3 March 2006

Two steps forward

One of my frustrating inabilities has always been The Inability to Play Piano While Drunk. I know, I know, anyone will point out that the most important point to focus on is that you're trying. Yes? Anyway, today at work we were talking about our first experiences in programming. One co-worker told of how he snuck into classes after the CS students left and saw WorkPerfect at an unattended terminal (years ago). He decided to try out this thing you call "programming" and began typing 2+2=? etc. After some frustration the teacher returned and explained the important and missing components to his attempted wooing of the word processing compiler. Funny story. And true. And I love how he has that vivid memory.

My first programming memory is not so funny, but still cherished. I had saved $300 from my paper route and planned on eventually purchasing my first computer: a $600 TRS-80, Model I (all geeks can either bow down or chuckle). One day, a large box arrived (you can see it coming) and my parents told me that they had paid for the difference. They were very supportive that way and I really should be a more appreciative son. Anyway, it came with a BASIC Programming Manual that eventually taught me enough to code a text adventure haunted mansion which my brother summarily dispatched in a couple of minutes. How long did it take me to code his two minutes of distraction? It doesn't matter. All of the messy re-arranging of line numbers and stumbling over logic--as I'm in awe of the power inherent in typing commands and having them realized--is the important thing.

And I remember, learning an instrument, the point in time when I didn't understand what a musical key was. This is a more vivid memory because the contrast between knowing and not knowing is more ... vivid. I even remember exactly where I was when I had the epiphany of The Concept of Musical Keys. I had long pondered on what it meant to be in "E" or "A-flat," when eventually it hit me (it's really not that difficult) in 5th (?) grade as I was walking home from school and was in front of City Hall, just a block from home. I guess I remember the feeling of revelation more than the understanding of ignorance. That is: I can remember the awe and the knowledge I have now, but I don't really remember well enough the feeling of notknowing. It's important to remember as best as possible our ignorances.

So I began watching La Dolce Vita tonight (I had--embarrassingly--never seen a Fellini film, but this is definitely the one to choose as introduction) and got an hour and 50 into it before I realized that it's almost three hours long. So I paused near the end of the second hour and my second bottle of wine and decide to hit the piano for a while ... damn the neighbors! After about a half hour of improvising, I decided to play some of my own music. To my surprise, I actually made it through some of the more complex pieces. That's sort of a milestone (he writes with one eye closed), maybe I can play drunk. Now if I can just be a little less sloppy with rhythm when I'm sober...

[ posted by sstrader on 3 March 2006 at 11:10:26 PM in Music ]