Friday, September 7, 2012

Black Keys

Well, it's never too late to learn something. Music figures in the novel I'm writing, which forms the third of a sort of trilogy that includes,The Book of Air & Shadows and Forgery of Venus: literature, art and music. Unfortunately, I am a complete ignoramus about the last of these. I love music, but it's magic to me, and not in a romantic sense, either. How do they do it? I've tried a number of times in my life to learn to play an instrument or gain a smattering of music theory, always a total failure.

But now I have to know something in order not to screw up this novel,so I dragged out one of those Idiot Guide tomes and put a cheap piano keyboard on my iPad. And, well, it sounds incredibly lame, but I finally, finallygrasped what a key was. I just never occurred to me that every scale had a different series of piano keys to press, and that only C Major used nothing but white keys, and that it was all about intervals. Once you know the interval pattern, you can play any scale, Major or minor, and of course this now explains what is meant by a piece of music being in a particular key. I was playing scales on that stupid keyboard into the small hours.

It's still sort of magic--how do musicians keep all of that in their heads, and how do they make their fingers do all that pushing accurately! And how did the first piano maker figure all of it out? Anyway, I get it now, and I have to say few things in recent years have given me as much pleasure as this little insight. Look for me in a piano bar near you--Happy Birthday, Mary Had a Little Lamb--all the old favorites!

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