Sunday, September 04, 2005

Piano flashbacking

Bart Collins in a recent post features an article that touches on the strange and indescribable connections between music-making and memory, and it's prompted me to think again about a recurring condition of mine. It's a strange, occasionally eery and consistent flashbacking (best verb I can think of) that happens nearly every time I practice the piano. These are astonishing, out-of-the-blue, instant transportations to forgotten moments ... (as a 9-year-old walking past a swing ... as a 28-year-old sitting a certain way in a certain house ...) Mundane and tiny they often are, yet they are perfect recollections. Little virtual realities that arrive with an absolute suddenness. Absolutely unpredictable. Always when I'm involved in playing. And it always feels as though I'm reliving the moment for the first time.

This happens so regularly that I've just folded it into the library of the everyday. But over the years I have tried to think scientifically about the cause, as if I were trying to narrow down the triggers of an allergy, or a headache. I've imagined that it might be certain measures of certain music (can't find any evidence of that) ... or a certain exactly re-struck piano-playing pose that my muscles somehow remember (but there are such an infinite number of them) ...

In the end I've left it all in the unsolved mystery files, but I really think that it has got to have something to do with the place that music naturally occupies in our mind's blueprints. Bart quotes Paul Robertson, the founder of the Medici Quartet: "Music is the underlying structure of communication.”

It's a big thing to say.
But it strikes a chord (as they say).
And helps to emphasize the poignancy of a saying whose source I'm still trying to find ...
We danced before we walked and we sang before we talked.

(I'd love some help on that one.)

I did an interview once with Mikko Nissinen, the Director of the Boston Ballet. He told me that he immediately knows when he's watching a good dancer because it seems as though the dancer is the source of the music.
That thought has never left me.

In any case, I've long wondered whether any other pianists go flashbacking like me ....

1 comment:

Charlie Tee said...

Hi Cathy, I play the saxophone and flute and I have had those occurances as well. I think though that it is caused by certain tonalities, as an example of a different sort; if you have a filled cavity and touch it with a piece of metal like aluminum foil, it's a weird sensation.
I came accross your blog, and I've enjoed it.
I write a blog about the music industry from the standpoint of myself and a band that I play in, feel free to come by and check it out.The address is, and the companion site is www.bronxmusic.blogspot.
Keep up the good work.I hope to hear from you.Take care.
lovingly,Charlie Tee :-)