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27 February 2006 @ 12:06 am
I miss my music  
When I was just starting high school, I finally got something I had been begging my family for since I was around 9 years old: a piano. It was very used, to say the least. It was an antique-y player piano, but the player component of it didn't work any more...which was perfectly fine with me, because I got it so I could play it, not so it could play itself. It once was a really nice piano, with a gorgeous cherry finish, but someone had painted over it with a hideous dull brown paint. In addition, several of the very bottom and very top keys were broken, as was the leftmost pedal (which isn't really used that often--all it does is make the sound quieter). And it was horribly out of tune. But I didn't care. Sam the piano-tuner took care of that problem and patched up a couple of the broken keys.

And I was in heaven. Turns out $50 (yes, that's how much we paid for the piano) plus piano-moving and piano-tuning fees can buy a hell of a lot of happiness.

For the most part, I was self-taught. A friend of mine had shown me some of the basic learn-how-to-play-the-piano tunes several years before, and once I learned which keys were which, I started working out how to play random songs like "Chariots of Fire" (no clue why I was so into it--maybe because it's kind of a dramatic piece?) on friends' pianos and the pianos sitting around in my public school's music classrooms and auditorium. I already knew how to read music and other basic to intermediate aspects of music theory, thanks to various public school, private school, and private lessons in flutophone, recorder, violin, and chorus/choir. So it wasn't a huge deal for me to sit down and teach myself piano, even without sheet music. My technique sucked rocks, but I didn't care. I was playing piano.

So when I finally got my own piano, my very own piano, it was the most wonderful thing ever. I remember coming home from high school to an empty house (I was a latchkey kid) and just sitting at the piano for hours and hours. Mostly, I would play accompaniment to pop songs and church choir pieces. Most of it was pretty cheesy--stuff like Journey's "Faithfully", Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time", and "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas. I also was a fan of accompaniments to Broadway songs (e.g., "Send in the Clowns", anything from Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera).

Sometimes, I would sing along with my accompaniments, but only if no one else was at home. You see, I'm kind of bashful about my singing. I have a classically trained voice, which makes me good at church music, opera-type stuff, and certain Broadway pieces, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE singing pop. Unfortunately, classically trained voices usually sound like shit when applied to pop. Think of Will Farrell and Ana Gasteyer playing those pop-singing public school music teachers on SNL, but not quite that bad. And even when I sing stuff I'm good at, I feel very self-conscious exposing that part of myself to other people unless I'm actually performing for real. I mean, I would NEVER sing along to the radio in front of anyone. I think I've become less bashful lately (my new outlook being, "If you don't like me singing along to the radio, then too fucking bad, because there's probably stuff I don't like about you, too, and I'm having fun, godammit"), but for most of my life I've been very self-conscious about singing in front of other people.

Actually, my change of heart has come about because of Harry Potter. That may sound weird, but it's true. When I truly discovered Harry Potter and my love for writing last October, I felt like a part of my soul had been liberated. I know that's cheesy, but it's the best way I can describe it. I found this amazing happiness, this passion for creating and interpreting that I never knew I had, and it brought me this incredible state of bliss--sort of a personal Zen that made me stop caring so much about how other people saw me.

If you know me in real life, you might be like, "Huh? Miss Sophia, you've always struck me as a person who doesn't give a fuck what other people think. You've got a horrendous pottymouth, you have been know to act like a total slacker, and when you're around other people, you start acting out--saying things that push the envelope, playing the class clown, being a completely outspoken person. How on earth can you say you're self-conscious and care about what other people think?"

Yes. All of this is true. But in the deepest parts of who I am, when it comes down to it, I care A LOT about how other people see me. Deep down, I want the whole world to like me. I'm afraid of looking awkward or dorky, perhaps because I wasn't really one of the cool kids until I hit high school (and I didn't always realize it back then, either). Now, most of the time, I feel like I'm pretty fucking cool. I'm sort of one of those "geek to chic" cases in some ways. I learned how to tame the frizzy Hermione-like hair. (Frizz-Ease's Dream Curls spray gel is a godsend.) I became the poster child for the wonders of a well-plucked eyebrow:

I realized that my fashion sense was rubbish, and I did something about that (although my husband still views me as a work in progress ). I mean, Brady Bunch-style clothes stopped being trendy long before I was born, so why was I still wearing them?! (Dammit, they're probably back in style again!) I know all of this stuff is superficial, but it DOES make a difference in terms of self-confidence. If you feel beautiful, then it doesn't matter whether you really are or not, because you feel confident--and confidence IS beautiful.

