Jim Meirose

Playing Piano for People; How to Learn – the Meat of Lesson Three

(A typical performance of the following work lasts fifteen minutes.)

                Lane and Lydia came into their studio, to continue working through the latest novel they’d contracted to record the audio version of. Lane took his usual seat in the tiny control room. His face lifted toward Lydia, they nodded and smiled wanly, then Lydia turned away and entered the brightlit recording booth. She sat and slipped on her headset and opened the book before her. She nodded to Lane thus causing the blank box above his window to shine out in red, RECORD. Lydia silently cleared her throat, which was always the first step in the series of steps she unknowingly took to span the time between the red order to RECORD being issued and for the first word of today’s recording to be finally uttered. See the order. Clear the throat. Tilt the head. Focus the eyes. Lay the left hand down on the bookstand. Grip the book edge with the right hand. Slip the right forefinger under the upper right corner of the right-hand page into position to turn the pages over and over and again and again. See the word. Know the word. Instantly scan the sentence to be able to divine the tone lilt and volume of the word, then quick, say the word. In this case, “Chapter”. And then given that the chapter to be recorded has a second word, repeat the steps, except, for this change, Lydia’s throat was already cleared. Lydia’s head was already tilted. Lydia’s eyes were already focused. Lydia’s left hand was on the bookstand. Lydia’s right hand already gripped the book. Lydia’s right forefinger was already under the upper right corner of the right-hand page positioned to turn the pages over and over and again and again—but, huh—see she was complacent. The machine in her head thought that what had been true for the last six items would be true for the next six or sixty or whatever. She had skipped the second word and the train went thrashing into the weeds off the track. The weeds had seen train after train after train go by with no effect, so, the weed leaders had let the weed rank and file to slumber nod in and out in and out and back in again—as required by the ebb and flow every instance of laziness no matter where applied displays. So; not being ready, the weeds were crushed down by the careening derailed train. No one now was at any helm. No wheel now was connected to any tiller. If the tiller’s gone or the connection to the tiller don’t know don’t know don’t not matter hey. The wrong in the weeds to the side of Lydia’s mainline shockwaved out perfectly super-round waking her. Or was it Lane? Who’s that voice what’s that voice shaking me touching me elsewhere from my drum hammer anvil or stirrup—it’s ridiculous they claim such tiny bones can hear. Or that deeper in even where it’s darker and more unknowable and mysterious this tiny frail bony linkage defying gravity in the round dim dark tunnel-hole in past the noise-poundy eardrum can make her let her hear herself say to her, “Thirteen - Sonata Number Thirteen. Beethoven. Andante, Allegro, Andante in five-part rondo form ABACA; in E♭ major, second episode in C major—” but who is it reading it isn’t her reading her train’s off track leaned sidewise in the mashed-flat weeds, and there, she is, popped-out standing firmly in—huh? Firmly in where—huh? Can’t be in the story she’s reading but she is and guess what. Who sees her? Who’s telling you this? She cannot be—somehow, she jumped off the train safely soundly and she’s reading all this is off the side somehow the speeding tight train tunnel five hundred a thousand miles per hour go the words past, but; we press to the wall observing. That’s all there’s space to do, is. Caught in the wind that way that’s all. Must observe. Must because that’s all she can. Observe the words read by her other as, “Maestro Rubbinschteen felt the walls of the classroom straining to not explode inward from the mounting outside pressure of the search for him and Gage which Anvil-Man Paul and the Late Cardinal Sierra had mounted. And to make things uglier, the entire sonata he had surged with equal urgency which mounted as the pressure from outside to abandon Gage and join the war effort, plunged forward continuously without pauses between movements, in the manner of most fantasias. I was disappointed with my experience with Paul after all the glowing reviews posted to Yelp. But. His will combined with the late Cardinal’s is. Maybe I should just deliver them the secret of how the ladies Gage transmitted the Steinway across enemy lines to here—No. No. Pressures from within without above and below O, quite demanding—E, Quite demanding—O. O. O. O. O! No. Shake shake. Shimmer. No. So, wake up right now Finnie. Time’s growing scarce Finnie. It’s the day of your third lesson Finnie. Are you listening Finnie? Better be waking up Finnie. Hurry hurry up, you’ve played halfway through you practice-piece and haven’t even rolled out onto your feet yet. How can that be Finnie? It means you’re a pianist now Finnie. Ho, oh. Okay Finnie. Greetings to you. And your wives also.
                Hey Maestro.
