Remember the feeling of accomplishment as a child, picking out a simple tune after your first piano lesson?
Then the day you begin to play with both hands? So grown up.
Eventually you start using more than two fingers.
And then comes the party where a proud parent, possibly with a drink or two in him, commands you to play for the guests, who indulge your efforts with applause and the suggestion that perhaps their child, a contemporary of yours, take a turn at the keyboard.
How soon can you bail on those damn piano lessons?
I flashed on that universal experience whilst listening to pianist and composer Nahre Sol demonstrate the “endless possibilities” of piano composition and interpretation by subjecting “Happy Birthday” to sixteen levels of increasing complexity.
‘Round about level five is where our respective talents began to part ways.
After a lot of practice and false starts, I can sometimes manage a simple arpeggio.
That’s greasy kid stuff to Nahre, whose YouTube channel abounds with expert advice on how to sound like various classical composers and robust investigations of genres—flamenco, ragtime, Bossa nova, the Blues…
Now I know what made the visitors’ kid so much more advanced than me—broken octaves, glissandos, great muscular spans, a confident command of harmonies and rhythm…
Sol blows that performance out of the water, with seemingly very little effort, breezily explaining what she’s doing each time she takes things up a notch, culminating in level 16, which encompasses all previous steps.
As homelessricegum observes in the comment section of the video, “Level 17: you will now need your third hand.”
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine. Join her in NYC on September 9 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.