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I honestly have no idea what I'm doing.

Message to Readers

This is pretty much a story about a teen who loves the piano but loathes singing. She's seen as a 'fake musician', and is an outcast from people at and below her skill level. This story follows her journey of possible change in her fundamental values. I'd really appreciate any feedback!


November 9, 2018

    I used to think a jolly old man in a brightly monotone suit couldn’t harm a soul but I’m just wrong. My piano teacher just started hosting weekly workshops on Tuesdays which are supposed to ‘unite you students to allow collaboration and thus improvement upon musical talent’, but I think he just has not seen his students suffer enough. The dog-eat-dog nature of the classical music bubble is a muzzled Pomeranian, not a place to find refugee if one fails math. Bach’s irritating genius and Ravel’s downright unnecessary shifts of key signature bring pianists down on their knees. In the elite competitions there are very few competitors that deserve to lose, forcing the judges to nitpick human error from uncontrollable factors such as the infamous choked chords produced by frozen sweaty hands. Good luck and riddance to the idiots who chose to to play a fast piece to show off, the winter winds will conquer them. Shoot, I just cursed myself. Maestro is calling me up now, “Jennifer, it’s your turn.” To piss myself? That girl can’t be done already. My legs bring me to the dark piano where my self esteem lies.
    Erica, the girl just before me performed an unfortunately solid interpretation of the first portion of Bach’s Toccata in e minor. Two sequential subjects unite as one melody, with a dramatic flair in the bass contrasting the longer phrases in the upper voice. Though it is primarily composed of eighth and quarter notes, the loose style encourages a wide range of tempo flexibility. The entire work represents her persona quite well, being comfortable yet structured at the same time. She’s even got the slim piano fingers and beautiful face to match. Stepping on stage, I could feel the worst elements of summer and winter invading the room and swirling around my calves. The musty scent of Old People Spice grew stronger as I listened to the weak, routine clapping of my audience and took my place at the bench. This time, I’ll impress them. No more procrastinating the praise.
    Crashing chords, lush harmonies, and racing scales make Ravel’s Animé an exhilarating showpiece. Arrogant strength racing through my fingertips, a crystallizing vision of Maestro Zimel’s satisfied expression accompany the exuberant melodic sentences. However without warning, the sixteenth notes malformed into crude daggers, stabbing and abandoning the dream to bleed out and crumble away. My left hand betrayed my fake confidence and continued to spit out false notes. The suffocating inkling of failure roared in my head as my eyes darted around the room, desperately searching for answers that I knew didn’t exist. If the dissonant notes and slowing tempo persist, I might as well curl up and die. I felt the new attention, a menacing change of spotlight spilling on my shoulders and the silent jeer of failure weighing my arms till I considered dropping them.
    My hands refused to replicate the model in my brain. Squinting, I briefly considered taking a repeat but I knew that I might not recover and make matters worse. I also could compose my own bridge like professionals did, but this was a rehearsal, for God’s sake. I absolutely can’t disappoint, I can’t. The one time I need to be decisive and I fail hilariously. Screw it. I’m only jealous of lunatic perfectionists successfully recreating what they thought composers wanted anyway. Just let me resort of stuff I’m pulling out of midair.
    Desperately trying to recall any chord from the section, I map out a bridging  improvisational section, struggling to replicate the cascades of broken chords and breathless crescendos. After all, Impressionistic music is characterized by an unstable, though full tone color from subtle dissonant notes. An asymmetric grin lit up my face when I sensed the music mirroring my slowing heartbeat. By the recapitulation, I disregarded the score that I had tattooed inside my brain, adding extra octaves to arpeggios and repeating the rough horn calls in a separate key as I saw fit. The torrent of uncertainty and self- assurance grind against each other within, and this is my cloud nine. In a flurry of rapid cadential developments, rapid ostinati and tumbling cascades of notes conclude Ravel’s miniature masterpiece.
Pelted with stares, I leave the piano’s side and flop into my chair. Was I not as good as I thought? Oh no. Awkward eye contact. Maestro Zimel squared his shoulders and gestured for everyone to look in his direction.
“I suppose Jennifer’s surprising,” He paused to glance in my direction, “performance is a fitting conclusion for today’s event. I believe that great pianists not only have the ability to righteously manipulate the score to suit themselves, but also have a beautiful melody hidden within them. I see that Jennifer has gone above and beyond, making the score her bitch.”
    If you’ve ever seen a 70 year old man in a wine red suit try to look like he’s the cool teen, join us in seeing our own brains up close.
    “So, I want her to come up again for us and sing her interpretation while I play the piano. That beauty can be emphasized with two different instruments, specifically the most natural one of all.”
    The hell? If Santa could zap me with a bolt of electricity used to light up all creation in his honor, I would have rejoiced in my wake. Make me play something else. Shove me off a cliff. Block YouTube. I can’t sing. I just can’t, and he full on knows that. Even when I’m sitting alone in my room and BLACKPINK’s Boombayah is on full volume, my mouth ready to try, my throat squeezes shut. In lessons, I just can’t croak out a note, no matter how encouraging he is. This is where he's going to get me. Sauntering up to me, he said, “It’s something you’re going to have to get over. True musicians sing.” Who are you to define what a musician is? 

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