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Tuesday, September 03, 2002

More Reality, Less Virtual

This weekend Seattle’s answer to Woodstock, called Bumpershoot, was held across the street from where I live next to the Seattle Center. A modest $12 admission price allowed you access to wander around the multi-acre Seattle Center complex and listen to scores of rock bands and a few assorted jazz acts. It is horrifically crowded and the only refuge from the masses can be found inside of one of the many beer gardens. On a nice day there are far worse ways you could spend your time.

I had planned to attend at least one day just to say that I actually did something over the weekend but my lack of interest in rock and my laziness conspired to keep me out. Rock is sort of like tequila: You reach a certain age and you just can’t stomach it any longer.

Instead of attending the rock festival I impersonated a shut-in. I decided to spend a few minutes cleaning my apartment and chose for musical accompaniment a CD that came with a book of sheet music of Chopin’s easier pieces for piano. I already play a couple songs from this collection of mostly dances: Waltzes, Polonaises, and mazurkas.

I have struggled with the notion of hiring someone to do housework for me. I have considered hiring a maid for quite some time. I certainly could afford to have a cleaning person and there are lots of people who need the money and are perfectly willing to do this sort of work for $25-30 and hour. My time could be better spent practicing the piano or working. Maybe my logic is flawed on this issue but I have decided that everyone should clean their own fucking toilet and wash their own dishes (unless you have kids in which case you should make those ungrateful little shits do the dirty work around the house). This tie to our mundane lives tends to keep things in perspective. Maybe you are a big, famous rock star but you are still a filthy little animal like the rest of us so clean up your own mess. A servant class doesn't sit well with my idea of democracy.

After finishing the cleaning, after listening repeatedly to the Chopin CD, I am still no closer to motivating myself to walk across the street to Woodstock. Instead I pull out the Chopin sheet music and start pecking away at his Mazurka in A minor Op. 67, No. 4. As I learn a new piece it is as if I can’t hear what it is I am playing, at least at first. The notes are too far apart to tie them together as music but as I learn the piece it gradually comes into focus. A simple piece like this will take me a few days of practice before it sounds anything like what Chopin had intended.

I love to listen to someone practice an instrument, especially if they don’t realize anyone is listening. It is like you are watching someone think. I find that since taking up the piano five years ago I spend only a fraction of the time actually listening to music that I did before I played. These days, most of my listening consists of these sorts of house-cleaning exploratory ventures into piano literature, as I seek things that I like that are also suitable to my skill level. In music, and cleaning, there is a certain satisfaction in doing things yourself.

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