                Morning Maestro Rubbinschteen.
                Yes, morning.
                Great to see you awake for once Finnie. Today’s your third lesson Finnie. I hear you have been doing very well since your first two. Hey, blank face; I know you are in there—come out, and come on. That’s right Finnie. I am speaking to you. Approach the piano Finnie. I got it all hot and ready for you Finnie. Listen to it race along Finnie. Almost a living thing, Finnie. As in, hot off the figurative skillet. Brought to the exact perfect temperature, and degree of doneness. Your third course will now be served, God willing! Hop aboard and ride her Finnie. But wait not so fast. Stop there. Think, Finnie. Consider what I moments ago said. I used the term, exact perfect. Was it wrong or right to turn that phrase? Ask yourself. Perfect has a meaning, Finnie. Perfect things are exact things, Finnie. There’s no degrees of perfect. I guess I screwed up. Why should we toss this aside to win Paul’s war? Paul was gruff on the phone when we first met. He asked where I got his phone number, which felt like an accusation, and made me feel like I was bothering him by calling to make my plumbing appointment. But perhaps mayhaps mishaps pretty-pritt the ladies could be sent out to deliver Paul and Sierra the secret. Did I screw up? That word exact, that’s the whole problem. That word exact was the boulder got rolled down to strip out the millwheel’s gears. How old are you Finnie? We need to know. Why? Because if you live in a condo, Finnie, you must arrange to have the water to your whole building turned off. How’s that for a high? That’ll choke down your wheat supply. That’ll kill all your villages. Are you at least thirty, Finnie? Stopped up the reader of whatever this is called at this point. The Nazi inside these pops in every other reader and they say, No! That word exact is an adjective and ought to have been stripped out! Say, after you make history by winning this competition, will you go on to make a name for yourself as Big Finnie the Man, wandering big-gun hot pianist for hire? Even though you are one of the most unprofessional people I have ever tutored Finnie, I would be willing to manage you. Hey—but, I digress. Forgive me please. The text in question mon mon my sweet authoress is shit! Hardly publishable as it stands. Did you know the original autograph copy for this sonata is lost? But anyway, you ought to, mon mon my sweet, consider the sentence within which it occurs. This is; brought to the exact perfect temperature, and degree of doneness. It sort of reminds me of the useless fact that advertisements for this work first appeared in March of eighteen two—oh, oh! You fired off those intertwining pearlstrings of sixty-fourth notes so slick never dropping even a single sparkling appoggiatura or crystalline diamond-hard acciaccatura, it's amazing you can be at the same time so argumentative and unpleasant it’s a wonder those two silent ladies back there chose to snag you in in the first place. But now I’ll guide you through the appropriate calculee-calculaie of how bad this foul ball really got hit. To the point where you all three man and two women types’ careers will roll all dribbly-drabbly off the end of each and every runway you attempt, below, at or over sea level; it won’t matter no won’t no, it—doesn’t matta’! No more than it matta’s that certain sonatas were originally titled Sonata quasi una fantasia.
                But who do you think you are? You fancy yourself the equal of the very Princess Josephine von Liechtenstein, whose name I read in a music book once but about whom I know very little else—oh, come on now, don’t take offense.
                I was jus’ funnin’ Finnie! Get it? Here, I poke you. Get it get it get it?
                I’m not poking you.
                Get it my sweet?
                Hippo over hippo.
                Come on and crack one. I doubt it’ll split ya’.
