excerpt from 'Over the bridge : an essay in autobiography' pp. 122–125 (385 words)

excerpt from 'Over the bridge : an essay in autobiography' pp. 122–125 (385 words)

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Over the bridge : an essay in autobiography

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... [W]hen we got home, there, in the front parlour, stood a new instrument, another upright, but in a plain black case, severe, formidable.  No piano-slip, no photograph frames, no vases, softened its professional outline.  It stood apart, like a priest, expressionless, different from the fussy life around it …

Slowly... [Jack] advanced towards the piano, his face expressionless, though a false diagnosis might have described it as sulky.  I leaned forward to peer round the archway.  I saw him pause, then open the lid.  The keyboard, dead-white instead of the colour of old teeth, was as austere as the ebony case.  He drew up a chair, sat down, and raised his hands above the keys.  Another pause followed.  He may have been afraid, or incredulous.

Then he struck a chord and ran up and down a scale.  Even my childish ear recognised at once the quality of tone.  It had a velvet softness, but there lay upon this velvet a clear-cut diamond of sound.

Jack leaned forward as though he were losing his senses.  Then he began to play, and I recall the piece; it was a Spanish dance from an album called ‘From Foreign Parts’, by Maurice Moszkowski.  He had memorised it before returning the book to the library.

I do not know who was the more entranced and surprised, Mother or I.  We stood, clinging to each other, listening to those crystal notes, and I had the illusion of seeing them as well as hearing them, so hard, so clear, dropping into the incongruous cosiness of our Victorian sitting-room …

...Here was an experience that demanded more than I was capable of at seven years of age.  I stared at the black beauty, and at my brother seated at it, back bent, a frown on his face.  I identified the two.  They were creatures of a kind.  They belonged to the same incarnation, remote from the world of suburban Battersea …

It might be hyperbolical to suggest that Jack and the new piano recognised each other: but so it seemed …

Mother and I were so completely hypnotised by the music itself, and by the quality of Jack’s technique revealed through the connivance of the new instrument, that Father came home unperceived, without either of us noticing …


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excerpt from 'Over the bridge : an essay in autobiography' pp. 122–125 (385 words)


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