Saturday, 17 November 2012

Saturday 17th November - My middle toes

I've managed to get my music "magazine" - ok - I admit, it's a blog, but I think of it as an online magazine - up, if a day late this week. Here's the link 

and I try and post three "articles" every Friday evening.

The inspiration for one of the articles, "How many fingers on each hand?" came from considering what it must be like to deal with the situation when your brain is "disregarding" one side of your body. As happens when you have a stroke.

As a music teacher I see this "disregarding" process happening all the time. The young child sits at he piano, an struggles to move the correct finger. Where, exactly, is the fourth finger of their left hand? They can see it, but cannot "connect" to it. If I touch the finger for them, the connection comes alive, and they can try and play it.

I see this with older beginners too - I'm talking about people who have decided to start learning the piano in their sixties and seventies. They sit there, baffled by their inability to complete the apparently trivial task of interpreting the very, very basic music, and translating the dots on the page into movements of the fingers. They are frustrated by the unexpected difficulty of playing even the simplest tune. It is much worse when it is a tune they know well. I am about to enter the Christmas Carol season, and all the students, of every age, will try and play the carols at "singing speed", long before they can coordinate their fingers.

But, hey, it is a problem that I deal with too; often, when I am learning a new piece, I have to stop and figure out the sequence of movements I have to make with my fingers in order to play the chords or counterpoint that I see on the page. I will have to understand, and then learn the mechanical actions before I can then develop a musical interpretation of the passage.

So it is with my mother. I am filled with joy to hear that the therapists are teaching her how to hold a tumbler with both hands, her "good" hand and her "disregarded" hand. I am so happy to hear that she is now able to drink clear, unthickened water. And I think that I have a glimmer of understanding of the extreme mental effort it takes her to complete a simple action such as conveying a cup to her lips.

If you try and wriggle the middle toes of your left foot, you, too, can experience what it must be like to work on reconnecting a "disregarded" finger, hand, arm, foot, ankle, leg. Yeah. It feels weird.  

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