Piano Overtone Blues

I practiced for a concert once in a second-floor recital room at a Pennsylvania university. The room was high-ceilinged, with tall sash windows open a few inches at the bottom letting in the early-June breeze and the sound of the swaying trees outside. In the warm acoustics, I could almost imagine I heard echoes of the music made by others through the room’s century-long history.

The piano was grossly out of tune. This is not unusual. What was unusual was that it nevertheless sounded promising because it was so rich in overtones. “If it sounds like this now,” I told myself, “it’s going to sound just wonderful tonight when it’s in tune!”

Came the tuner. Came the concert, and—the piano sound was completely boring! The interest had apparently been due entirely to its being out of tune!

I doubt I created much beauty on that occasion, but there was one unforgettable loveliness. A light rain started just before the program, and its tender sound in the trees continued through the whole recital. I remember that sound, and how it moved me.

Copyright © James Boyk 2013. All rights reserved.
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