The Piano

Fimnora Westclaw at the Monday Music Medicine Show asks, what incidental music from television shows or movies has captured your attention, and found its way into your hearts?

I read that question and looked up, to where I saw the electric piano in my living room.

I have had a few piano lessons in my life, but not many. I’m self-taught, which is not as hard for a violinist as it would be from scratch. I’m not a good player or anything, but I kind of like it that way. Expectations are low. And, unlike the violin, self-taught beginning amateur piano playing actually sounds ok. It sounds ok enough that I can sit at the piano and work out feelings in music the way I can’t really do on the violin. For me, playing the violin requires a steady hand and a calm mindset. Any anxiety or strong emotion while playing that instrument causes my vibrato to clench and my intonation to waver. Whereas the piano seems more forgiving, even as it allows multiple musical lines and complex melodies and patterns beyond what is possible on the violin.

The music of the 1993 film, “The Piano,” captures what I wish I could do with the instrument, if I had more skill. The main character and piano player, played by Holly Hunter, does not speak, she communicates using the piano. The film, set on the beaches and in the wilds of New Zealand, shows a side of the piano that is not often seen. The story too is dangerous, wild, and erotic. All that without saying a word.

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7 thoughts on “The Piano”

  1. Love, love, LOVE the piano. Harvey Keitel in a role that wasn’t a bad guy and music that sent you soaring. Other favs, although this list is not exclusive, are “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “The Mission”, “A Beautiful Mind”, “Angels in America”, all of the “Lord of the Rings” movies, and in the list goes. Thanks for reminding me about that movie. I’ll need to watch it again.

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    1. I haven’t watched it in a while either, but answering that question has put the music back in my head! I was reading about the movie too when I was writing the blog and I found out that Jane Campion originally wrote the script so that Ada drowned at the end–sinking along with her piano into the sea. From the previews too I was afraid it was going to be “that kind of movie:” one in which a repressed woman has a sexual awakening with a dangerous man, only to meet a bad end. I almost didn’t watch it because I thought that was how it was going to turn out and I am so tired of that kind of story where women are punished and killed for being sexual with the wrong man, or for being sexual at all.

      So, I was so thrilled with how it actually did end, with Ada and Baines happily together, her finger restored, she still playing and giving piano lessons, and learning to speak. It was awesome. I wonder why and how Campion changed her mind. I’m glad she did.

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  2. Sounds like a movie I should watch at some point. I used to play the piano, and it was an emotional release for me. I sold my piano in college and now I have a 5-octave electronic keyboard, but i don’t have the same relationship to this instrument as I did to my piano. I was never that good – at Oberlin I had secondary piano lessons but I had to work hard to get good in their eyes. And that was a long time ago; I’ve lost those techniques. I miss music, though – I need to figure out a way to do what I can with the instrument I have. Thanks for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can do a lot with a 5-octave electronic keyboard. My electric piano is a full weighted keyboard, but I virtually never use all the octaves. Considering that I don’t use it regularly and don’t have the time/patience for getting it tuned, and that I just had to move it across the country, I’ve definitely been noticing the advantages of electronic keyboards!

      Liked by 1 person

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