My son is preparing for his Grade 3 Piano exams. Of all the pieces he has to play, he seems to be having trouble putting the correct tempo and leading beat to an otherwise very easy arrangement of ‘Desperado’ by the American rock band Eagles.
A 1973 song, it is familiar to me, played on the radio over and over again when I was little. There has been lots of renditions sung during local talent quests and amateur nights at the pub.
But then it suddenly occurred to me that my 11-year old son would never have heard of this song! I haven’t heard it played at all recently on air. So off we go to Youtube, looking for the original piece. After hearing it a few times with his headset on, he is beginning to ‘understand’ how to interpret this song. He tries to play it with more emotion. He puts music dynamics to give the piece more expressiveness.
My heart does go out to him – here is a song which reminds me of my childhood. I watched my older siblings play this Eagles album on vinyl records using my parents’ turntable. That was many summers ago, long before smartphones or iPads. Now I cringe (on the inside) as I watch my son attempt to interpret a song sung nearly 40 years ago! A song he has never heard before.
Funnily enough, I heard him tinkling on the piano a few days ago, trying to make up his own song. Like many children his age, he is an avid fan of the Star Wars movie franchise. He has a ‘Jedi’ sword and a Star Wars costume. He has watched all the latest Star Wars films over and over again.
His piano ‘composition’ actually sounded very much like the theme song from Star Wars. It has that repetitive forceful drone chords (he made up for his left hand), paired with a harmony for melody on the right hand. He was very proud to show us and let us listen to his composition (quite a few times!)
It goes to show how much emotion each of us invest when composing, playing music or making choices about which type of music or artist we like to listen to. We may play a musical instrument with as much finesse as we can, depending on our level of ability. We can also play a musical piece effectively just by following all the instructions and music dynamics written for the piece.
But ultimately, it is how we relate to that music on the emotional level, based on our own personal experience, that determines how successful we interpret a piece of music and bring it to life.
Here is a strong yet graceful performance from one of the most inspiring artist I have discovered of late (Piano solo from 4:25)
What inspires you?