Thursday, July 23, 2009

Old Piano Pieces and Such

Yesterday, or was it two days ago? I saw Mable playing her Grade 8 exam pieces on the piano. I strangely could not recall the melody of the songs she played. Now if it it was Dawn the exam pieces would literally strike a chord in my memory at once! Among the three of us, she's the most diligent when it comes to practicing.

I have been missing my Grade 8 exam pieces for years! Every time I come home I would hunt for it a bit, but give up. I could never find the book, and part of the reason must be because I give up digging for it too soon. But listening to Mable play her exam pieces made my heart itch again. I asked her if she knew where my book was.

I should have asked that question a few years earlier. Sometimes I think Mable knows where everything is. She pointed me to the exact place where it was, in one of the many dusty plastic bags on the last level of our bookshelf, hidden behind Daddy's boxes and other junk. I braved myself to wade through everything till I got the book. Fortunately, it wasn't too dusty.

Anyway I excitedly asked Mable to turn the piano over to me. Since she was having quite some trouble replaying her Grade 8 pieces, she gladly did so. I flipped to the first song - titled Presto (which means 'very fast' in Italian). Since I was very out of practice, I attempted to play it Moderato instead. I still remembered my score for this song was 24/30. Mable wanted to try playing the song too since it looked rather simple. But appearances can be deceiving! It is not easy for fingers to go round and round non-stop, less still in the speed of 'Presto' for 10 pages straight! She gave up after the first few bars and we tried playing a hand each. I still remember a teacher saying that it was a bad choice of a song, because it was too hard to play. I should have chosen another song which was easier (and only 3 pages!) at the back. Unfortunately, (or is it fortunately?) I had taken fancy to this one and had ventured into the land of no return. It was evident by the time I reached page 4 or 5 (Mable had given up by then), that the song was best played Adagio (slow), according to my current level of competency.

After the first song, I turned to the second, Allegro (which means lively or fairly quick), an 8 page piece by Mozart. I got 23/30 for this one, quite dangerous, 20/30 being the passing mark. I still remember my uneven quavers, and fingers seemed to get tangled. Well, things seemed worse than ever after lack of practice. I could barely get past the first two pages. I forced myself to go on, skipping lots of notes in the process, to the last page.

My third song was a relatively modern piece, titled Character Piece No. 2, by a composer named Britten. I have no idea who Britten was, but after choosing and playing the piece, I remembered him as a 'modern time' composer. The Character Piece was short, and certainly had character. It was in E major, which had four sharps (and I hate keys with lots of sharps). But if that wasn't enough, there were all sorts of sharps and flat, and double sharps jutting out here and there throughout the piece. Fortunately, it wasn't a fast piece as the previous two were. It didn't sound nice either. It sounded weird, out of sync, but somehow there was a certain pattern in it. I didn't really like the melody of this song. But I liked the marks it gave me during the exam, 27/30, which was unexpectedly good. I didnt' even intend to choose this piece in the first place - I wanted another song that sounded nicer (during the Romantic Era I suppose), but that was a tad too long (around 6 pages), and since I was already struggling with my first two songs, my teacher and I thought it would be wiser to go with something a little shorter and easier so I'd have more time to practice.

The little Character Piece got me some bonus points which might have helped me pull my results from a pass to a merit. But when I tried to play it again now, it turned out even worse than my first two pieces! Maybe I just needed time to familiarize myself with all the sharps and flats again.

So after the evening of a grostoque tryout, I made up my mind that before I go back to Singapore, I'd better play these pieces until they are at least presentable again.

Hence today, after mopping the floor, irregardless of a cut finger (my mop is falling to pieces and I have somehow clipped my finger against it), I practiced and practiced and practiced for hours. You wouldn't have found me so hardworking if it was exam time. And somehow, after almost 8 years (yes I know I'm old), playing the same songs over again, I felt like I could now add a little something into the songs that I couldn't before. And by evening, I could play all the songs fairly well already.

All the while in Singapore I had been lazy and have been playing everything by ear. Now I sort of realize that I can play by score fairly well too, and back comes my confidence. Those practice memories kept flooding back and so did every small irritation I used to experience. I felt that I was somehow back in my secondary school days again.

Piano practicing made my day quite eventful after all. I just hope my neighbours aren't sick of all the repeated practicing. My piano has a tendency to make everything extra loud. :)

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