I’ve been playing the piano and writing music from the time I could reach the keys of the small upright piano in the dining room. My mother played the piano very well and had a small collection of sheet music which was, and in many ways still is, a mystery to me. My fascination began with banging the lower bass keys and loving the power of the sound, I delighted in the amazingly large noise I could make for little effort. I still am.
At the aged of 7 or so I started formal, classical piano lessons with the music teacher from the secondary school in Deeping St James where I grew up. I was intimidated by Mr Carter. He was passionate about the piano, he played brilliantly and he was loud and seemed unpredictable to a small, quiet and shy boy. Things started well, but because I was expected to like, play and practice the pieces of music put before me, I never actually did. The fascination and mystery dissolved and the piano became just another task I needed to complete. Practicing stopped me from enjoying my other childhood passions of; building models of science fiction spaceships from recycled boxes and cartons, Airfix models and fishing.
I was not very good at the piano. Reading music never came naturally to me, I didn’t practice and every week I loathed and feared my lesson with Mr Carter. Within a couple of years Mr Carter moved to a larger house where he now had enough space for a baby grand piano. This was now even more intimidating. Each time we were about to start our lesson Mr Carter would be playing something loud, complicated, mesmerising and ultimately completely off-putting to me. I was amazed by how fast his fingers moved, by the way the random black and white code of the music became this incredible sound. Whilst i’m sure it was meant to inspire me, it had the opposite effect; making me feel inadequate, incapable, useless in this impossible pursuit. I would then sit down and ineptly bash out the simple piece I had only actually practiced once or twice an hour earlier. I think Mr C despaired of me, but I guess I was steady income for him at least.
The main reason I didn’t enjoy or practice the piano at this time was because I simply didn’t like the music. Although we had always listened to classical music at home, and I enjoyed grand orchestral music, these small classical piano pieces seemed boring and a bit silly. I adored Also Sprach Zarathustra, but could never see how a piano could cone anywhere close to this huge sound.
With Star Wars in 1977 came the music that changed everything for me. Suddenly there was something that combined my passion for space and fantasy with incredible and inspiring music. I learned to work out and play the themes by ear. It didn’t even occur to me that I should get the sheet music, even if I had I probably wouldn’t havr understood it. Instead I worked out my own simple left-hand accompaniment and grew more and more excited by the realisation that I was actually enjoying myself.
Now piano lessons and the simple pieces of Bach, and Mozart were even more boring. I would take pleasure in playing my ‘space music’ as my mum called it whilst Mr C was out of the room to know how it sounded on his huge piano. He never heard me I’m sure, as I was too embarrassed to be heard playing such things on his classical instrument.
At the age of ten or eleven I finally struggled to my Grade 1 piano exam. Which I passed. But I hated the exam, I found it terrifying and promptly asked to give up.
My mother was disappointed that I stopped my lessons as I’m sure she wanted me to enjoy playing like she always had. But I didn’t stop playing, nor enjoying. Quite the opposite, with more films and TV series came more music and melodies to work out and inspire me. Blakes’ 7, Close Encounters, Indiana Jones, The Black Hole. Early electronic music pioneers such as Jean-Michel Jarre added to the mix of piano, melody and sound and the possibilities became more exciting still.
The piano became a way also of expressing my feelings. I would seek it’s company when I felt sad, and find myself pouring out my emotions in small pretty, mournful tunes, which would make me cry even more but help to work everything out of my system. I never recorded or notated what I played. These melodies were of that moment only, transitory and disposable, they served their purpose and were gone as quickly as they had come. But I learnt that I could play melodies and work out chords quickly by ear, I could improvise and develop ideas and explored how to use expression and dynamics. I had no need for sheet music at all.
Nothing has really changed now I’m in my 40th year. I still seek the refuge of my piano when times are tough, but also when I’m happy and excited by life. The piano provides the expression to create music which reflects my mood, my emotions and my passions.
I have never sought to make money, or tried to make a career out of music. Firstly I never considered myself good enough, but more importantly It was too personal to me. When I realised that not everyone liked what I had created it hurt me to be judged, to be told to alter or start again. I simply don’t care for anyone else’s opinion when it comes to music. Of course it is always a pleasure to be told it has been enjoyed, but I don’t wish to know if it was not. It’s far too subjective.
I write music because it defines me. I write the soundtrack to my own life and accompany my successes and failures with what pours out of me at any one time. I enjoy the breadth of what i create from fairly worthless dance music which is a satisfying joy to simple solo piano which entangles my feelings within itself. I write songs that get me through life and help me to understand. It’s a great feeling to sit back at what you have produced, something new that came from where there was only silence.
So I will continue to add what I create to this site, or a site much like it regardless of whether anyone else cares to ever listen, or to enjoy. I hope it outlives me here on the internet and may remain as my memorial. Ultimately it’s what I do, what I enjoy the most and something I will do until the day I die.
I may not be great. But I had a great time.