Top critical review
Note by Note, Tricia Tunstall
March 11, 2011
"Note by Note, A Celebration of the Piano Lesson." Tricia Tunstall. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster Inc., @ 2008.
I walk to my sedan from the bookstore. My mind teases me with fantasy, for what discoveries await me? There is a cool evening breeze but warm enough for a cotton short-sleeve shirt. I see the faint twinkle of distant specks of light bleeding through the dark blue-velvet colored night sky. The ivory white crescent moon is bright and low on the horizon.
I can see one of them now, a svelte muscular feminine silhouette, firmly breasted, tight assed, clothed in only a few animal skins... okay, faux furs for you eco-whinnies... her razor sharp steel sword in her left hand and she holding in her right hand by its hair, proudly displaying for the world to see, the severed head of one of the men who dare oppose these mythical Amazon Basin bitches from Gehenna.
I recognize that severed head as Border's Books. They filed for bankruptcy and their `flagship' store in Clearwater Shopping Mall on Gulf to Bay Boulevard, florida is sunk. `Going out of Business...' the sign on its door reads on Ash Wednesday, March 9th, 2011.
Its inventory is slashed Twenty-five to Fifty percent off the list price. Inside the store all is for sale; wooden tables, chairs, bookshelves, boxes of books stacked loosely in heaps, like so many bones in an elephant's grave yard... I pick through these `bones.' So, this is my tale; this book purchase and review.
Whoever doesn't shop on Amazon for their books now is either computer illiterate or an Anti-capitalist Communist, but I digress. My epic struggle to learn and master the piano is only assuaged by the beauty and talent of my piano teacher, Maria... Oh, Maria how I love you more than you shall ever know for your gift of music and nice firm bre... ah... um... teaching form.
Okay, I decided not to wait for piano lessons in heaven from Beethoven. So I'm finally taking piano lessons starting in my sixth decade of life. I could never get over the fascination of the huge instrument that could not be held by the musician. I look at the piano keyboard of skinny long black ebony keys embracing rectangular white ivory like keys and I am enchanted, it's like seeing the beautiful young adult women smiles I know where to find on the `tube.
"Can this book help me play with the hands and ears of a Virtuoso?" I eagerly ask myself.
The book starts as a sluggish read. It is mildly interesting how she describes all the Artists who tackled painting the `Piano Lesson' theme, though none of the paintings came to mind.
Tricia meticulously describes a song by Dave Matthews, `Satellite' dissecting it with the musical precision of a concert pianist. Wtf... Is she saying? I listen to this song on You-Tube. Oh, so that's what she means but I can't do this for every song she mentions that I don't know, which is all of them in the book.
Tricia tells me the stories of her childhood piano lessons and her more talented students and gives me a glimpse at what I would have experienced if I started piano lessons before I reached puberty but her story doesn't relate to my age now.
Her book is `touchy-feely' with reassuring touches on her student's shoulders, mini-metaphors equating the learning of the piano with the meaning of life and her psychological stratagems to sway rebellious teenagers to cooperate in their instruction. I'm old school, just like the Drill Instructor of my youth, find a sledgehammer and pound into me what-ever I must know to be a pianist.
I found the golden nugget that I was searching for mid-way through the book. Learning the piano is the most difficult instrument to learn, Maria my piano teacher tells me. I believe her.
Tricia sets up the bond that ties all us pianists together beyond the `lesson' and our relationships with our piano teachers. This bond that unites us Pianists in a spiritual family is --- PRACTICE.
I conclude that we must ultimately find our own salvation sitting alone before an instrument as large as a black skinned water-buffalo, the beast showing us his ivory white teeth. We sit without coaches, spectators and cheerleaders.
We call upon our self-discipline to a physical, emotional and mental daily ritual with practicing our piano correctly and we are our only critic and taskmaster. I am the Master of my piano destiny.
Tricia, she says, "... there is absolutely nothing fun about practicing correctly..." She explains `correct practice' cannot be taught. The learning Pianist must, "Play it in slow motion... slow enough that it's perfect... Now do it five times that speed perfect... Now, ten times perfectly in a row..."
Ah yes, she goes on, "Difficult passages must be broken down into their smallest parts and played... over and over and over. When you think you cannot bear to play a passage one more time, you play it ten times... Twenty times."
Tricia sets the `correct practice' to concise words, "If you have not maintained a meticulous, painstaking precision throughout those twenty times, you repeat it twenty times more." She concludes, "Without memorization there can be no mastery."
Okay so I get it, it's all up to me. I won't be a Virtuoso if I don't `correctly practice' daily, memorize my lessons and pray for a divine miracle from Almighty God.
The pace of the story picked up in the last two chapters. The last chapter is the most passionate for the obvious reason. I always wonder what brings about such an ending? Through most of her book, I had no idea what she was talking about. I really have no music inclinations and I didn't know any of the songs she cited. Her explanations of music theory were meaningless. She really tried. Maybe this review says more about my wanting musical talent than Tricia Tunstall's story-telling?
As long as I'm taking piano lessons, I am glad that I read her book. I mildly recommend this book for a father who is paying piano lessons for his young daughter to purchase it at a discount store and give it to his wife to read.
Copyright © ralph marie de largo March 10, 2011