Remove the Labels

… and the music will take care of itself.

I have been playing around with music since I was a kid in my parents’ house, pedaling and keying their old varnished reed organ in the big, vaulted-ceilinged TV-less lounge room, where my dad would test-fire his ammunition through a hole in the floor or fire a pistol at targets from one end of the room to the other, my mother not minding at all.

Almost seventy years later I’m still curious about sounds that come out of bottles, pipes, cardboard boxes, washing/coffee machines, outboard motors, ships’ horns – anything! – but especially sounds that come out of musical instruments, such as a banjo, balalaika, uke or guitar – or a piano. I can’t walk into a hotel and see a grand piano without approaching it with itchy fingers. Gets me trouble sometimes.

I sat down just now on this beautiful spring morning, at the hundred-year-old piano from America, saying ‘I will play only right notes’,* and, ignoring the labels I’d put there to help Sam learn Greensleeves, played a fresh new tune, slipping through several different keys, ending up in C major, with a nice chord to finish.

I have so many rules going on in my head. Mantras, guidelines, helpful advice, sanctions, dicta, social constraints, unwritten laws, moral principles, hallowed traditions, cultural mindsets, To-Be-Followed-At-All-Times’s – from parents et al through the decades – a furious instructional dictatorship, punishing, authoritarian and final, which makes tinnitus seem blissful, benign.

So, in the kitchen this morning, I said ‘FUCK IT’, or I thought it, or at least felt it. FFFuckIt!!! I’m not gonna do this anymore!!! Comes a time when you’re about to go under if you don’t say NO.

Time will tell if I really meant it. A moment later, after your fine defiance, you get a flicker of fear from stepping outside, outside the norm. My dad’s name was Norm, everybody called him Norm (not Norman), and he was, and is my norm, a light going ahead, leading. A truly beautiful man (I have tears welling now) with all his flaws. I am blessed in having a father, a real father. He only hit me once and I saw he instantly regretted it. I would be as good a father to my five children and to my four step-kids, and all their progeny! (And, too, the hundreds, thousands, of school-kids that were my ‘adopted children’, over the thirty years.)

It helps being in your mid-seventies. 77 next birthday, planning on doing the ton! still mucking around playing jazz, blues, pop, planning to go busking. It helps to be able to say FUCK IT! – and live up to it!!

The word is not the thing, the rule is not true. Can’t be. The Now-Moment brings its refreshing rule-breaking gusto and you’re oh-so-glad you’re living! Ta-Da!!


*My right notes!


P.S. I stumbled into a grand piano at a strange and wonderful place called Montsalvat near Melbourne, Victoria. I set my phone at one end and recorded Georgia On My Mind. Turn up the volume, boost the bass (those bass notes can be felt in the groin area!) and enjoy that piano, as I did!




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