Let Me Take Your Hands, part 4

Welcome! This blog features short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, a mental break during these tough times.

This month, I’m switching things up a bit in honor of Short Story Month. Each post, over the next week or so, features an installment of my short story “Let Me Take Your Hands,” originally published in The Woven Tale Press as a prizewinner in WTP’s 2017 literary competition. Find the first installment here and follow the story forward up to the current post.

This is a favorite story of mine. Each installment is be paired with a piece of piano music I’ve recorded.

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~~

“Let Me Take Your Hands” part 4

In the afternoon, Antonio went to his pottery studio. He could do nothing else until he sat at his wheel, the one place where the world always fell into order.

He couldn’t leave Tess alone in the house, so he took her with him. She still hadn’t eaten anything. She turned her face away from the sandwich Antonio offered – smooth peanut butter with grape jelly, what Consuelo always made – and jerked her arm back when he tried to take her hand to lead her to the car. She followed him outside, though, and folded herself into the passenger’s seat when he opened the door for her. On the short ride from Galena Street to the studio, she sat there with no more life in her than a doll.

Tienes que comer,” he told her while he drove. You have to eat. He didn’t know if she heard or understood. Perhaps this was better than screaming, but right now he would have traded all her silence for one yell, to show that there was a living child in there and her soul hadn’t disappeared along with her mother. And if she opened her mouth, he might have a chance to stuff a bite of sandwich in. That rejected item, wrapped in Saran wrap, sat in his shirt pocket.

He wasn’t a parent. He had no idea what to do for any child, especially this one. He had never asked for, or wanted, this kind of responsibility.

Ms. Tillison’s suggestion banged around inside his head. If he went through with it, if it worked at all, he would have greater responsibility than he had ever imagined. Of course, technically, it would not be real. It would be a legality; but he, and Consuelo, and this girl beside him, would all have to live by it, at least for a while. If it worked.

If it could.

On Colorado Street, Antonio took his usual space in the narrow public parking lot. Tess followed him silently across the street to the studio. She wore yesterday’s long jeans, but didn’t seem to care about the heat beating up from the pavement. Antonio sweated in his own khakis and thought about how he would have to take the girl to Consuelo’s apartment at least for a change of clothes. At the jail, they had given him Consuelo’s keys. He wondered if, once Tess set foot in her home again, he would be able to get her to leave.

He unlocked the studio door and pushed it open. The bells inside clanged against the glass. Consuelo and Tess had seen the showroom before, but they had never come through to his workspace at the back of the shop. Antonio didn’t know what to expect as he led Tess through into the pair of rooms that held his kiln, his wheel, his glazes, and the shelves of finished and unfinished work. What if the strangeness of everything overwhelmed her? What if she turned violent, the way she had with the policeman last night? Might she decide to break things, smash the pots, the weeks’ worth of Antonio’s time and income?

He pointed into the kiln room and told her in Spanish, “Best not to go in there. It’s hot.” Again, he couldn’t tell if the words meant anything, but surely she could feel the heat on her skin through the almost-shut kiln room door. He waved around at the shelves in the workroom, his wheel, the row of glaze buckets, and the glaze samples on the wall. “You can look around in here,” he told Tess. “I’m going to work for a while.”

He drew his apron on, cut a rough pound of wet clay from a fresh block, and sat down at his wheel. If he could spend five minutes, or ten, working, before anything else happened. He didn’t need to finish anything. He only needed that rhythm under his hands, so he might be able to think what to do next.

As he tossed the clay from hand to hand, shaping it into a rough ball, he watched Tess out of the corner of his eye. At first she stood still, in the middle of the room, as empty as a shell. Then, in the same moment that he threw the clay with a solid thump onto the center of the wheel, she seemed to come to life.

She walked over to the glaze buckets. Now she was directly behind Antonio, so he couldn’t see her and work the wheel at the same time. He had to hope she wouldn’t decide, for instance, to tip the buckets over and cover the floor with glaze. When he managed to glance over his shoulder, once he had the wheel spinning at the right speed, he saw her standing on tiptoe, with her hands clasped behind her back, examining the samples on the wall.

He had always liked the sample display himself. It was made up of rows of small square pieces of clay, glazed and fired, showing how pairs of glazes looked individually and combined. Copper red with Tyman’s White. Sand Yellow with cobalt blue. The board made a mosaic of possibilities, all the colors he could create.

