My dad practices the piano daily. He works on exercises and improvises, almost exclusively playing by ear. The keys are a language his hands know. The sound echoes around the music barn.
The thing is, my dad carries songs in his head. All the time. Whether the radio’s on or not, he has a personal soundtrack rolling. It might be Chopin, or a showy theater organ track, or a 1940s love ballad. When he seems distant, or when he forgets to buy milk, it’s because he’s filling in chords and harmonies to add heft and depth to the melody playing in his mind.
In 2011, I hope to keep my new characters close, the way my dad lets his improvisations fill moments of silence. I want to pay particular attention to the world I’m building. The harmonies. The chords. The subtle changes in tempo. When my dad sits down at the keyboard, what he’s been imagining spills into existence, fluid and joyous and grand, whether or not anyone’s listening.