play the piano for the sake of playing someone else’s music, I never followed up on it. I did have two years of band in junior high school, when I played the flute very badly. And also from the 4th through 8th grade, I used to play the harmonica, working out how to play hymns because that seemed to be the only music that would play on a C Major harmonica. It drove me nuts when I discovered that there were other kinds of harmonicas, including ones with the ability to transpose with a little button. Eventually, I discovered computer graphics and was distracted by the wonders of code for the next 30-some years.
I’m 43 now, and it occurs to me that maybe now I’m capable of finding my own answers. I’ve done research here and there, as I’ve learned about digital audio and waveform synthesis. I’ve also gained an appreciation of music as a kind of arrangement of elements, and therefore composition is hugely interesting to me. It always struck me that there was some kind of emotional logic behind notes, scales, and their maddeningly illogical arrangement on the keyboard. I’ve talked to musicians and have been listening to jam sessions, courtesy of the awesome people at our local music temple Studio 99. I’ve sat through hours of piano practice with my pianist friend Angela, striving to listen for what she was listening for. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it may be worth starting again from age six, but this time paying attention to my questions so I can answer them in my own way.
With that, I’ve dragged out an old Kurzweil SP88 Electric Piano, 88 keys of weighted action, and have plugged it into the stereo to answer some of those old questions.