                Okay down, pussy-man. Let’s move on. By the way, know that the adagio con espressione in A♭ major you just blasted to bits, is also available in ternary form. Just sayin’. But anyway. Here; here are ten broncos shot all simultaneous from your rodeo runaway digits flapping slamming all slashy-slashy across the keys. Before you did that so foolishly, did you consider the fact that the title Sonata quasi una fantasia translated to Sonata in the manner of a fantasy? Oh, sure, what, was I born yesterday? Lewis Lockwood said, Finnie? Who the hell’s Lewis Lockwood anyway? I should believe you did, you big butt smartass, Finnie? You really thought your ten-jewel necklace would draw ahhs and oohhs and oh, did you think you were smart yah probably still think so ain’t that true you three inch tall self-loving Finnie-man? I’m sorry, but the result of the attacca principle that you hold so dear, is merely the blurring of the concept of each movement as an autonomous whole, and nothing more. As Doctor Drake pointed out to you, not just once but at least two times, your movements tend to be in extreme contrast with each other. It’s a common trait of a fantasy-man like you Finnie. Also—the appearance of your quotations from one movement within another is a form of freedom not ordinarily employed in classical men such as you. So, can you deny anything anymore now, feces for brains Finnie? Oh yah, you are quite cool. Allegro vivace in E♭ major in sonata rondo form cool. Go on kidding yourself. But back to business Finnie. And, a second pass of editing reveals two such shit words—exact and also, perfect! You do not need these! What a sin you have put in that sentence two needless things, Finnie! Just got off the phone with this guy. He told me you do these things quite deliberately. You are very very good at playing dumb—I should believe you didn’t know the simple grade-school level truth that two false notes out of a total of ten generic notes tells my math head long ago shotgun-splattered across that blank blackboard hiding back behind my butt would see ‘tween your tight twin butt-nekked cheeks—but that story’s too ugly—and see I do it too Finnie. I could have not used too. That word this word these words, hey; it doesn’t matta’! Two percent is the amount impacting the total evacuation of the word-colon. Two percent; small sounding but very potent, as; ten becomes eight at the sentence-level. Two hundred three becomes one hundred sixty-two at the paragraph level. Five thousand becomes four thousand at the story level. One hundred thousand becomes eighty-thousand at the big novel level, and; so forth, so on—take that math out far enough and you’d find one or two gassy planets could be tossed out the solar system, and, the universe, wowie! But, later for that, for this consider that with all those multiple rocky dumb lumps in all those different exit canals, these stumbling blocks and deadly irregularities which can be found in every and all roads, which stumbled over deliver a head-smashing death just as dead—dead is dead in the end no matter—dead by martyrdom, dead by stupidity, dead by intention, dead by blank—which blank you may fill as you wish—see how this works? The movement includes a brief coda and concludes abruptly on the chord C major, a Picardy third. That’s proof all by itself. But, additionally, the allegro molto e vivace in C minor, which is in a modified Scherzo form, trio section in A♭ major—and proceeds in stately magnificence, also should serve to compel you. Ey, wot. The Op. 27 No. 1 sonata is laid out in four movements: five six seven and thirty. Thus, it follows, that the Sun is hot Finnie. There are many ways to die Finnie. You should take care; be taking care every new moment. Do not let up. The Sun will be hot way past your lifespan Finnie. Let up the wrong way the wrong moment and there won’t be any safe places for you any more Finnie. If you have to learn the Sun is hot the hard way, that is entirely up to you Finnie. But; the subject word-colon under scrutiny here, is now just eight segments long. It will easily slide out from whichever mouth lips it away in the air out loud—or will easily suck back into the face of what or whomever reads it in silently. Less than a split-second of processing will occur then, to determine; what did it mean; based on that, what to think of it; and then, whether to read on, or, to dump the remaining sentences away and down to whatever grass, leaves, dirt, snow, or mud happens to lie there to catch it, which catcher will vary depending on the season. Sure, this will also be proven by the fact the sun will not cool in the earth’s lifetime Finnie. Next, the vacuum created by that big dump will suck into itself such questions as, what was that really, maybe it never was—gee and if that’s true more problems start looming dark out there; see that black all blackening down way up over the horizon, the air’s suddenly chilling, but; let’s not force the boxcars out ahead of their full-blast locomotive. There, mon mon my sweet, lies final simple tragedy. The Earth will be gone long before the expanding sun can kill it Finnie. They don’t dare teach that in school though Finnie. So. How sad that down beneath the bottom down of the thing is written—that for most of your life, there you will sit, processing again in the same exact way the next sentence come at you, and the next, and the next over the next, and over; sit spending every moment starting fresh over again, never being allowed to know if you are getting anyplace, since the raw data for that analysis gets ripped away, plowed lightningfast under you, where you’ve not eyes to see, immediately all gone out back o’ your behind-hole. So, it’s your choice, M’seur Finnie, if