In many ways, I'm still a big dork. Case in point: One of my profs from last semester told me that I'm the most charming nerd he's ever met. Basically, as I've said before, I'm one big ol' Hermione. My hand always shoots up first when the prof asks a question (partly because I like to answer questions and partly because I have an extreme dislike of silence, and since most of the other students just sit there blankly, I can't take it, so I HAVE to raise my hand). I try to be thoughtful and analytical about my academic studies. I'm a perfectionist. (Perfectionists also tend to be major slackers, because if we can't do something right, we don't do it at all, and that is SO me. But we make sure that we slack in the most perfect fashion possible. ) And I'm a Harry Potter fanatic, which most of the people on my flist would not think of as dorky, but most of the people I know in real life do. Hey, I know, their loss, right?

But because of Harry Potter, because of this artistic side of me that I found, I have embraced my inner dorkiness. (Sorry for sounding all New Age-y. It's friggin' 1:10 in the morning and I'm hungry. My brain is not functioning well at all, but I have to get all of this out. It's been brewing for a really long time.) I've started jamming and grooving while walking down the street listening to my iPod. No, I still won't sing out loud, but that's only because I don't want to piss people off by singing at the top of my lungs while waiting for the subway. But I know I look like a total freak, mouthing lyrics to the song, bopping around, etc. And you know what? I don't fucking care! Don't like it? Don't look. I'm having a blast, and that's what matters.

And as I said before, when I was in the car with family or friends and a song I liked came on the radio, I would never sing along, because I was afraid that I'd sound stupid. Now? I don't give a crap. I'm enjoying the song, and I will sing if it makes me happy. Of course, I'm not going to be all that loud about it, simply because again, I'm a considerate person. I don't want to ruin your driving experience. But I really don't care if you hear my sucky warbling. I'm in my own little music happy world, and I'm not going to leave it just for you. And you know what? You probably don't even care that I sound bad! I certainly don't judge my friends for not sounding exactly like Mariah Carey or whatever. So you probably don't care about my lousy singing, either. Why, for so many years, did I think you would?

Wow. I've strayed really far from the original point. Back to my piano. So, back in high school, and during summers in college, I would play my piano for hours. The time would fly by so quickly; I could sit there for a full day and not even notice.

A couple of years after I graduated college, I rented a house about half an hour away from my parents' place, and we moved the piano into my basement. I lived in that house for over three and a half years...and played my piano only once, or maybe three times, but no more than that. (The one or few times I did play it, though, I got so lost in the music that I had no clue that something like five or six hours had passed.) I don't know what happened. I don't know why I neglected this thing that had meant so much to me for so many years. I guess I just...forgot. For so many years after college, a part of me kind of died--this creative, angsty, and slightly unbalanced side that made me write bad poetry and stay up late at night writing letters to friends or to myself--or at least I thought it did. No, that's not right either, because I never even really thought about it at all.

I think that getting engaged and then married was a huge part of it, actually. I had settled down; I had no more reason for angst, for dreams, for fantasy, for creating. And while it was all well and good to be stable and levelheaded, it somehow led to the suppression of my dreamy side, the side of me that felt so, so deeply, that created things from these feelings. JK Rowling, the Internet, and fandom all deserve my undying gratitude for helping me unearth this lost piece of my soul.

And since I've rediscovered myself, I've reconnected with music. My iPod has become my new best friend. I've listened nonstop to the groups that inspire me, that radiate sound and energy and meaning throughout my entire body. Music really is a physical thing. As I listen to these groups--bands like Coldplay, Green Day, Oasis, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Bravery, Depeche Mode, the B-52s, Death Cab for Cutie, Franz Ferdinand, Goo Goo Dolls, Jamie Cullum, Keane, and the Killers, and now Rufus Wainwright--I'm not just listening to music anymore. I'm feeling it. I'm listening to the lyrics, thinking about what they mean, about how they're constructed, about their cadences and rhythms. I'm parsing all of the different accompaniments, something I've NEVER done before--listening for the bass line, the rhythm guitar, the harmonies, even the drum beats. Sometimes I feel that if I were to pick up a guitar (which I don't really know how to play; I taught myself a few basics towards the end of high school, but don't really remember anything any more), I would be able to play what I hear, to feel it.

It's an amazing feeling. It's a kind of ecstasy, a sort of rapture. It's very very personal. And I can't believe that I was ever able to live without it. While part of it is simply a rediscovery of something I once had, part of it is also completely new. As I said, I used to be very self-conscious, even if I didn't always appear that way. Now, with the way I feel the music, I barely care about being judged by others. My only concern is that I lose myself in the song. And a REALLY cool result of that is this sort of attitude makes for the best performances. Music is not something you can do successfully if you overthink it. You have to be it. If you can do this, your audience disappears. You don't know whether you're standing or sitting, whether you have sweat rings under your armpits, whether you look like a superstar or a complete moron as you let the sound take over your body and throw you around as it pleases. You just merge into the music.

