Blues Before Sunrise

16 12 2007

First and foremost, I’d like to thank my good buddies at the Guinness distillery in Dublin for supplying me with the mental lube for this particular blog entry.

With that said…

I am a musician. I am smart enough to be a doctor or a rocket scientist or whatever, but I am a musician. In regard to proficiency, I am a singer. I would normally never spout this, but as Guinness is the All-Seeing Elixer of Truth, my humility will be temporarily tossed aside and I will say that I am a goddamned good singer. I am Janis Joplin cross-bred with Renee Fleming, Robert Plant, Aretha Franklin, and Etta James. And maybe a little Chrisses Cornell and Robinson, just for good measure. I will melt your face off, or sing you to sleep, depending on the moment’s requirement. I will make you cry at your own wedding. I will lure you in with my siren song, just because I can.

But the funny thing is this: I am a pianist at heart. My favorite composer is Chopin, who wrote something like three pieces for voice, all of which basically sucked ass. I feel that instrument like nothing else. I love the percussiveness of fingers against keys against strings which in turn produce such bell-like clarity as to boggle one’s mind. I love grasping at the notes I seek, pulling them to me with something so measured and earned that only the perfect touch will do. I make love to this instrument. I earn its trust. I try to speak its language, to seduce it with dulcit words and the most clever of flourishes from my fingers. I LOVE this instrument. It is a challenge. It is partner to my own desires. It resides in a dimension altogether different from singing. Singers will tell you that true singing is the most sublime mastery of craft, a merging of one’s self with one’s instrument; I, as a singer, will tell you that placing one’s trust and passion in a creature so much greater than one’s own resonated soprano is a fervor like no other. It’s an addiction that heroin might someday revere.

I approached this great beast, this lacquered baby grand with lid closed and dust spattered thereabout, with respect. Out of practice for many a moon, I sought nothing from this encounter other than a reminder, a glimpse of what I’d left behind. Some pianos are female, some male, its gender immediately distinguishable with a little intuition and sensitivity; this one was definitely male. Steinway and Son, his lid proclaimed, as if it needed to be said. As if one couldn’t discern this from a furtive glance. Steinway and Son. Very, very good, but not the best I’ve ever played.

He was warm, cordial, as a glass of wine shared over lunch with a past lover. He was kind, forgiving, patient with my somewhat trepid fingers as they struggled to find Beethoven, stumbled over Chopin. But at last, when my fingers settled on the chords of E Major, he smiled as The Black Crowes came out of me. I breathed that unspeakably deep singer’s breath, and unleashed the smoke of my voice on that slow, blues-fueled progression. Descending, indeed. This was my love. This was the blues. This was what I’d been missing.

I know Puccini. I know Mozart, Bach, Handel, Verdi, and the like. I love them, with all the passion in my brain.

But my heart knows the blues. My soul knows the earth and the rain, and the dirty stench that is the guts of music. My passion lies there.

I’ve forgotten Beethoven.  I’ve forgotten Chopin. I’ve forgotten Bach.  But maybe that’s good, because my fingers have something else to say now. They’ve been chatting with my voice, and they think that maybe, just maybe, I’m ready to say my own piece.

Maybe I’ve filled in all the gaps, and mended the broken fences.

Maybe it’s time for me to take a honeymoon with my dusty piano, and see what we have to say to each other.