Friday, November 18, 2011

Playing with Two Hands, Medleys, and Shards by Ismet Prcic

I have a few things on my mind today but, mostly, a weird thought about playing piano with two hands because I'm reading this fascinating book Shards by Ismet Prcic.

When I was a little girl first learning to play piano I was really impatient about wanting to be able to play with two hands. And even when I did, finally, learn to do it my teacher always made me plunk out the notes of a song separately, let each hand settle into its role before allowing them to play together.

You think I would have learned something from that experience but this day (though it has, admittedly, been a while since I sat down to play) I will look at a new song and automatically attempt to play it all at once. It's always a stupid mess. And I always have to step back, play each hand seperately, and put it back together again.

Last weekend I listened to the Sunday Show with Jonathan Schwartz. I'm totally obsessed with this show. It's crazy. If we have plans on a Sunday I become the most irritable person on the planet if I can not get my Jonathan Schwartz fix.

Anyway, he played this Irving Berlin medley (below) and I just thought how hard it must be to sing a song while the person, standing right next to you, is belting out an entirely different song. How you have to be all tucked inside your song and, at the same time, know the rhythm and feel of the other person's song.

So, this is what I'm thinking about. Having to know, I mean, really know, two pieces of something before you can put it together and have it make any kind of sense. I think Ismet Prcic, so far, as I am not yet through the book, is doing something experimental and wonderful with that idea in terms of the actual structure of the book and the theme of diaspora. Stepping back to understand all the pieces of a person before you understand the whole.

And here are Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley singing that Irving Berlin medley. I apologize that it has the cheesy cabaret feel. It's the only rendition I could find on You Tube. I think it's worth sticking it out to listen to them sing together. IT'S CRAZY. It just blows my mind whenever I hear two different voices and two entirely different songs come together like that.


  1. When I was learning Irish dancing I always tried to go really fast instead of taking it one step at a time. Then I quit. So I have an idea of how you feel! :)

  2. I like the Cheesy Cabaret feel.

    I always try to go to fast, and then I'm forced to step back and look at the mess I've made and try to re-work it.

    I like your blog! I'm a new follower.

  3. I can't play both hands together. I can barely play the top hand. Pianists are amazing,

  4. YOu are reading Shards!!!! I am, too. Love you, Melissa.

  5. Melissa, I really loved this post. I play piano quite a bit, but I've been playing for SO long (45 years!) that I'd forgotten how exciting it was to be able to put the two hands together and bring those opposing voices into one.

    It takes so much patience and careful working out of everything..just like so many other things in life!