Joe's Blog

The entire body rings like a bell.

September 13, 2020

We are faced with a division in the body: the core of the body, which remains largely whole unto itself and moves as a coherent whole. and the body extremities, particularly the arms and the hands which are constantly making motions that are externally dictated by having to adapt and conform to the horizontal expanse of the keyboard which expands logarithmically from the center.

The most effective piano playing results when this division is done away with, by establishing motions in the torso that conform in spirit to the motions of the arms and hands, and actually serve to reinforce the latter. As the large bell in a Zen monastery is perfected so that its entire body contributes to the sound that therefore emerges from the entire bell.

For instance in consonance with the motions of the arms relative to the keyboard there can be motions of buttocks relative to the piano bench, achieved primarily through the focal point of the ishia bones*. By using the muscles in the torso and in the legs, we can cause the torso to rock rhythmically on the ishia bones: left and right or forwards and back or circularly by combining the other two.  As if with sympathetic magic the buttocks act as an invisible agent to bring about motion in the arms and hands.  No matter how far the arms move, or in what plane of motion, the heart of that motion comes out of the buttocks because it has enacted the essence of the arms’ motion.

Having established this connection between the deep core and the finger extremities, other parts of the body are inspired to make motions that carefully abet the activity of the fingers at the keyboard.  My legs, my knees, my elbows, my shoulders.  They pursue paths in space that at first seem unrelated to the piece I am playing but prove that they too have something to offer to the overall “in-tuneness” of the body as a whole.  

One of the results of all of this is that no note, no chord, is ever played on the piano that doesn’t feel centered or out of balance. Every note rings true.

*I learned this originally through my teacher Edwine Behre, then for years forgot about, and now have relearned this. 





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