Monday, September 30, 2019

On Making Beautiful Music with THE PIANIST FROM SYRIA Aeham Ahmad

I recently read a beautiful memoir: THE PIANIST FROM SYRIA by Aeham Ahmad, in which the author shares how the famous photograph of him doesn't tell the whole story. The Syrian civil war continues to break my heart, but I loved learning about Aeham's life as a pianist, particularly his relationship with his father, who was a blind musician.

Here's a passage I found particularly relatable in my cello-life (emphasis mine):

"Playing the piano is hard work, even for the most talented musicians, and I never was one of those. If you're tense, you just can't get the sound right. Then your playing becomes robotic and dry; you stumble through the music with stiff hands. Each attempt to wrestle with a piece of music is doomed to failure.

     "So. Once more from the beginning. Take a breath. Relax your joints, let your hands go soft, let them hover above the black-and-white landscape of the octaves, loose and free. Let your fingers gently descend. Find the right moment, let the current of the music take you. Let it become your heartbeat. Throw your fingers onto the keys like an artist splashing paint.

     "By that time, I had learned to play more sophisticated piece. For six months, Irina Bolushouk had me practice Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G minor, op. 23, no. 5, a difficult piece with a complex rhythm. The prelude seemed to dance across the keyboard from bass notes to treble, through all keys and tonalities My hands had to perform countless seamless transitions, and it was exhausting just to hit the right keys, like mastering a high-wire act.

     "Day by day, I worked on the piece, line by line. First, I only sang the notes. Then I worked on the left hand. Slowly. Then a little faster. Then the right hand. Then both hands, very slowly. A little faster. If I made a mistake, I had to start over. And over, and over, and over. Twenty, thirty, a hundred times. Then on to the next line. Then the next sheet. Then I had to put it all together. Another mistake! Start over. Try making it sound more alive. Week in, week out. It was like building a house from pebbles."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your thoughts?