By Lachlan Macfarlane
Have you noticed it? Pearls of sound ringing through the mezzanine and beyond. Colourful music illuminating the dour, grey décor. The Law School Piano has come.
The piano is a simple, limited instrument, as encapsulated in the name. “Pianoforte” – loud and quiet – are its only variables. Its hammers can never be coaxed to strike at a different angle, or with a different movement, only ever at a different speed. When a key is pressed, its tone obediently sounds. The tone’s volume always fades at the same, measured rate. There is none of the rich timbral variety made possible by a mouthpiece, drum, or bow.
And yet, so much beautiful music has been written upon it. What’s the old saying – creativity comes from adversity? Maybe humans need these kind of restrictions before our genius can emerge. The piano is more than the sum of its pathologies, or its limitations.
It took me a long time to hate playing the piano, possibly because I never loved it. I had no Tiger Mum peering over my shoulder, nor were my parents interested by the intelligence-boosting “Mozart effect” (which is bullshit ). I just went to a half-hour lesson each week, and never stopped, for fourteen years.
Once, for a month in Year 11, a substitute teacher ignited my passion. I practiced constantly, learning twice as quickly as before. But she left, and I was heartbroken. Two years later, driven by Arts degree angst, I took up a concurrent Diploma of Music. This was a bad idea. Its deadlines were always too soon, and Chopin and Rachmaninoff abused my fingers. My rushed end-of-semester performances had less and less conviction. I stumbled to the finish line, disheartened, and have barely touched a piano since.
My story was longer than so many others. They gave up quietly as teenagers, or even earlier. Their long hours of scales and sight-reading came to nothing. Their books were abandoned in dusty rooms, with other adolescent false starts. The world never heard their imperfect recreation of the old masters, save for a few stoic examiners and long-suffering, optimistic parents.
But listen! The Law School Piano has liberated them. Old harmonies nestle back under their fingertips and their crescendoes stream through the lunch hour. Tyrannous sheet music goes abandoned and their fingers’ missteps are forgotten. Romantic interests gaze admiringly, wizened academics smile, and philistines studying on Level One grumble about the noise. Each player’s attempt weaves its personality into the stairwell, from the workmanlike, stomping recital to the fluid, masterful performance.
Every one warms my heart. Here’s to the Law School Piano. Long shall it reign.