Photo: Paul Litherland
My partner Paul inherited this piano in 2009 from his mother. A Steinway, built in Hamburg, Germany in 1937, it was purchased by her mother in Belfast, Ireland and sent to her sometime in the sixties to Vancouver where they lived. Paul’s grandmother was a well-known and respected piano teacher in Belfast.
As a child, I had a strong love-hate relationship to the piano. I took music lessons for many years and despite the fact that I rarely practiced, I managed to learn the basics.
My mother played the piano and sang. She probably taught me as well, but I don’t remember that. She died in a car accident when I was six.
When Paul’s mom’s piano arrived in our home, I decided to take lessons again. It was like starting over from the beginning. I had to learn how to really touch the keys, how to hold not just my fingers, but my hands, my arms and my whole body. It is now over five years since I started again and the difference in my playing is quite remarkable. I will never be great like Paul’s mom and my mom were, but I am finding a genuine personal satisfaction and delight with my own progress.
My adventure with this piano has led to several video works. The most recent, Sketch for The Waves in Eflat and F is part of my exploration of the text, The Waves, by Virginia Woolf and a look at the idea of the piano as a body difficult to embrace. Other works inspired by my return to the piano include the video, Unlearning the Piano.
Through the piano, I continue a conversation with my mother.
In progress is Vol. 1 of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. I am spinning the pages into paper threads which I then weave into a three-dimensional tapestry-like work.