My preferred medium for much of my content consumption is the good ol’ fashion car radio.
I spend and an hour+ every workday commuting to and from the office, so the variety the radio offers suits me fine. I try to balance between getting caught up on the news of the day, and also getting my head in the proper frame of mind with good music. Two of my favorite stations are KDFC (104.9fm), for classical music and KQED (88.5fm), for NPR.
Today I started with KDFC playing softly in the background as I drove the kids to daycare. After dropping them off, I turned it up a little louder and paid closer attention. As I drove down the freeway, they played several pieces, including one by Chopin (Variations on a Theme by Rossini).
By the time I got to the office I was thinking, “I need to learn more about Frederic Chopin.” I’ve known his name for a long time, but not much else.
During our morning break at work, I did a little digging and learned, among other things, that Chopin died at a young age (39). Additionally, I discovered he composed much of his work by the time he was 20! Certainly a child prodigy, as they say. Chopin is also known more for his compositions for solo piano than for orchestral work.
As I was reading about Chopin I also came a book review that was interesting. It was in the New York Times, a piece by Robert Winter. The review was about celebrities trying to learn musical instruments (of all things) and in particular, the piano. In the review Winter wrote:
“During Chopin’s lifetime the piano rose to talismanic status in Europe (and eventually America), a position it maintained until the advent of the phonograph. Something talismanic still remains about playing the piano.
Show up at a reception and tell the first person who asks after your profession that you are a pianist, and a spark inevitably flickers across their eyes, perhaps punctuated by “Oh wow!”
This is frequently followed by a confession that at one time the questioner also took lessons, climaxing in genuine if momentary regret at letting them slide.”
From there I got to thinking about the piano we have in our dining room (I know, strange place; but then, it’s the only place it fits at the moment!). Like many kids, I took piano lessons when I was in grade school. Also like many kids, I wasn’t too enamored by the mandatory practice aspect and abandon the training early on. I even tried again a few years later, as an adolescent. I fell short a second time.
Then it dawned on me. No wonder I still have my mother’s piano in the house. There’s still hope. Maybe I’ll try lessons one more time, someday. I certainly know where to find the inspiration.