Bicycle Riding Down the Side of a Mountain

Day 048 Week 08 Q1 Sunday, February 18, 2024

Well, here’s a questionable figure of merit for you. How many notes per second, on average, did you play during a single improvised piece?  Sometimes, you’re moving very quickly, and a lot of things are getting done. Once in a while, I think it might make sense to play a musical instrument to bleed off a little bit of energy, so I tried that today. Without trying to play anything in particular, just letting loose, I discovered, to my amusement and amazement, that I had played for 219 seconds and, during that time, 1766 notes.

I would not call this a figure of merit. I would, in fact, call it a figure of demerit. After all eight notes per second without stopping for almost 4 minutes, it seems a little bit over the top. So I went back and took a look at eight pieces. I played in the last week and discovered the slowest one was averaging one note per second, and yes, this was the fastest one of all, at over the notes per second.

No, here’s what is surprising about this. I went back and listened to it and expected it to sound like gibberish, but it didn’t. It mostly hung together, even though I cannot really call it a piece of music. It was more like an athletic event. Now I know why, occasionally, when I played the piano when I was a kid, my father would walk up to me and hand me a basketball and tell me to go to the park and tell me I wasn’t playing music; I was playing ball. I guess he was right.

I guess all of us have large, dynamic ranges and one way to actually experience. This range can be within a piece of music or a piece of non-music but musical expression.  What to do with this information? I’m still thinking about that, but it did remind me of another thing I did as a much younger person, which was riding a bicycle down the side of a mountain. The mountain even had a name it was called Bear Mountain in upstate New York, and that is the day I discovered that when you are passing cars that are doing 65 miles an hour on your bicycle, when you get to the bottom, your brakes don’t do anything at all.

This was discovered by sliding through a roundabout, fortunately, missing all of the cars and, even more, fortunately, all of the missing me. It is a reminder that it is quite possible to go faster. Then you should be going, but it is certainly thrilling and a lot safer to tear up the keys on a piano, not literally but figuratively, than riding down the side of a mountain. Fortunately, in both cases, no one was harmed, but it was a strong reminder that having a large emotional dynamic range can be dangerous.