Monday, July 12, 2010

Grace notes

There was a man playing the piano on television last night.

I switched on for another programme, and left him on to fill the time. I meant to watch for just a few minutes.

At first it is elevator music, the music that is on in the background, the music that you never pay attention to. Then you begin to hear it. Achingly, achingly soft as he moves to the higher notes, and trembles there on the edge. The fall that carries the length of the piano, a full flight of steps into the depths, into the great tumult of the orchestra awakening.

The minutes pass and I can't move. A friend looks in, and sees me on my own. She starts to speak, then thinks better of it and joins me on the couch.

He bends over the keys as his hands skim ivory, dancing, then leans back, shoulders raised, head tilted, expectant, exultant. Watching, I feel strange, like a soft-footed intruder who has caught someone sleeping.

It's not acting. It's his heart made visible, the whole of it.

The camera follows his fingers and I notice he is wearing a silver wedding ring. I wonder if he played for her, before she was his wife. Whether she fell in love with him partly because of the music.

When he stops between movements, the audience stays respectfully mute. They hold back their applause. I wish with all my heart that I was there, seated among them, because I know that I would feel it then, a silent wave of appreciation flooding across the tiers and balconies. Gratitude that music such as this exists, and that there are people to play it.

Play on, play on, play on. From my sitting room, I beg of him. Play on.

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