But there's still something missing, and that's my piano. I don't have it any more. I sold it (for $175, which was a nice profit considering that my mom had bought it for $50 well over a decade earlier) when I moved from DC to Boston. And right now, I really really miss it. I'm dying to bang out some of the Coldplay and Keane rhythms, some of Rufus Wainwright's accompaniments.

And I really want a guitar. I also once had one of those--my mom's old hippie guitar from the 1960s. As I said, I taught myself some rudimentary chords and notes back when I was 18. But it broke sometime during my sophomore year in college. (The thing holding down the strings near the hole of the guitar--yeah, nice technical jargon, I know--popped off, probably because of the freezing weather in Boston, and it wasn't worth repairing.) And now I am longing for another one. When I listen to songs like Coldplay's "Till Kingdom Come" and Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," I'm dying to strum the chords myself. I seriously almost feel like if I had the guitar, I could figure out how to play it; the music would just flow from my heart and mind into my hands. Of course, that probably wouldn't be the case, but after a quick rundown of chord structure and note locations, I actually think I could do it. And I don't care if it'd be all that good. It probably wouldn't, at least not at first. But I'd be in a state of complete bliss.

Well. This has been very rambly, but it's been a long time coming. If you've actually read this, I'm flattered, and I hope I didn't bore you to tears. I hope that something I wrote resonated in your heart, made you feel like our minds connected for a moment. And if it didn't, that's OK, too. Because this is what I feel.

I'm seriously thinking of buying a $50-$200 guitar sometime this week or after I get back from the UK. I don't know how much longer I can wait.

And a really really nice keyboard, with pedals, lots of settings, etc., will be one of the first purchases I make when I move back to the DC area this summer.

But right now, I think I will buy myself a guitar.
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: Rufus Wainwright, "Hallelujah"
kressel: impatienskressel on February 27th, 2006 04:55 pm (UTC)
I relate completely to what you say about dorkiness, creativity, and the power of music. I took several years of ballet and piano lessons, but I was never especially good at either. Still, whenever the kids are really stressing me out, I put on classical music and dance around my kitchen while I do my chores there. It invariably lightens my mood.

I think it's great that you can improvise on so many instruments, and I'm sure your husband appreciates your dreamy side, too.
Miss Sophia: Harry Sirius Familymiss_sophia on February 28th, 2006 04:56 am (UTC)
I used to take ballet, too, but I'm pretty sure I was really really sucky!

It's so nice to just forget about what anyone else is thinking and do your own thing. Your dance reminds me of something I wrote in someone else's LJ once:

My best friend always used to listen to "Sowing the Seeds of Love" by Tears for Fears when she was stressed. I remember when I first discovered this: I was in my dorm room and she was out in the common room I shared with my roommates and her. (She was sort of an unofficial roommate--basically lived in our common room.) I heard this odd noise and music coming from the common room, so I peered out and saw her twirling around like a child to "Sowing the Seeds...." I watched her until the song was over and then asked her what was going on, and rather than being embarrassed or humiliated that I caught her grooving in such a strange manner, she just told me that she was doing her "Sowing the Seeds of Love" dance and that she felt much better now. It was one of the sweeter moments of my life.

Heh. I'm just kind of a dabbler in music, I suppose--not great at anything, but quite mediocre at a whole lot!

Not so sure my husband appreciates my dreamy side, actually, or at least he doesn't identify with it at all. :/ But I've been working on him... :D
kressel: holidaykressel on February 28th, 2006 02:51 pm (UTC)

I suppose my husband's not so thrilled with my dreamy side either, especially when I'm daydreaming and he's talking to me!

Here's a musical interlude for you, Hasidic style. I'd imagine you've never seen anything like it.
Miss Sophia: Harry Sirius Familymiss_sophia on February 28th, 2006 05:29 pm (UTC)
Oh. My. Goodness. Kressel, that ROCKED!!!! When I saw the old guy on the bus, I was thinking, "No...it can't be. There's no way this is related to that Six Flags commercial, because that would pretty much be the best thing ever." And it was! Thank you for that! Ahhh, I'm still cracking up!

That definitely deserves to be pimped around the Internet. Is there a Web site where it's posted?

All my friends, especially my Jewish friends, shall receive a copy in their e-mail, too. That was PRICELESS!
kressel: holidaykressel on February 28th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)

Was that a take-off on a commercial? As I think I may have told you, Hasidic Jews don't watch TV or movies and are generally pretty unaware of pop culture. The musician who made that video is Lipa Schmeltzer who does tend to imitate pop culture a bit. He's got another video called "A Bi Meleibt" which is "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in Yiddish. It used to be available for free online, but it's been taken down, which leads me to conclude that Lipa Schmeltzer's producers wouldn't want me to hawk this all over the Internet, either. I'll probably remove the video from our domain in a few days.
Miss Sophia: Harry Sirius Familymiss_sophia on March 1st, 2006 03:47 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's a takeoff of a commercial for the Six Flags amusement park, which features an old guy clad in a suit and wearing black, thick-framed glasses dancing around like a crazy person to "We Like to Party" by the Vengaboys (the same song that was playing in the clip you sent me).