you want to go on down this same life, spinning and spinning your wheels uselessly. Really? That’s your plan? You’re resigned to that, you say? Bottom line’s then, I doubt you can learn Finnie. I feel sorry for you Finnie, but—okay! So be it! That’s it for now! Let’s wrap you up quick pal, ‘cause a big line’s a-waitin’ in the six-below outside. Thank you—your passport’s now stamped condemned. Sign here that you know and understand what that means—thank you. You’re lucky I picked you up and not Harlow, because under the table he stage-whispers to whoever he sits with at his many state dinners, that you exhibited yourself without a pinch of shame in many of the larger New England towns, and for a time you were signed with Barnum's American Museum in New York City. Oh yes, this is true. I saw the documents with my own eyes, though unfortunately neither that number of the proceedings of the Massachusetts Medical Society, nor Harlow's pamphlet version of the address wherein he references you, are held in any library either public or private, anywhere across the face of our present home-globe. To add fuel to the fire, consider this, Finnie; little is yet known of your final years Finnie. That’s not surprising since you’ve not lived them yet Finnie. That you’ve been drifting around aimlessly uninterested in working or, when you have snagged a position you immediately showed yourself incapable of holding down the job Finnie. Railroad gang boss? Punishment center? Lever soap factory floor mopping man? Rambler mechanic? Hah! The coast was clear for you to hit the wall had you not awakened in the last moment, spun your wheel hard right, and run me down instead. I am a much softer target, as a matter of fact running me down has always meant good fortune to whoever’s been careless enough to live through it. Go present this at that next window down that narrow place down there Finnie. Have a great day Finnie. May you profit immensely this day Finnie. Officers, show Finnie here the way. Dorothy and Bonnie up there are with him officer. Take all three out and bring in the next in line. Oh, Finnie. Judgement is such a heavy deadly chore Finnie. But I am the man for it. Bitte-bitte Finnie. My job is not yet available Finnie. Hippo over hippo yah Finnie. Not even enough time for a coffee-sip between. So, my job will never be yours Finnie. You may be able to turn a buck or two publicly exhibiting yourself, but, as for me, well, my cup’s gone all cold anyway. Find a job on your own Finnie. The best advice I can give you is get over always ending up screwing over every single person you encounter Finnie. Oh, yes you do. You know you do. Figuratively at least you always do, you know. Finnie. Good-bye. Make way for this young man coming in fresh. Come sit, come see, let’s start. So, tell me—who the hell are you? Say your name please.
                —but perhaps mayhaps permote betweentwixt the ladies could deliver to the Anvil-Man and the rotting priest the secret of teleportation—
                Oh? What? How or who?
                I said say your name!
                Alan. Just Alan.
                So—what spawned your desire to achieve virtuosity Alan? There are only thirty-three possible answers. Knowing this should help you out Alan You look a deserving young man Alan.
                —with the ladies’ safe passage back guaranteed—
                Don’t be nervous.
                Don’t be no—and; puff smoke from above enveloped down over all sides enveloped from the front out the back up the down sinking into the last thin dead layer gone down all bones settling further down to less than bones absorbing down dusty fluffy raggy remnants settling the absolute furthest down into a smooth plain of sediment then lower ah disappeared all gone.
                Make a note to negotiate this. Or that. Or, the other thing.
                Why? They’ve been dead a long time. That’s why.
                Non-nothing—so Finnie—Quit the keyboard immediately; let me see your hands; put them slowly on the trunk of my cruiser while we await our backup, then—backdown. And also, hey—you are lucky to have me. You’re lucky I believe you, because most of the accounts of your life since the accident are strange mixtures of slight fact, considerable fancy and downright fabrication. Okay okay there’s the light go into the light Finnie poundy-keys poundy-keys oundy-key undy-ke ndy-k dy d, and and and and, lastly—with a super-loud flourish, slam both hands on the ivories pass out free toothaches to the bystanders and rip roar aloud, from the very rooftops, the immutable fact that the second movement is a magnificent scherzo in ternary form huh huh huh huh—huh! And! The movement shuddered to a fiery conclusion, not in its tonic key, but instead reached a final cadenza that led directly to the finale; so, so be it, king kitty king kitty king-kit! Bedit-bit-bit-bit, bitta!
                Phineas reeled wildly backward with his hands flung askew all flying looking like dozens every one blurred down uncountable, and seeing himself flung all out this way he stepped forward and donned back his form to control himself, bringing the whole scene back into focus as Bonnie and Dorothy rose and rushed to join he and his Maestro at the piano keyboard.
                Great job, Finnie! shouted the Maestro. Great lesson. You nailed it good!
                What? Huh? No—
                Come on. You nailed it. Don’t you think you nailed it?
                Nailed it? Don’t fuck with my mind—you are nuts.
                Oh yeah? How nuts am I that now, after practically no lessons, you played hell out of sonata twenty—even in your handicapped state! Great job!
                I played nothing. Bonnie, Dorothy—tell him he’s nuts.
