Friday, June 1, 2012

Mr. Chopin and A Beautiful Gift

I'm not a musically-educated lass.

I just know what I enjoy listening to.

And music by my favorite composer, Frederic Chopin, tops the list.

I chose to use his name in the title of this blog because his music is so important to me; it's roots extend back to my childhood.

Here are some interesting facts about Mr. Chopin (who lived from 1810 to 1849):
  • He rarely and always unwillingly played in public. 
  • He lived off of the earnings he made from sales of his musical compositions and from giving piano lessons.
  • He loved teaching others to play the piano, and while "the master's great heart always beat warmly for his pupils," he was very strict and many of his pupils left his company with tears spilling down their cheeks. 
  • He was sick for nearly all of his short 39 years.  He was believed to have suffered from and ultimately succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis.
While cooking on a recent stormy afternoon, I was struck by the similarities between cooking and composing.
Great effort is required for a composer to write down his music as it is born; to transcribe the secret chords, the hidden combinations conceived in his heart, transferred to his mind, and then delivered through a beautiful forest of nerve pathways to his fingers.  To stop, to record, to mark the notes on the's like being a passenger in a vehicle as someone is learning to drive a stick-shift:  halting and jerking.

Cooking is like making music.  Opening my spice cabinet is like rehearsing my music theory.  I know the character of each spice, it's smell, it's flavor.  But for me, as the cook-- the "kitchen composer" if you will--I get to take it one step further and decide how the spices and other ingredients will taste together.  And stopping in the midst of the creation to record a recipe can be challenging.

When I started this blog in August of 2010, I wrote a bit about why "Chopin" was in it's title:

Music is an inherent part of me. I've played the piano since I was 6.  While my piano-playing may be a bit rusty right now, two of my favorite pieces to play are Debussy's "Claire de Lune" and Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." Back in the day, before children and jobs and real-life responsibilities, I had those boogers memorized. Today, there's no room in my brain for 15 pages of sheet music, but someday...someday...I do plan to play them beautifully again.

When I am in the kitchen cooking, I almost always have music playing. My all-time favorite piece is Chopin's Nocturne in E minor, Op. 72, No. 1. It's beautifully mournful strains pierce my heart. And I love it. When it is playing, I feel more acutely aware of sights, sounds, colors, it is the perfect kitchen soundtrack. 

When I wrote that in August of 2010, I did not own a piano.  We simply didn't have room for it in our home.

But when we added on a small den last year, my husband specifically measured out one of the walls for a piano.

And then last Christmas, he surprised me with one.

The best gift.  Ever.

I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it because it's such a deep truth:  it feels so good to be known.
Our cozy den.

I am practicing my Chopin pieces almost daily and  falling in love with the piano all over again.  Any extra time is spent here, my fingers becoming graceful, flighty hummingbirds on her keys.

And I fly away on her music...