Saturday, June 27, 2009

Music - The Other Superpower

It was the last semester of my senior year, and I only needed three classes to graduate. (Actually four, but the fourth was easily done away via a CLEP test.) So I've got room for some recreational classes, and I mention it to a friend in London, who knows I've always wanted to learn music. "Take piano," she says.

Schwing! Light bulb goes on.

If you graphed my interest in music, it's been an upward spike since around 2001. It actually started with Alan Jackson's September 11th-themed Where Were You? (When the World Stopped Turning). The melody wasn't particularly gripping but the words hit home. I started flipping on country music stations a little more frequently. (It's Kentucky...there's at least three of them.) Soon enough, I began hearing songs about me, that I could identify with or that entertained. I sometimes checked out the contemporary/pop stations too and found a few that were interesting. Once Celtic Woman hit the airwaves in 2005, my interests opened up to the (sometimes ambiguous) Celtic genre. Things took an operatic/classical bent when I listened to some of my sister's Josh Groban albums. Thanks to Pandora, all sorts of other classical influences began to trickle in, such as Paul Cardall, Jim Brickman and Tim Janis. Soundtracks filtered in early, probably starting with the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack by Howard Shore.

Within Temptation took me down an interesting, slightly darker path, upon which I expound some here. Somehow, their epic choral symphonic blend made the metal side not only bearable but enjoyable. (It's also a great way to bring one to the battle mindset in preparation for Krav Maga.)

Once Phil Collins hit a common denominator with "On My Way" (one of only a few songs I enjoyed during my tenure behind the jewelry counter at Kohl's) and songs from Tarzan ("You'll Be In My Heart"), I looked more closely into his music. The guy mostly sang about life, love and loss (often a combination of the three) and he had a jazzy, sad sort of sound that appealed to me. "Can't Stop Loving You" is probably one of my favorite songs across any genre. As it turns out when I purchased more of his music, they call it "rock." Never thought of myself as a rock music type for one very important reason; I'm not. But then, neither is most of his music.

So excepting rap, 99% of heavy metal, and most other unwholesome, uncouth, ear-bleeding music, my interests have been increasingly broadening.

But I digress...back to the part where I get in on the act.

Years before, I took piano classes from a grandmotherly instructor who was accustomed to teaching 6-year-olds, so there was doubtless a significant teaching gap. That's probably why I retained virtually none of my lessons. My sister on the other hand took to it, and in good time was playing well. Whenever she sat down to play, I was torn between listening with enjoyment and listening with envy.

It was reading the music that was most daunting. It seemed I could never glance at ten lines on a page with dots scribbled in at various intervals and translate them into 88 keys. It was like learning to read all over again. And if each note is a word, eventually you progress to "reading" several "words" at the same time and in rapid order! Nevertheless, as she plays, it's sounding better and better to hear music from Lord of the Rings pour out of the piano I'm sitting next to.

So, long story short, this business student is motivated by the time he walks into his first piano class.

Motivated or not, he's also at a disadvantage. Most of these students are music majors who have had a solid background in music theory. (And who also don't cut their hair. What's with that?)

As the semester progresses, I realize that there are a lot of things I don't plan on needing a lot, like how to identify half/quarter/eighth notes, timing, etc. (Reason being I don't plan on teaching myself a melody from scratch. There's tons of music I'm already intimately familiar with, and as it happens, I have a great ear for tunes.)

There were plenty of times I was still lost, but I made quick progress, and even the teacher seemed impressed. My semester project became Josh Groban's February Song. I only make it through the first two or three pages, and a miniature recital (just for my classmates, a daunting eight or nine of them!) found my knees shaking and a foot squarely on the pedal the whole way through. (The bass on the piano was also, as my teacher described, "muddy" which was disappointing because much of the song is bass notes.)

The semester's over now, of course, but I'm armed with a new (if somewhat faltering) superpower...I can pick my way through music on the piano.

Since then, I've been like a kid at the buffet, delighted and overwhelmed by the possibilities and taking some of every dish. I began making copies of my sister's sheet music, rifling through stacks of old sheet music at home, and even purchasing some online. Here's a brief list:
  • So She Dances (Josh Groban)

  • The Dance (Garth Brooks)

  • Live to Love (Paul Cardall)

  • Caledonia (Celtic Woman)

  • February Song (Josh Groban...of course)

  • People Ain't No Good (Nick Cave)

  • Watermark (Enya)

  • On Your Shore (Enya)

  • From Where I Am (Enya)

  • Fallen Embers (Enya)

  • Against All Odds (Phil Collins)

  • Evening Falls (Enya)

  • Remember When It Rained (Josh Groban)

  • Sanctuary (Secret Garden)

  • Our Farewell (Within Temptation)

  • Sanctuary (Secret Garden)

  • Hymn to Hope (Secret Garden)

  • A Day Without Rain (Enya)

  • Send Me A Song (Celtic Woman)

  • Moonlight Sonata - 1st Movement (Beethoven)

  • Eowyn's Theme/Rohan - Howard Shore

And there's plenty more...there's sheets from Sound of Music, Lord of the Rings, Prince of Egypt, Narnia, tons of Christmas music, and plenty of transcribed music from the internet, including portions of Murray Gold's magical Doctor Who themes.

Unfortunately, the buffet analogy I just used a moment ago holds true for the consumption of the buffet dishes...I'm taking bites out of each one and not finishing. And I'm still envious of my sister, who can hammer out a poignant "Face of Boe" rendition with skill and ease I still lack.

Still, this is a skill I plan on furthering if not mastering. The good news is, this buffet is endless, isn't fattening, and may even lend itself to making my own dishes in the future.

Considering that I've only been at it for about six months, I daresay I'm..."On My Way"

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At August 3, 2009 at 4:24:00 PM PDT, Blogger Joanne said...

Dave, my name is Joanne. I've been searching for the sheet music to Paul Cardall's "Live to Love" and a google search led me to your blog. Any idea where I might get a copy of that sheet music?

At August 3, 2009 at 8:01:00 PM PDT, Blogger Dave said...

Hi Joanne, glad Google wound up leading you to my little blog...

I'm guessing you're asking about free downloads, in which case I'm afraid I don't know where that would be. If you're willing to pay about a dollar as I did, here's the link:


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