Monday, December 7, 2009

Playing the ivories

My piano teacher had a little get together last night for her private students. This was held at her house, and since I couldn't get there without a little help (ah, the joys of not having a drivers license) my mom also wound up with an invitation. My mom was delighted, since us students would be playing piano. She loves hearing live music.

At some point my teacher said something about pianos having souls. She added something like "I know that's weird. I mean, all they are is wood and stuff." I pointed out "But the wood comes from trees, which were once alive." The trees being mentioned, it seemed only natural to continue, "And then the piano keys used to be made from ivory, which came from elephants." To my surprise, people seemed a little uncomfortable when I mentioned that. My teacher said that she is very glad that poaching elephants was banned, but that she does like the feel of the ivories.

I feel the same way she does. I am very glad that ivory isn't used in making pianos anymore. What was done to the elephants is just unthinkable. But, I also told them, if I had to go out and buy another piano, I would definitely choose an antique one that has ivory keys. They feel very different from plastic keys, and I prefer their feel. One of the things I notice when I sit down at a new piano is what the keys are made of. If they keys are made from ivory, I try to make a point of acknowledging the spirit of the elephant and thanking it.

And then I sit down at my teacher's piano to play. lol The first thing I looked at, as usual, was the keys: were they ivory, or plastic? Looking at them and playing them I was a little confused, because even though they seemed to be ivory, it seemed like they couldn't be. Maybe my confusion should have told me -- they are a special kind of plastic (I think it's plastic) that is made to look and feel like ivory. I can't remember what it's called, though. My teacher told me what they were when I asked about them, and said that they are the "politically correct" keys.

So after playing her piano, I've changed my mind about what I would look for if I had to go buy a new piano. I would very likely look for an antique with ivory keys, but I would also consider newer pianos made with these new "politically correct" keys.

I also wanted to mention, we made a surprising discovery last night. Mom and my piano teacher share the same birthday. Isn't that an odd coincidence?

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