Essay / Avant-Garde

Piano Lesson

mezzo piano With this image, our accomplished 6-year old artist, fully capable of illustrating chivalrous derring-do on the grand scale, intentionally curtails his normal rendering style. He sets aside the conventions of detailed description and gestural representation, and opts for a simpler, looser style. Why, you might ask? He is following in the footsteps of the great masters, who knew better than to impose their personal style on every phenomenon, and instead allowed their subject matter to declare for itself how it should be portrayed. In this case, the pulsing regularity of the keyboard is the center of attention, with a visual rhythm of rectangles evoking the percussive rhythm of the song. The artist is making the recalcitrant medium of pencil-on-newsprint find within its own resources an expressive counterpart to piano music. Ekphrastic!

Three figures are seated on a dangerously sloping piano bench, their backs to the viewer. Before them, indicated by one undulating loop of a line, is a piano. It is an upright piano, but the sweep of its curve calls to mind the form of a grand piano.

The figure to our left is a beginner. His arms, mere nubs sticking out from his blockish torso, splay in two directions in a wild effort to coax something musical from the great machine. The central figure seems to float above the bench, his blockishness distending into a more lyrical grace. But they must all be judged by the maestro, the figure on the right. This figure draws the keys out of their wonted grid and into her own musical center of gravity. The keys seem to rise up, one after another, to come to her. Or perhaps they flow from her, down and leftward across the piano. The bench tilts, the piano’s base curves, as all music starts and/or stops with her. This is the one who makes the upright grand! This is the one who gives sense to the scale and turns repetition to rhythm. She alone knows the secret, but it is one she shares.

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