1651 c/o Susie Anderson


there is an ice cream container on my piano. in the container there are little pieces of paper that say things like 'diminished seventh beginning on b flat', 'dominant seventh of f sharp', 'a flat major' and 'e flat melodic minor'. most mornings i get up half an hour early, do stuff to get ready for school, then sit at the piano from 7.30-8am. i take a piece of paper out and play the scale written on it. i play it in different rhythms and at slow speeds. right hand, left hand, then both hands. doing this makes it easier to play evenly when you play them at the right speed for your exam.

my piano teacher is mrs adler. she has some sort of bad disease like cancer i think. it is not appropriate for me to ask anybody about it now because she has been my teacher for two years and i think people just assume that i know why she is so sick. mrs adler is the fourth piano teacher that i have had. she is not my favourite but all of the other students that she has are the best in town so i am glad that she is my teacher. my last piano teacher was more like a friend to me and sometimes i would cry in front of her. mrs adler likes flowers and usually has a new bunch of flowers every couple of weeks. she often talks about 'dancing with the stars'.

as well as my scales i am learning four pieces for my grade six exam. they are the hardest pieces i have ever had to play. sometimes i genuinely think i will not be able to play them properly. there is always a lot to think about when playing piano, so many theoretical things that get in the way of just trying to make a piece of music sound so good that it might move somebody.

i have to play in the eisteddfod as practice for my exam. it is probably the sixth year in a row that i have been in an eisteddfod but being backstage with everybody else who is competing is the same type of nervewracking, year after year. everybody is familiar. a young girl who is a piano prodigy, people from my high school, other people who learn piano at the same place i do. i try to ignore them and remind myself to enjoy playing, enjoy what will probably be the last time i get to play on the fancy schimmel. the schimmel is a big grand piano, the keys are spongy and the pedals are heavy.

this eisteddfod goes better than any of the ones i have ever been in before. i win a jazz section. i come second in a few sections. i play oboe in it as well. i come first in 'fourth year woodwind solo'. i win some sort of award for being promising, and the adjudicator tells me to keep doing music, he says something like 'the time is now' and i feel excited by how he is talking to me.

the exam is a few months after the eisteddfod and i am feeling more nervous than i ever have before. i want to continue being impressive. i want my last piano exam to be the best one i ever do. i don't know how to calm down and i try to listen to sigur ros to settle myself before i have to leave to go to the exam but i feel like somebody has pressed fast forward on me and walked far away with the remote.

my hands retaliate after all these months of early morning ice cream container practice. they run away from me when i am sitting at the piano in my exam and i play the scales too fast. i fumble through the sight reading, can sing the intervals, can answer general knowledge questions about my pieces. 'the baroque era was from 1600-1750...'

a year or so later i am home from university, at my mum's house. i have not played oboe in months, piano much longer than that. the ice cream container is on the piano still, but empty and dusty. my sister has sheet music strewn around the piano. all i can remember how to play is regina spektor songs.

i sit at the piano again. i am not sure if anything ever happened here before. one of those 'who am i? the sum of all the things i have done previously, or who i exist as, right now in this moment?' moments. are these things still valid, even if i haven't looked at a piece of music in months and months? the piano stool is lower for some reason.

looking at all the music on the floor... this is a piece from 1651 - baroque. this is a piece from 1870 - classical. this is a piece from 1974 - contemporary. i used to hide in those eras, protected by black and white keys and guarded by pedals.

on the table in the kitchen there is a 2008 eisteddfod entry form. there is a list of prizes and donations on the back. there is the award that i won. there is also an award that has never been on there before. it is 'the ann adler memorial award'. music is leaving me, quietly slipping out the back door, disappearing nicely.