THE UNITY OF THE HANDS
November 9, 2020
By the “helping hand” I mean a hand that is momentarily not playing
notes, or is momentarily exempted by the pianist from playing its
notes and which can therefore be used during the interim for other purposes.
The fact that our body is bilaterally symmetric opens up the
possibility that things a single hand cannot execute easily at the
keyboard can be influenced by, prompted by, encouraged by, conducted
by, supported physically by, what the other hand is doing.
The secret is in the union of the two hands and the two arms.
What does it take to produce this union or at least make us aware that
the apparent separateness of the hands and arms in space can obscure
an organic harmony between the two?
By joining the two hands together through interlacing the fingers we
suddenly change two separate arm structures into one continuously
circulating, circle like object, connected through the shoulders, that
can easily be moved as a single unit without particular reference to
what one side if doing versus the other.
This, now single, object isn’t broken at the shoulders, any more than
between the interlaced fingers. It is easily felt to continue its
circumference between the shoulders through muscles, bones, and
integuments of the upper back.
We can experiment with moving this ‘circle’ around as a whole in
space. One way is to rhythmically raise and lower the conjoined
fingers. This puts the entire circle in motion, with a facilitating
hinge between the two shoulders.
While thus moving the circle of the arms try to notice what you feel
on the left side of the circle versus the right side. The fingers
that are touching produce among them a joint (combined) sensation, it being hard to figure out which part of that sensation belongs specifically to the right
fingers or the left fingers. It is a true unity of the fingers of both hands that we have suddenly created.
The same is true if we pick any other two corresponding parts of the
circle. For instance, if we ask what one elbow is contributing to the
overall sensation of motion of the circle versus the other, we are
hard put to answer this question. We would have slow the motion down
and even stop it and then try to budge one elbow versus another.
Perhaps it is better for me to put it this way: it is much more
difficult than doable to trace the origin of the overall sense of
motion, at any given moment, to one elbow versus another.
If we now, without ceasing lifting and lowering the ‘circle’, slowly
separate the fingers and the hands. Our circle, rather than
disappearing, simply enlarges in diameter. Imaginary forces like
electric sparks, or the visible rung of electric current along the
invisible rungs of a “Jacob’s ladder”, seem to continue to connect the
Or we can imagine that we are holding an elastic band between the
hands which simply stretches but does not break if we move the hands
apart from each other. Through means such as these we can retain the
feeling of a continuous circle made up out of the two upper limbs of
It is not a great stretch of the imagination to feel that the hands
are moving together as one larger unit and yet at the level of finest
detail different tasks are being assigned to the subtlest motions of
the finger tips.