Perhaps Tess liked colors. Certainly Antonio didn’t hear any noise from her, no buckets sloshing or pottery crashing to the floor, as he began to shape the clay on his wheel. He gave it a wide angle at the base. It might become a bowl. In spite of the girl’s strange presence, and the endless worry that chewed at him, peace settled on him while he worked.

~story continues in the next blogpost~

Musical pairing: Ludwig van Beethoven, Bagatelle in G Major, Op. 126

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Friday dance

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here.

If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here. New posts go up on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. I’m also doing a Storytelling and Sound project through Facebook, which you can check out by following me at Kris Faatz, Writer.

Today’s piece continues my Beethoven trend (I will get back to other composers again, I promise 😉 ). This Bagatelle, in G minor, has a slightly different flavor than the others I’ve posted. The minor key gives it a darker sound, but it’s still full of charming energy and lovely contrast. Beethoven changes key in the middle with a hymnlike melody that contrasts with the light, percussive opening. Then he comes back to the tune from the beginning, but writes an intricate little variation on it. He ends the piece in G Major, a bright resolution to the darker beginning, with a lovely final cadence that gets back to the hymnlike sound of the middle section.

As you listen, if you’d like, see if this little piece with its contrasts it conjures up any particular story for you. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

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If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

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Wednesday cheer

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here.

If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here. New posts go up on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. I’m also doing a Storytelling and Sound project through Facebook, which you can check out by following me at Kris Faatz, Writer.

Today’s post continues my Beethoven Bagatelle explorations. This piece caught my attention when I was reading through some of the Bagatelles I’d never studied before…looking for pieces short and straightforward enough to pick up quickly and record for the blog.

This one starts out sounding charmingly simple, a lilting country tune. Very soon, though, Beethoven shifts the harmony into a totally different place. The simplicity of the tune never changes, but that sudden twist gives the piece a whole new character.

It’s a delightful little piece. As you listen, if you’d like, see if it conjures up any particular story for you. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

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Monday smile

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features daily short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here.

Today I’m continuing with my Beethoven Bagatelle streak. This piece is a favorite bagatelle, which I first learned somewhere around thirty years ago (yikes). It’s warm and charming and full of the humor that comes through often in Beethoven’s music. We tend to think of Beethoven as angsty and angry at life, which he often was, but he also loved jokes, puns, wordplay and music-play. This piece showcases his lighter side.

The ending, especially, is classic Beethoven. After the drama and contrast of everything that came before, he decides to sit on one chord for the whole last line of the piece. He milks that last chord for everything it’s worth while he lets the music tiptoe away until it disappears. Playing it, I couldn’t help smiling. I could just imagine Beethoven laughing as he wrote it.

As you listen, if you’d like, see if this “miniature” piece with all its contrasts conjures up any particular story for you. See if it sparks your imagination about the man who wrote it. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

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Friday Bagatelle

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features daily short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here.

Today’s piece is one of my favorite short works by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). This is one of a set of Bagatelles he wrote late in his compositional life. Beethoven, as I’ve written about before here on the blog, was an innovator who single-handedly changed the course of music history.

When we think of Beethoven, we might think mostly about his heroic, passionate style in music like the Ninth Symphony, which is a huge-scale piece of music, both in length and in terms of the number of performers it needs. Beethoven was definitely interested in expanding musical forms, especially in the middle and late periods of his career. But he was also interested in miniatures. His Bagatelles, which he wrote at various points during his compositional life, showcase that side of him.

Today’s Bagatelle is a lovely, lyrical little piece. Its gentle harmonies sound sweet and wistful. As you listen, see if the music conjures up any particular image or story for you. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

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Midweek Bagatelles

Welcome! 🙂 I hope the daily music posts here on the blog are giving you a boost, in these strange and unsettling times. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, you’ll find the first one here.

Today’s post features two short Bagatelles by Ludwig van Beethoven. As I talked about in this post, Bagatelles are a “miniature” musical form that Beethoven was interested in throughout his life. While in other areas, like symphonies, concerti, and piano sonatas, Beethoven was expanding the scope of music, writing bigger and more complex pieces than anyone else had written before, he also remained fascinated by musical microcosms.

