WRITING SHORT: 23/50

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[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]

E-mail to a pianist, inspired by two young grandchildren learning to play the cello and violin:

Hello, Ms. ____,

I have your name from your husband, who I met about three years ago at a Princeton Democratic Party meeting. (I move slowly on these things.) I don’t know if you’re still teaching and have time, or what you charge, or — if time and money work for us both — whether you might be interested in taking me on as an experiment.

I had piano lessons from the ages of 7 to 17, again in my late forties, yet again between 1998 and 2001. I was badly taught the first time (by friends of my father, doing him a favor), not really better later, and there wasn’t much the most recent teacher could do, although I liked him. I never learned to sight read, and was unable to memorize.

Several weeks ago I opened the piano (still tuned every six months) and discovered everything had gone with the wind. With difficulty I could pick out the first two major scales with both hands, forgetting where to turn the thumbs under. It took about thirty minutes to work out the fingering and hesitantly put together the first eight bars of the first Prelude of the Well Tempered Clavichord, which I hadn’t played before. (I had played the first Fugue, quite well but not by heart; it looks like Greek to me now.)

However, it is said that Socrates spent his last thirty minutes before drinking the hemlock to which he had been condemned learning to play a new song on his flute-like instrument.  When asked why, he replied: “So that I may know it.”

I just turned 84, although I’m told I don’t look it, and don’t (yet) have arthritic fingers.  I am sure if I start again, this time it should be as if I were a beginner, even if there may be somewhat faster progress at the outset than with a real beginner. Is this a challenge you feel you could take up?

Many thanks for your consideration.

Her immediate answer: She would be delighted to meet, after her husband recovers from a recently broken ankle, to see if we can work something out.

You may call me Socrates, at least for now.

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