Sitting down at the piano, I’m usually too lazy to learn a piece that someone else has written. Rather, I produce my own pieces. It’s the musical equivalent of blogging, I guess.
Often, I work on two pieces, each a theme. And each theme is about each of my two daughters. It isn’t something I set out to do in the first place, but there is a certain magical and mystical association I have with different keys. It turns out that the keys of A and G, while only a whole step away from one another, have a whole different feel for me. This might be because of how they’re positioned on the keyboard, or it might have something to do with the pieces that each scale may have contributed to in musical history, or it could have something to do with instruments that more naturally play in one key than another. Whatever the reason, when I improvise in one key rather than another the result is completely different, even though each key could be transposed to another without too much trouble.
Similar, my daughters are of the same genetic material, more or less. And yet they each play in their own key. Coincidentally, when I’ve been playing around with pieces that emulate each of them, I naturally gravitate to ‘A’ for Anna and ‘G’ for Grace. At first, it wasn’t because of the simplicity of the alphabetic nature of these keys, but because of the feel I have for each of these scales and their associated chords. It’s become an easy way for me to remember what it was I was doing from day to day, from month to month. It’s been easy for me to continue to work on these pieces.
In the key of A I play a piece in three quarter time. It’s a regimented waltz. It is elegant and precise. It plays with three sharps, especially the one that is the 7th of the 8 note scale, so that there is a place for the melody to pivot between the dissonance of the second to last note of the sequence and the finality and resolution of the final note at the top of the scale. It is acute and accurate; it is alight and articulate.
In the key of G, I play in common time something that is graceful and gratifying. In the key of G I play with the third, which should be a b-natural, but toys with the b-flat as a Grace note, sliding in easily to the right place at the right time with the right feel for the situation. It’s a lulling bluesy kind of stumbling around that is very different than the precision of the A-major waltz. You could play just two chords, a G-major and a C-ninth, and they’d have everything you’d ever need, just sliding back and forth easily.
The pieces are completely distinct. And each time, each song is a little different from the time before. They’re each in a major key. I can never get them quite right, and I suspect I never will.