Jesus on a crutch, improv is fun.

It’s just fun. I’m no good at it at this point; I haven’t been doing it long enough and I don’t have the ABRSM 8+ type technique to give voice to everything that I’m hearing. I’d class myself as maybe 6/7-ish, so good for an amateur but not what anyone would call really good. I can sense that getting that good would be doable with time, but I’m not there at this point. Just one winning lottery ticket, would that be too much to ask … ?

Anyway. It’s really something to just sit down without sheet music and see what comes out. I wish so much I had done this earlier, as a kid. I’m good with languages, so I’m sure I can get better at it with time, but I feel like I lost a lot of time worrying only about Getting It Right when I could have learned so much more than only technique. To be fair, a lot of the reason why I went without a piano for so long after grad school was that they are extremely expensive to own or rent, extremely difficult to move, extremely unfriendly to apartment living, and that the digital weighted keyboards didn’t truly begin to leave in the dust the type of Craigslist junker that I could have afforded until recently. So, like most things in life, a large part of doing without comes from a lack of money. My luck falling in love with the least portable, most expensive instrument on Earth after a pipe organ. (Yes, some super-huge high-end violins are more expensive, but a half-decent student violin is a hell of a lot less expensive than a half-decent student piano, and the upkeep is significantly cheaper.)

I’m glad to have it now, though; that piano is allowing me to say things that don’t come out well in words, not for me at least. It’s strange to say since I’m otherwise quite facile with words — particularly the written word. Nevertheless, there are always certain things that come out more easily in one language than another.

I recall seeing an interview with a German woman who had survived the Holocaust and who would occasionally give talks about her experiences during that time. One of the things that she said was that she could only give the talks in English. The one time she tried to give a talk in German, she broke down and couldn’t continue. Using a second language gave her a needed emotional distance to describe something so wrenching. And I also recall being in Wales with a few people I know, two of whom were a husband and wife raised in Welsh-speaking households. (Yes, such things exist.) They were doing that Welsh Thing where they immediately swapped to English to keep me from feeling left out (much to my chagrin since I was learning the language and would have appreciated the keep-up-if-you-can experience). They were talking about something domestic, like cleaning out gutters or whatnot, and he asked her something. She started to reply, blinked, and said, “Hon, I can’t speak English to you,” and then went back into Welsh. Talking casually in English was one thing but when the topic became more homely, she had to switch to her hearth-and-home language.

Anything can be said in any language, certainly. That’s a fundamental truth of all human languages — all ideas can be expressed in all languages. But depending on the individual’s personality and preferences, it may be more comfortable for one person to say a certain things in one particular way. So it is in music — things of a certain type are easier for me in music. For another musician, it may be things of a different sort, whereas those things that come out more easily for me at a piano may be quite easy to say for them. Play or say.

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