Both of today’s Bagatelles come from his Op. 119 set, which he wrote late in life. They’re both very short, just over a minute. They’re striking, though, in that the harmonies Beethoven uses belong much more to the Romantic era than the Classical era in which Beethoven was trained. These could be pieces written by composers of the next generation. We can see Beethoven breaking with the traditions of his own time period even in these very small works.

I learned and recorded both of these yesterday afternoon, so the recordings aren’t quite perfect. 😉 They do give a taste, though, of the changes Beethoven was making in the way music was written, and they give the flavor of these charming little pieces.

As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments. Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

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If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

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Monday Beethoven

Welcome! 🙂 I hope the daily music posts here on the blog are giving you a boost, in these strange and unsettling times. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, you’ll find the first one here.

Today’s piece continues an exploration of a collection I started looking at a couple of days ago: Ludwig van Beethoven’s Bagatelles. As I mentioned in this post, we know Beethoven as an innovator who changed the course of music history, especially expanding musical forms and diving into drama and passionate expression that other composers of his generation hadn’t considered.

The Bagatelles, though, are miniatures. In them, we hear a lot of the elegance and charm of more “typical” Classical Era writing…although there are still some surprising Beethoven-esque twists. We’ll see that especially in a couple of other Bagatelles I’ll be posting soon.

Today’s piece is gentle and conversational. You’ll hear how the right hand starts with the tune, and how later in the piece, the left hand takes it over as if the hands are having a dialogue. As you listen, if you’d like, think about what this musical “conversation” might be about. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

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Saturday Bagatelle

Welcome! 🙂 I hope the daily music posts here on the blog are giving you a boost, in these strange and unsettling times. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, you’ll find the first one here.

For today’s piece, I started exploring a collection of music I haven’t looked at in a very long time (somewhere around 30 years): Ludwig van Beethoven’s Bagatelles. I think several of them will be making an appearance on the blog over the next couple of weeks.

Beethoven, as I’ve written about before on the blog, was one of the single greatest innovators of music history. He was born and trained during the Classical Era (1750-1825), when some of the ideals of music included simplicity, clarity, tightness of form and structure, and an overall sense of elegance and restraint. Beethoven quickly found that he wanted to explore different ways of writing music; his deafness helped to drive his personal musical revolution. He began writing longer, more intricate, and far more dramatic works than his listeners were used to. He used instruments that had never been showcased in concert, and embraced a level of drama, fire, and passionate expression that changed the course of music history.

While so much of Beethoven’s writing taps into this “heroic” style and approach, with his Bagatelles, we find a charming contrast. Beethoven wrote these short piano pieces throughout his compositional career. Most of them are straightforward from a technical standpoint, but they include contrasts of mood and an overall sense of sweetness and humor that are uniquely Beethoven. Many of them also have a “sung” or “spoken” feel, as if, like Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words, they’re actually short stories told through music.

As you listen to today’s piece, if you’d like, think about whether it conjures up any particular sense of story for you. Does it make you imagine a character, or maybe a place? Some sort of action? As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

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Adagio cantabile

Welcome! 🙂 I hope the daily music posts here on the blog are giving you a boost, in these strange and unsettling times. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, you’ll find the first one here.

Today’s recording is a re-post, with small apologies…small because it’s a really beautiful piece. (It’s time for me to restock my collection of recordings.) This piece is one of my favorites: the second movement of Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata.

At the time that Beethoven wrote the “Pathetique,” he was struggling with his deteriorating hearing. He was still a young man, full of ambition to make a name for himself as a concert pianist, but increasingly aware that his deafness was progressing and nothing his doctors did seemed able to reverse that deterioration. When he wrote this gentle, lyrical movement, he was full of uncertainty and apprehension. I think it’s easy to imagine him reaching out, looking for peace during this most difficult time for him.

A little about the tempo marking of this movement, “Adagio cantabile” (ah-DAH-jo cahn-TAH-bee-leh). The word “Adagio” is usually taken to mean “pretty slow” in music, but in Italian, it’s literally ad agio, which means at ease. The word cantabile means singing. This movement, then, is a song sung from a place of peace.

As you listen today, think about what brings you peace, or where you look for comfort during these strange and difficult times we’re all experiencing. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

 

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

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