Actually, I didn't know that Hasidic Jews don't watch TV or movies. Have you not seen the Harry Potter movies, then?

I actually don't know very much about Hasidic Jews at all, but I'm always glad to learn more! :)

Have you heard of Matisyahu? He's a Hasidic Jew reggae artist who's starting to gather a bit of a following in secular channels. Earlier today, when I was in the car, I was listening to the alternative-music station on our satellite radio, and one of his songs came on. It's odd, because I had learned about him only a few days before. He's pretty darn good!
kressel: holidaykressel on March 1st, 2006 03:52 am (UTC)

I've never heard of Matisyahu, but I'll check him out.

I have seen HP 1, 2, and 3 on video at my mother's house (she's not Hasidic.) That's my one cheat, although actually, I recently cheated and saw "March of the Penguins," too.
Miss Sophia: Harry Sirius Familymiss_sophia on March 1st, 2006 04:11 am (UTC)
I hope the movies were worth the cheat. :) PoA frustrated me a lot, mainly because of the omission of the MWPP backstory (the best part of the book!), but I've tried very hard to get over my many issues with it and enjoy it for what it is. I loved the fourth movie, despite the lack of Sirius.
kressel: update2kressel on March 1st, 2006 04:15 am (UTC)
The movies were fun, but they don't compare to the books.
Katie: someday I'll flykatieowrites on February 27th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC)
A good friend of mine doesn't play or sing, but he loves music, and it's totally infectious. We became good friends a few months after he'd broken up with a girlfriend of three years, and he and I spent a lot of time listening to and talking about music. One day sitting in his living room talking about the Pixies, I think, he was like, "you know, since knowing you and breaking up with her, I've started loving music again." It was like while he was absorbed in his relationship it fell to the wayside but the emotion of losing that and also that of getting close to another girl brought his love of it back. Funny how that happens.

I still have certain songs that take me right back to the time I discovered the Quill. But it's funny the different things that can be inspiring or emotional. "Ignition" by R.Kelly -- a terrible song by almost anyone's standards -- is something that always makes me happy because it makes me remember my friends and house parties and my time at Michigan. "Jessica" by the Allman Brothers takes me home. It's a wonderful thing.
Miss Sophia: Harry Sirius Familymiss_sophia on February 28th, 2006 05:01 am (UTC)
Hahaha, "Ignition." That's awesome! It's one of those songs that you KNOW sucks, but when it comes on the radio, you start jamming out to it anyway.

What are your Quill songs? I think for me, Coldplay provides the soundtrack to the Quill, or at least to Harry Potter fandom. By the same token, Harry Potter underlies basically EVERYTHING in life. :D

I totally understand what you mean about your friend. It's so weird how becoming involved with someone can make you forget about some of the things you were most passionate about. I think it's so important not to lose those old parts of ourselves, because they're more who we are than almost anything else; they were there before the other person was.
Katie: Zack Morriskatieowrites on February 28th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC)
Re. Ignigtion -- totally. It got really popular almost exactly a year before I left Ann Arbor, and every party and barbecue and sitting-on-the-crappy-couch-on-the-front-porch gathering seemed to have that song in it somewhere. And yeah, beyond that, it's just one of those pop songs that works.

My Quill songs are.. hmm. There were quite a lot! In My Place and Clocks and Yellow by Coldplay, Rome Wasn't Built in a Day by Morcheeba, Vincent by Josh Groban, Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawewo'ole, Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence, some of the instrumental stuff from the Baz Luhrman Romeo and Juliet, Don't Cry by Seal, When We Dance by Sting. It's kind of funny, because that's not really a wholly accurate representation of the nearly 3200 songs I have on here, but I know those were played a lot. :)

I love the last part of your comment. I am single on purpose right now, not looking for anything serious, because I want to find all those things and make sure that I know them well.
From the land between Wake and Dream.: Farm Boysea_thoughts on February 27th, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC)
Music... music is almost like oxygen to me. I just need it. It's like lifeblood. I used to play the cello when I was younger but I always wanted to learn the piano, I still do. And someday, I will learn it. Anyway, don't be afraid to sing and dance. Cat Stevens said it best:

"If you want to sing out, sing out!
And if you want to be free, be free.
Cause there's a million ways to be,
You know that there are."
Miss Sophia: Harry Sirius Familymiss_sophia on February 28th, 2006 05:04 am (UTC)
I hadn't realized how much I was drowning until recently. It's horrible how much life and growing up can get in the way. No more, man, no more....

I like the lyrics. :)
Katie: Lyrics - follow the sunkatieowrites on February 28th, 2006 05:33 am (UTC)
*loves the Cat Stephens*