“I knew that I was greedy……maybe even beyond greedy. I wanted it all: the money, the fame, the popularity, the glory. But what I wanted most was the ability, the ability to do it all and not be dependent on any living force, and that’s when I knew….. I wanted the world”
I flickered my fingers through the keyboards of the piano, testing the sound of each keystroke. As an aspiring undergraduate in engineering, this was new territory for me (I didn’t even know if the buttons on the piano are called keyboards or something else entirely). I’ve never in my wildest dreams thought of doing this. The sounds each key made was different than one another. My scientific mind wondered how in the world such a regular tool that almost everyone on earth knew its sound could be so complex and awe-inspiring.
I had to acknowledge the fact: that learning how to play the piano was harder than it looked. It wasn’t just a simple flicker of the hand or randomly pressing on the buttons (if that’s what you call it). There was a skill in it. A skill that mesmerized me the moment I bought my first mp3 back in my high school days and downloaded all the pirated songs my friends would endorse me to listen. The reason why they recommended such songs was because they themselves wanted to listen to it during their leisure time, knowing full well that I wasn’t one to bother to such music especially when the popular genre during that time was still the hard rock-n-roll or the ohh-so-awful romantic love songs. They were noise pollution to me and I would rather prefer the songs of nature, quiet, tranquil and relaxing.
It was when one of my friends suddenly uploaded a type of music that changed my perception towards it: instrumental or commonly known as minus one. He wanted to do a karaoke for a certain song so uploaded the minus one into my brand new 2GBs mp3 (during my time 2GBs WAS a big deal). He wanted to sing-a-long-the-song without the interference of the original singer but still wanted to hear the rhythm and the beats the song produced. Ever so curious, I plugged in my headphones and listen to what was so exciting about this ‘minus one’ music. It caught my attention really fast. The name of the song the instrumental came from was called “Itminna” (I forgot what it actually meant). To me, the song was an ‘ok’ in my book. Not too shabby, not to over the board or anything. But what caught my attention was the music playing in the background. It was the sound of a piano.
I was encapsulated by the rhythm that was played, the only way I could describe it was like: wow. And well after that, I kept on rewinding the music over and over again till I could actually create a scenario in my head where the music could be well used for in a video (another skill I was going to learn). There were even moments that I wanted to cry while listening to it. But that’s just me and my ridiculous fantasies I suppose.
After that moment, I made it a hobby to myself to search for really good background music or as it is commonly known now: soundtracks. Listening to soundtracks was to me, better than listening to songs sung by artist because there really were no words to describe the feeling while listening to it (they didn’t had any if you’re wondering). But during my high school days, I was more focused or I liked to think that I was more focused on my studies and anything related to it than music, my number one hobby during that time was still and will always be on computers, which now brought me on the path as a computer software engineer.
In order to play the piano, all five fingers and both hands had to be used, simultaneously, while looking at the notes and sometimes your feet also will have to press something as well. There were a total of 7 letters that I’ve learnt so far in the world of music. Starting from the right thumb: C, D, E, F, G, the on the left hand starting from the thumb to the left: C, B, A, G, F. I know there are more than just these letters in the music sheet ( there’s also the black buttons besides the white ones) and I’m just starting at the middle C, there’s another two dozen keys to go, and I’ll need to memorize the sounds of each one if I want to compose my own music.
When I started to press the keys as per-instructed by my piano teacher (mind you he’s 3 years younger than me) I jolted at the sound that I just made. I was awesomely intrigued but what has just transpired. This was different than the sensation of writing a program on a computer or writing a short story with pen and pencil. Each press of the button was to me an achievement. There was a rhythm to it, a flow, a journey. I couldn’t stop my hands from continuing. It seemed that I was totally in love with the piano, even with how horrible my playing is presently.
The difference was so apparent to my other hobbies. If I wrote programs more often than not the thrill was being able to solve the equations and create complex algorithms with the right logics and syntax and finally execute the program, there was an end goal, a solution to a problem, and it was important to get to that ending as simple with as few complications as possible. Whilst writing, it’s more of the opposite, you have plots, climaxes and endings stringed up together to create a cohesive story retelling an idea, a message which you felt was important, people, both the writer and the reader would want to know how it ended, what was the end and why it ended like that.
In music, it’s quite different.
There doesn’t seem to be the end.
I don’t actually think we listen to music to listen to the end parts and know how the ending was, we hear it because of its entirety. It’s an infinite loop where you want to hear all parts, and you’ll never know when the end is.
When I started playing the piano I didn’t wanted it to end. I wanted to continue to press on the keystrokes, try different rhythms, learn new songs and listen to new music. My eyes were darting from the music sheets, to the keys that I was pressing back to music sheets over and over again and then finally looking at the clock hanged on the wall. My heart was pounding with exhilaration as I pushed myself to get the rhythm’s right and get the right tempo. I could feel my hands shaking as I fumbled in finding the right keys to press. It felt like I was learning how to drive all over again.
That feeling where your whole body is entrenched in that world and you feel one with the things that you are doing. Your body is sweating, your pupils are diluted, your heart is racing with excitement wishing that this feeling would never stop. It was the same feeling when I was writing a long story with over twisting plots that literally would get people to read and hold on to their chairs or when I was writing a program and the algorithms went all wrong when you executed and then able to rectify it in a matter of minutes because the logics of the program had just hit you like a watermelon crashing into a stone wall and smashing into a million pieces. It was the same feeling when you saw a motion, and you knew this one brilliant idea which you also knew was totally outlandish yet ridiculously cool and couldn’t take a break and stop to tell your teammate about it or the feeling when you start to knock your arrows and your heart pumps as you pull the string and the whole world just becomes silent as your heart races in exhilaration.
“Ok Fakhry…… I think that’s all for today,” My teacher caught me off guard. My hands didn’t left the keys yet. It seemed that I was doubting his words for the moment, however when I glanced back at the clock, then my doubt was gone, truly enough time was up.
I stood up, shook my teachers hand and promised to come back next week. I was silent throughout the whole time I was heading back home, driving. My mind was still in its own utopia of symphony, of the sounds of keys being pressed, of music.
And that’s when I realized: I was in love with the piano as much as I was in love with writing, programming, debating and any other activity I put my heart in it. And I wanted to know more about it, I didn’t wanted it to end here.
I may be an engineer if you look at my degree, but that doesn’t mean I can’t play the piano.