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.