Thursday, October 12, 2006

Random Harmonies

Piano hammers
from Piano, Wikipedia

In the evenings after I was in bed my mother would sometimes play the piano. My bedroom was directly overhead so I was a captive audience.

But it isn't the memory of a careful and hesitant Chopin nocturne that lingers. I used to lie there and wait for the chords, the arpeggios and the random harmonies.

I waited for her to start improvising. That's where the magic was.

It was her way of unwinding. Very different from the timidity with which she approached the set pieces, her unstructured playing was relaxed and infused with pleasure. The notes seemed to float upwards through the ceiling and and waft around the bed. I have a dreamlike memory of lying on my side in my nightdress under the covers, probably aged eight or nine, cheek on the pillow and knees drawn up to my chest. Enthralled. Willing her to go on. Praying that she wouldn't stop.

She never gave herself permission to do this for too long. Sooner or later she would strike three or four loud, random, dissonant chords - her way of breaking the spell - and these were followed by the inevitable echoing slam of the piano lid.

The television would be switched on and I could hear it, muffled and indistinct, as I fell asleep.


On the train recently a young man in my carriage took out his guitar and started to strum, singing softly under his breath. Just chords and fragments of tunes, with an occasional pause to tune a string.

The music felt like a caress.


Blogger herhimnbryn said...

Are they 'random'? Don't they all interlink in your life? Weaving through your thoughts.
You weave magic with your words M.

10:35 am  
Blogger Pauline said...

Curled up, listening with you. What a wonderful post!

12:36 pm  
Blogger Dave said...

It is always wonderful to part of the creative moments. Ours and the creatviity of others. Instinctively we know when we have entered into that zone and how bliss feels.

4:09 pm  
Blogger Jean said...

I loved reading this. It reminded me of long-ago, half-forgotten, still moving experiences of lying in bed listening, to talk, music, many things. And went on to make a deep philosophical point that resonates deeply for me. Wonderful. Thank you.

5:41 pm  
Blogger MB said...

Oh, you yourself wove a spell with this one, Mary. Thank you. What a wonderful memory to have. Brought back one of my own.

6:41 pm  
Blogger rdl said...

love this! probably because I do this sometimes too. :D

7:12 pm  
Anonymous pohanginapete said...


8:27 pm  
Anonymous Becca said...

When I was a very young child, my mother also played Chopin nocturnes at night while I fell asleep! amazing! I loved it and also prayed she would not stop though she often did. It's a wonderful memory

3:30 am  
Blogger Mary said...

Thanks everyone. It would have been my mother's birthday yesterday, so it seemed a fitting time to write this.

6:21 am  
Blogger Sky said...

wonderful post, mary. what a nice way to celebrate your mother - remembering the special way she touched you as you were drifting into sleep.

7:05 pm  
Blogger Tarakuanyin said...

My mother's birthday was on the fifth. I have been trying to think of what to write for her, and have been having a hard time. This was a lovely tribute, Mary. I felt the magic with you.

11:56 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

Sky, thank you ....

Tarakuanyin: Thanks so much for your comment. These anniversaries of people who are no longer around physically are poignant, such a mixture of emotions ...

6:07 am  
Blogger butuki said...

When I was a boy, when waking on Sunday mornings, it was the smell of baking bread and the sound of my mother humming to herself in the kitchen downstairs that brings back similar memories. I would run downstairs, steal a potato pancake, and lose myself in the tall grass of the garden to hunt for insects while breakfast was being made. Seems to heartachingly long ago now.

11:23 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

Butuki: there's something about the involvement of the senses (music, the smell of cooking) in these memories that renders them so powerful I think. And I guess you wrote this comment on Sunday morning. Thank you.

It's really to good to see you here.

6:25 pm  
Blogger leslee said...

This is lovely. Besides the music, there's that sense as a child of being secretly privy to the mysterious private life this adult person who is our parent. Also nice that the young guitarist felt comfortable to be caught up in playing his own music, unwary of the public around him.

11:21 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

Leslee: Thank you. Part of the magic of the whole experience was indeed that sense of being a witness to a very private moment. I'm really pleased you picked this up.

9:49 pm  
Blogger zhoen said...

Oh, oh, oh. Lullabyes indeed.

I love when D dithers on his guitar.

11:27 pm  

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