A few years back I read Daniel Levitin's "This Is Your Brain On Music" and have recently turned the last pages of his follow-up "The World In Six Songs". Both are excellent, deep but easily digestible books balancing science and personal experience to provide insight into how humans and music have evolved.
Towards the end of "Six Songs", Levitin mentions several tracks which have had a resounding impact on him. I will not revisit each here, rather encourage anyone interested enough to read the book to absorb his thoughts in context. However, I do need to confess prior to this I had never heard the music of one artist he mentioned - Alex De Grassi.
I'm sure some readers of this post will be amazed by this, as I have since given myself a quick education and learned that De Grassi is a Grammy nominated artist who has been recording since 1978. Crikey, how did I miss that...?
I recently listened to his 1998 album The Water Garden, which fortunately for me was perfectly accompanied by rainy weather as I drove earlier this week. A perfect combination.
If you, like I, had not yet heard Alex De Grassi, I recommend doing so.
Especially if it's raining...
I grew up learning to play on an old upright grand piano. Around 10 years ago I remember asking my great Uncle, who is now in a nursing home, if he knew how old the piano was, as it had been in the family for well beyond just my lifetime. To my surprise he stood up from his chair, and as quickly as if you'd just asked for a glass of water disappeared into another room, rummaged for a moment, and returned with the original receipt, dated 1923.
Amazing. That piano had some history.
As I grew up, the location of that piano shifted. From the front room in my early childhood house, to our next door neighbour's garage while that house was being rebuilt, to the back room of the rebuilt house, where it has stayed loyally for well over two decades.
A piano is not a very transportable thing. I once saw a busker towing an upright grand by bicycle in Sydney's Martin Place, but this is somewhat off the chart... When I moved out of home, that old piano was left behind. I started playing in bands, using synths and samplers, and after some time fell into a groove with music which demanded a wide range of sounds to be on-call, but piano was always passable from a 76 note synth which felt more like an organ to play than a piano.
Sure, I had a digital piano for a while there, which recreated some of the feel. I've recently upgraded my gear to once again include a great-feeling, great-sounding digital piano. But it's just not the same.
When you play a piano, you feel the vibration of the instrument through your fingertips. You feel the sound in your foot as you touch the sustain pedal. It makes the whole room sing.
That old Beale piano still lives in my childhood home. I've known it since I was too small to reach up to the keys. Some of the hammers don't strike the way they used to and the tuning has found its own way here and there. But with my parents currently overseas and a trip to the old house planned, I can't wait to make that back room sing with its sound again.