Surely ‘Tis Better to be Bombastic than Merely Bumptious

graphite drawing

As my music teacher once told me, "if you make a mistake, be sure to make the same mistake again, and with real conviction, when you get to Verse Two."

No one will be surprised to hear that as a kid with no sense of direction, space or straightforward western left-to-right/top-to-bottom reading I never did master reading music. Apparently I was a pretty decent prevaricator and persuader, though, because I faked my way through my five years of piano lessons by conning teachers and friends into playing my assignments for me up front ‘so I could get a feel for how they worked’–so I could phony them up by playing primarily by ear when lesson time came around again. Not to say that this flim-flam actually made me a good player. I had the decency to stop taking lessons when I was old enough that the act was wearing as thin as a starlet’s underwear. My teachers deserved to work with students with a certain amount of potential, after all. But I learned lots of fun and useful things from them in spite the inevitable moments of frustration and drudgery inherent in beginner’s practice. Not least of which was that the root not just of learning, but of potential innovation and variant excellence is the Mistake.

This is not meant as license for licentiousness–free rein to make egregious errata just for the lazy-ass or mean-spirited fun of it. But there’s a great difference between tripping on the invisible banana skin and bounding around boisterously without regard to the laws of gravity just to see how much I can liven up a dull funeral service. There’s a yawning gap between plonking a wrong note in the heat of a performance and sabotaging a poor defenseless deceased composer because I don’t care enough to learn her work properly. Despite my inability to make head or tail of those dots on a score, I did earnestly try to learn the proper notes right through by however devious the means.

I can neither confirm nor deny that the keyboard biff-ery that inspired the above gem of guidance regarding consistency of form used to disguise a melodic pratfall in any way improved upon the intended character or direction of the piece. Can’t even remember what I was playing. But you can be sure that the technique offered was a face saver, if not a life-saver, many a time after. Sometimes it’s just best to own up to my impressive capacity for fallibility right off, and enjoy a good horse-laugh at my own expense along with all of the other merrymakers in the room. Sometimes, though, I would rather take a page from the Bluffer’s Guides and adopt a meant-to-do-that nonchalance. There’s only so much I can take of being the unintentional class clown. Part of me dreams of Emma Peel sang-froid, a fantasy that however insanely unreachable is yet not easily quashed.

After all, it has served as the inspiration, time and time again, for all sorts of larger than life ideas, stories, poems, artworks and practical on-the-spot excuses, and who among us does not need those! Dogs, however voracious, can’t be expected to digest every available hunk of homework; traffic cannot account for the vagaries of my inspired life behind the wheel at every moment; and certainly the good taste and etiquette handbook, no matter how comprehensive, simply doesn’t have the capacity to cover my every gaffe and blunder in thought, word and dork-dyed deed. So thanking my lucky stars, and my long-ago mistress of pianistic peregrinations, I will continue on my hapless yet happy way, pretending to know what I’m doing in life while covering my blunders with bluster and the best imitation I can give of correctness. Whatever that is.

graphite drawing

What I MEANT to say was . . .

11 thoughts on “Surely ‘Tis Better to be Bombastic than Merely Bumptious

  1. Yeah…that reading music thing is/was WORSE than trying to learn a foreign language. I am constantly inundated with both and somehow cannot get the gist of either. I play songs from a FAKE BOOK which would seem apropos….I’m sure you played from the heart, … deep in the heart of Texas!

    • ‘Fraid my only piano playing here in TX thus far has been the occasional “noodling” break at the electronic keyboard. I do miss the beautiful Kawai grand we had in WA, but that’s long gone–and perhaps my playing is better relegated to a keyboard that can be put in silent mode so only I hear it through my headphones! But I do still like that rare moment of messing about with the piano, so I have my long-ago lessons to thank for it.

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  3. My father called in Nonchalance.. Look like you know what you are doing and the moment you have a sec dive for the research and FIND OUT! but never let on!..oh and do you still have that ettiquette handbook, I could do with a read.. all i got out of my piano lessons was sore knuckles, my teacher was a ruler whacker and she was a Nun.. the worst kind of ruler whackers! c

    • Yes, isn’t it great how many church people in history have wielded their Christian charity with such, ahem, warmth!

      We did have a ruler whacker (ours not a nun) for piano lessons at one point, sister K1 and I, but big sister was the only one that got bashed around. I’m fairly certain that it was for two reasons: 1- she was always smart and self-assured enough to speak her mind, which I sincerely doubt our witch-like tutor appreciated (I, K2, was always more prone to passive-aggressiveness and so would fly under the radar even if I was equally non-compliant), and 2- K1 was more naturally talented by far than I and the old hag probably thought it was worth any means of forcing her to “achieve her full potential”. Of course, the polar opposite of what would really work, and appalling to say the least. Probably hadn’t the remotest inkling of what we said and did behind her back, and was utterly mystified that our parents willingly pulled us out of her studio when they found out–why, she had So Much to Offer!

      And of course you know full well by now that I have never even been in sniffing distance of any books of etiquette! You’ll have to find your own, I guess. 😉

    • Here’s my new silly joke for the occasion:

      Why did the Catholic schoolkids stop cheering for their star player at the girls’ basketball games?
      Because the nuns kept smacking them for blasphemy when they yelled “Yay, Sue Christy!”

    • Ha! I would tell you they were merely illustrations of actual stuff, but since I already copped to being an inveterate faker, I guess that’s off the table now. Glad you like!

  4. The graphic images are fabulous. I love that quote from your music teacher. How true it is that if we just trudge on and move forward with dignity when we make mistakes, then somehow we lessen the obviousness of the error.

    • Considering my level of talent, if I did the fake-out EVERY time I made a flub, the performance would probably be unrecognizable as the original intended. But it’s great to have this trick in the back pocket for the *occasional* boo-boo! 😉

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