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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

A Broken Record

I have to start out with a parenthetical clarification. A broken record is a quaint little phrase that carries no meaning for a lot of young people who have never had a record to break. When they think of a broken record it is of the Guinness Book type. I wonder how long ‘a broken record’ will remain in our lexicon as meaning something happening over and over again? When a CD breaks it just makes that super-annoying digital glitchy sound.

Like most people, I find great comfort and refuge in music. I agree with Glenn Gould that music is a completely solitary experience, a one on one thing. I enjoy seeing live performances but I would much rather listen to music alone. This probably has a lot to do with the way that I listen to music.

My own taste in listening would drive anyone else completely insane. Anyone looking at my music collection would think that I am someone who is very adventurous; someone who appreciates all types of music; someone whose musical tastes spans the entire spectrum from country to bebop jazz. The truth is that my music collection is camouflage for the fact that I have only one recording.

Musically speaking I feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining in which he was a writer and had written a single sentence, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” over and over on hundreds of pages. He was full blown crazy in the movie. My condition makes Jack’s compulsive creepiness in The Shining look like a charming little tic.

First let me say that for someone who owns a shit load of music I probably listen to music at home less than anyone I know. I don’t know why but since I started playing piano six years ago I don’t have the same need to listen to music that I once had. Generally, I only listen to music in my home when I a take a shower and get dressed. What I do listen to is the same piece of music over and over and over and over again and then I hit repeat.

They say that the first step in the cure is admitting that you have a problem. I have a problem. My monogamous relationship with this bit of music is like that of male and female Canadian geese that mate for life. This song is always fresh to me. My heart always quickens on the contrapuntal rising bridge that occurs twice in this 3 minute masterpiece. I have marked this very spot on my computer and I will click on to this group of three or four measures.

I have the sheet music for this piece but it is sadly beyond my abilities. I think that I will never possess the necessary skill to add this beautiful song to my repertoire but I thought that about other masterpieces that I now take great pleasure in butchering on my piano. Perhaps only by learning to play this bit of music will I be free of it; free to get compulsive about another song.

I have been trying to spend enough time sitting down at the piano to recapture my repertoire that has escaped from the corral of my abilities. I think that I have lassoed Domenico Scarlatti’s sonata in A Major L. 483, a wonderful little piece that I have heard transcribed for guitar. After all of the strays have been herded up I need to start learning some new pieces. Half of the problem I have with learning piano is finding pieces that I can so thoroughly obsess upon that I don’t mind hearing them over a thousand times. Any suggestions?

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