Andrew Larow | The Piano

The piano is beautiful. Its shiny black case reflects the dimmest of lights. I can remember on one occasion, just as I was about to go up the stairs, a slight glimmer caught my eye. It was the piano reflecting the moonlight. I could even see its eighty-eight keys of black and white sitting perfectly side by side. The gold pedals underneath the piano seemed to give off light of their own, shining in the darkness that hovered over the floor.

The piano is considered to be “The King of Instruments.” It is the second biggest instrument (behind the organ), but there are other reasons why the piano deserves this appellation. It has the ability to reach the high pitch of the piccolo and the low pitch of the double bassoon. It can produce both melody and accompaniment at the same time. The piano is also known as the pianoforte. Pianoforte is an Italian word consisting of the words piano, which means soft, and forte, which means loud. This is because the piano can create soft and loud tones, unlike its ancestor the harpsichord, which had no such ability.

When I had my first opportunity to play a real piano (not an electric or an upright), my mind was racing with ideas as to what inside the piano could make such a beautiful noise. How did the pressing of a key produce such a heavenly tone? I was young, about six years of age, so I held it plausible that an angel or some other angelic being was hidden inside. I even expected a living, beating heart to be housed underneath the lid. I held my breath as I took away the lid and looked inside. I was not astonished at the sight. I saw something like a harp laid down on its side, as if an angel had stored it there. I had been right; an angel did live in the piano. It was just not inside at the moment. I quickly played a note, and to my amazement a tone was produced. What had made the tone? The piano became magical to me, so I continued to stare. After a few moments of staring, however, I felt as though I was doing something wrong. It was as if I was simplifying the beauty and the mysteriousness of the piano. The more I looked inside the more I saw machinery and human craftwork. I spotted some writing on the golden frame of the harp-like inside. It was the name Hamilton. “What an ugly name for an angel” I thought. The more I pondered this, the more terrestrial the piano became to me, and finally it touched down on the ground, never again to shoot off into the sky.

After this experience, playing the piano became a chore. I lost the enjoyment that playing the piano had brought me, and I decided to quit taking lessons. Of course I had no say in the matter, and I continued to take lessons at the command of my mother. She never made me practice, only take lessons. Every Wednesday I would sit down at my instructor’s piano and would not have a single second of practice under my belt. I made up excuses and suffered through embarrassment. This was what my first eight years of piano playing were like. Something happened, though, in that eighth year, something that changed my musical experience completely.

I was asked to play Ave Maria at my aunt’s wedding. I was twelve at the time and the thought of playing in front of three hundred people petrified me. I was totally against it, but I had to obey my mother, and of course she made me accept. I actually started practicing at home; it made me dislike playing piano even more. Each day I practice for half an hour until Ave Maria was solidified in my memory and I could play it without error. So when the day arrived, I was prepared. When I walked into the church, my eyes fell upon the piano. To me, its beauty was greater than all of the trumpery and marble of the church. The wedding ceremony went by quickly, and soon it was my time to perform. I slowly walked up to the piano. My whole body shook with anxiety. I sat down on the bench, stretched my fingers, and began to play. At first it was by concentration, but then my body took over and the music began to flow through my veins. Before I knew it, I had finished the song. I was oblivious to the applause, and when I sat down in my seat, I fell into a pensive trance. The beauty of the music and the overwhelming emotion I had put into the performance was to blame. I remember glancing over at the piano; it looked the same as it did when I first walked into the church. It stood alone at the front of the church while the service came to a close.

Afterwards, many people sought me out and congratulated me on my performance. I was surprised that no one went to the piano to admire it for its beautiful sound. They came to me, the player.

When I went to bed that night, my thoughts were concentrated on the piano. In my mind, I could picture it all alone in the church. It was swallowed up by the dark. As I lay in bed, some moonlight seeped in through my window and fell upon me. In the church, the piano reflected no moonlight.


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