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Piano Performance

by Sian 

Posted: 30 August 2003
Word Count: 705
Summary: This is an exerpt from the same piece of writing as "Join the Club" believe it or not! The idea is coming together slowly but surely.

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The woman sat alone and prepared to play the piano. Film cameras, lighting, sound engineers, an audience, all were present, and all she knew was the colour and strength of the music and the dampness of her fingers on the ivory. She started to play, and immediately her soul became detached from her body. She looked down at her reflection in the pellucid surface of the black grand piano, yet it was as though she was looking at a totally different person playing.
She knew every note by heart, every tone had its own personality, and she could relate to each and every one of them. The texture of the keys, the shape of the music, it was like conversing with an old friend and somehow it brought her home.
In her trance-like state she became almost beautiful. Her hands moved independently of her body. Her frame was rigid, her face solemn, her torso made of ice. Yet her hands were as warm and yielding as the spring. The enormity and power of the music had possessed her utterly and completely. To watch her play stirred pity and sorrow in the hearts of the hardest men. How could such a small person, who looked so sad and vulnerable, be creating such huge, passionate, powerful music?
The depths of her soul soared out of the studio, above the featureless prefab building, up, up over the jewelled street map of London, glistening in the night sky. Her heart was in tune with the music, lifting her higher and higher with each crescendo. Only the physical sensation of her fingers on the keys kept her from flying away completely. She saw blue intimidating mountains, imposing their sheer physicality onto the landscape, she flew down deep gorges lined with ferns and grasses a million different shade of green. In her mindís eye she saw the start lit sky and looked deep into the universe. Here she was happy and free.
The music she was creating had cast a powerful spell on everyone present. There was a feeling of winter in the auditorium. Of blue crystal icicles forming shining stalactites from the ceiling, of snowflakes drifting gently around the stage where this frail odd looking woman was gently urging everyone into a state of quiet bliss. Lulled by the melody, they would have followed her to the ends of the Earth.
A deep, purple intelligence that was permeating the room was making everyone look into themselves and see images of their own Arcadia. Some felt the chills of winter; others saw the chocolaty richness of autumn; the bitter sorrows of a rainy summer, or the sweet relief of spring after lingering for too long in the dark.
And this was what the music was for her. An escape, a short reprieve from the lonely shadows that filled her everyday life. Here she had the sensation of being wonderfully beautiful, a Venus coming out of the shell of her grand piano.
As the first piece drew to a close, she felt her spirit coming down, and reluctantly fitting itself back into her slight, insignificant body. The music ended, she was drained and she let her head hang down for a while. Her body had little strength left, she felt small and exhausted, humbled by the power of her performance, knowing that despite her technical ability and understanding, she was merely a vessel. For the music, that pure white magic, to allow itself to be transmitted through her, a price must always be paid. Her energy fed the energy of the music, and so now she had to rest. But an apprehensive silence ensued, the atmosphere was still charged with sparks of electricity. The audience itched with expectation. With effort she rose herself to her feet, and facing the audience, she took a deep bow. The applause was as sudden and as thunderous as the release of wild horses. However, after a short while, the claps, shouts of adoration, whistles and stamping of feet seemed to be coming from a far away place. She felt tired and old, but satisfied. She left the room, left the building, and made her way home, carrying the magical electricity with her all the way back.

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Comments by other Members

Felmagre at 09:18 on 01 September 2003  Report this post
I found myself, instantly, caught up into the person whom you were portraying. Your use of words is both versatile and imagainative.

Richard Brown at 10:49 on 03 September 2003  Report this post
This is certainly rich in its use of language and imagery. I'm not convinced that it is journalism - it feels more like an extract from a novel, or even a self-contained short story - but maybe this doesn't matter too much. There are two very personal reactions which I offer. The first concerns 'point of view'. The piece starts with the inner world of the pianist - her perception of the reflection in the piano, her knowledge of the music etc but it quickly switches to an outside perspective (eg 'she looked almost beautiful') There are other examples of this shift from her to the audience and one of the questions in my mind was; 'How does the writer know so much about the player and the individual listeners?'
The second reaction concerns the imagery. This is, of course, entirely a matter of taste but in my view the piece would greatly benefit from some editing. All of the phrases have merit but I found the mixture a touch too rich. I'm not sure about 'deep purple intelligence'for example, nor 'a Venus emerging from the shell of her grand piano'. I hope this doesn't seem too harsh! Your love of words and images is evidently intense - I just think that the cliched expression, 'less is more' might have some relevance. I find it difficult to switch quickly from metaphor to metaphor and I guess that at least some others do too. At one point you conjure a rich picture of a winter wonderland, then depict the audience as being variously in the four seasons. My mind struggled to adjust.
As I said - purely my reaction. I'm sure that others will strongly disagree. I'd be very interested to know what you and others think.
Incidentally, if you are still working on the piece (I hope you are!)
I noticed a few typos: Third paragraph, last line 'start lit sky'. Fourth para, 'shades' rather than 'shade. Last para, 'she rose herself to her feet'.
Keep writing!

old friend at 17:03 on 09 October 2003  Report this post

In this you have captured the deep emotional reaction that one feels when listening to beautiful music. The times when one has to close one's eyes and be absorbed by a wonderful performance.

Your question at the end of the second para. "How could such a...". I often ask this when listening to great singers.

I think Richard is spot on with his comments and I can add no more, except to say that it created for me a lovely image so I don't mind the typos and all that.

I am biased where music is concerned so I'll shut my mouth on this occasion.

Thank you Sian.

Regards, Len

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