The piano in our living room (click to enlarge and catch a glimpse of the music Will is teaching himself to play).
A little boy, six or seven years old, starts playing piano. After a couple of years, his practicing slacks off considerably, and he tells his parents he wants to stop taking piano lessons. His parents say, "When you're older, you'll wish we'd made you keep taking lessons." But what does a ten-year old care about when you're older? Fast forward six years, and the little boy has become a teenager. He spends hours every day trying to teach himself to play the piano like Ben Folds. He says to his parents, "Why didn't you make me keep taking piano lessons?" Last night, after months of anticipation, Will came face to face with the reason he wishes he'd kept taking piano lessons. We drove over to St. Peter and joined 3,100 other fans in Lund Arena for Ben Folds in concert. For ninety minutes, Will was in a state of piano-rock-induced bliss.
One of the great aspects of our year in England was the opportunity Will had to take GCSE Music. He spent a good part of each day in the music room, learning music theory and teaching himself piano. Now, when he listens to a Ben Folds song, he pauses to analyze its harmonics or its shifting rhythmic patterns. The other day he was trying to explain to me how one Ben Folds song made use of the pentatonic scale. He is so much smarter than I am.
Last night's concert was the first rock concert I've been to since I was in college in the mid-1980s, when I heard three of the giants of 1970s British art rock: Genesis, Jethro Tull, and Yes. Each of those three bands was approaching middle age at the time, and flirting with the noxious synth-pop of the 1980s. Tull had just made its worst album ever, Under Wraps, and Genesis had been fatally infected with the obnoxious Phil Collins pop virus that killed off the lingering influence of Peter Gabriel. From the heights of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, they had descended to Abacab. Sad, sad times.
Ben Folds was great. As one fan described him, he was "awesomeness in geek form." Ben Folds (born in 1966) and Joss Whedon (born in 1964) definitely top my list of the most awesome geeks of my generation. Last night, Folds played nearly non-stop for an hour and a half, segueing seamlessly from one song to the next, working the keyboard relentlessly, and undoubtedly burning off at least ten pounds in the process. I have to admit that I got a big kick out of 3,000 Minnesota Swedish Lutheran college students enthusiastically singing along to "B*tches Ain't Sh*t." The concert ended with a performance of "Philosophy," from the 1995 debut album, that Will described as "epic." I was surprised the piano didn't collapse under the strain.
Will is already hatching plans to catch the Ben Folds show in Nottingham, when he's in England this summer. Meanwhile, he's working on "Philosophy," and still wishing we'd forced him to keep taking piano lessons.
My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .
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