To write this post, I must sit at my dining table, snowbound, in the gloomy late winter afternoon, pen in hand, small candles pale-ly illuminating my paper. I’m not trying to recreate a 17th century scenario, like Tim Jenison (see previous post.) No, today I am sitting in the dark because our modern conveniences have been swatted away by Mother Nature. The lady is not pleased by what we humans are putting her through. This morning’s message of displeasure came in the form of yet another unusually brutal winter storm. Around three in the morning, Tom and I woke to the sound of pine trees in the woods all around us cracking, their branches overburdened by an armor of ice. They ruptured and slid to the earth, exploding like gunshots. Power lines came down with them, and that was that — our electricity was out.
Fortunately, being a pianist, I don’t need a single volt of electricity to go to work. I have my 10 fingers, my brain and 88 keys that activate an instrument made of wood, steel, and felt. Whether by daylight, candlelight or electric bulb, the piano will respond. Beautiful sounds can emerge whether my toes are warm or not. No booting-up of anything necessary.
But as daylight begins to fade, I realize that much of the music I need to practice has been stored on my iPad, which is still 80% charged. I set my iPad on the music desk. Its bright internal light clearly defines each note of my electronically stored music scores. Since my eyes are weak to begin with, I’m grateful for this as daylight disappears.
Back in 1700, when Bartolomeo Cristofori first introduced his new invention, the pianoforte, this remarkable instrument represented an ingenious example of new technology. In 2014, an Apple iPad allows this contemporary pianist to keep practicing her craft in conditions she’s not built for. It’s a marriage of two technologies from two different centuries, working together for no better purpose than to allow the expression of human art. Mother Nature, you don’t mind that, do you?