                I think so, said Bonnie—I think—
                Rubbinschteen pounded the keyboard pounded them silent and covered them over with You are much too modest Finnie. And yes, it’s incredible you can now play this way! It’s so incredible, that, it’s totally miraculous! So burn! And, like most common people with vision dimmed-down having had it drummed and drummed and drummed down into them that miracles cannot be, how do you react? Hah! You deny. Burn the flames! Your minds block. Way down in you reaches the dark hand that your toxic education has planted in you and grips the master off switch one step short of your souls and it comes back up a great big No! that will not pass but the pressure builds and builds the music flames up higher higher, and higher more and more painful ripping tearing and splitting out never to expire No! after No! after—and you must believe the miracle wasn’t he didn’t play nothing he even denies it and simply because—such pain as this cannot have been for nothing. Nothing in creation dare cause such pain for nothing except Paganboy Pan himself or Christian B. Satan, at your service always, you know—and you cannot have just learned Satan controls you, so, you say—it did not happen. The Maestro is nuts. I am sorry. Really sorry.
                Hand pressed to his chest, he sank three sizes smaller and motioned to the door with his left, and leaning heavily to the side supporting himself on the piano with his right.
                Gage stood stonily in the sudden quiet. Dorothy took one step saying, Maestro—I don’t think you’re nuts. Don’t say that.
                Bonnie piped in with, If he’s not nuts then what? A liar then? Finnie what do you think?
                Gage stopped short of shrugging he was not a man who enjoyed admitting he’d been fooled or been made to look stupid—The Maestro spoke across the ladies saying, Bonnie and Dorothy—thank you so much at least for bringing me this fine Model D. I will use it in concert exclusively. I will think of you with every note I play here on in everything I play in your name and you, Finnie. I at least believed you achieved the needed virtuosity. You can go into the competition playing as you are, but you must play the entire sonata end to end, two days in a row, then one day off. Then two in a row again, one off again—and always have one of your wives present to tell you how it went like this one day Bonnie one day Dorothy one day off just Lydia in-the-weeds-to-the-side wakens watches there—there—why is the other me read what’s not there eh eh eh, then one day Bonnie one day Lydia pressed-to-the-side-of-the-tunnel eh eh eh three more pounds on this chickie wickie and this train woulda zipped me down in line one another day off, but—my number two’s name shot past again I knew it did I heard it too so just Bonnie-Lyd I no why Lanie-Lydia then again one day Lydia1 next day Lydia2 Got to try got to ask Mister Rubbinschteen hey hey hey this is Lydia is a copy of me in that scene roaring by hey but Gage just said I am sure you can imagine the next you can suss it out on your own you don’t need no map Gage you don’t need no map Bonnie you don’t need no map Dorothy and certainly not if Lane and Lydia stop! stop! Gage am I in there? Did the author say to you say Lydia then and there and no other watching over the works eh Lyd did you just say that? Lane did the author write that? Dot Bonnie Lydia-san Lane-san hotsie-goosie bye bye love bye bye happiness why is the real Lane sitting outside reading that is it real or not real I was given the job to know I must know know kno kno kn kn k k k k k k k k k everything’s by now sucked through the tunnel just five seconds of a single pinsized red taillight-glow also gone and that is the end of it. Sighhh h h h h-h-h hhh hh h.”
                Lydia shut over the book and slumped into herself not knowing that she had just been torn in two and put back together or; the strain of pushing through the shit book had every ounce of her lifeforce nearly sucked down to empty then partially filled then sucked down again; this repeated eighteen times at least, over. Can one die of strain that way? Have studies been done on the long and short-term effects of being forced to read aloud perfectly for prolonged periods, a flow of words the sight of which not to mention the sound of which if not let up on could do a body to death? When the end’s in sight but kicks back out and then in sight again but kicks back out anda anda ho ho indaho indo outda ho ho ho.
                Lane, who’d come into her booth leaned down when she opened her eyes and looked up.
                You look bushed. That was a long one.
                Sure was.
                Come on. Dinner out. Where to Lyd? You deserve the choice.

Jim Meirose's work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Calliope, Offbeat/Quirky (Journal of Exp. Fiction pub,), Permafrost, North Atlantic Review, Blueline, Witness, and Xavier Review, and has been nominated for several awards. Published books include: Understanding Franklin Thompson (Exp. novel - JEF pubs), Sunday Dinner With Father Dwyer (Exp. Novel - Optional Books), Inferno (E-Chap - Underground Voices), Mount Everest and Eli the Rat (Lit. Novels - Montag). Visit www.jimmeirose.com to know more.
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