On the Importance of Pianos
I am enamored of pianos—if not simply obsessed with them. It’s one of the few things we don’t own that I’ve always wanted. Even though I’m not at all musical.
I suppose that is one reason pianos always seem to appear in my books.
It is at a piano that Thomas Edward and Dondi’s brother,Matthew first connect in my first novel, What Binds Us:
I was wandering the corridors of that huge house when I passed by an open door. Light and music splashed onto the hall carpet. Someone was playing the piano. I stopped to listen.
“Don’t just stand out there,” the person said. “Come on in.”
So I did. A rosewood concert grand piano held court in the middle of the room. Its elaborately scrolled legs knelt on a Tabriz carpet the color of dreams. Matthew sat in a lyre-back chair in front of the piano. His legs were stretched out and his bare, pale feet curled around one of the piano’s massively carved legs. His hands rested on the pale ivory keys. He stared at me with his grey eyes.
If Dondi was an epilogue, Matthew was a prologue, a promise waiting to be kept. He seemed about to begin. He seemed to be waiting for something. I asked him once, years later, what he’d been waiting for. He surprised me by answering simply, “You.”
“Hi,” I said. “I was walking by and heard the music.” Then, when I realized he’d stopped playing, I added, “Oh, don’t stop.”
He withdrew his fingers from the keys. “You missed tea.”
I had taken one of their cars and driven into the village. I told him this.
“Oh,” he said. “We missed you.”
“That piano is beautiful.”
“It is, isn’t it? It was built by the Steinway brothers in eighteen eighty-eight.”
I looked around the room. The walls were painted a pale gold, the sofas and chairs covered in a pale gold damask. The late afternoon sun’s bounty piled at the windows like bullion. The only real colors in the room were his pink lips and his red silk pajamas.
There is also a piano in my allegorical novella, Vampire Rising. In fact it is at a piano that we first meet one of the main characters, the 400 year Vampire, Gatsby Calloway:
It was a room of pearl grays and faded gold damask, dark wood and darker carpets, all shadowed in flickering candlelight. Gatsby was seated at an ebony nine-and-a-half foot Bosendorfer Concert grand piano—the one with ninety-five keys, rather than the standard eighty-eight—which dominated the room. Gatsby himself had a pewter finish: silvery hair swept back, eyes like pieces of ice, pale cheekbones that gleamed. He was cool and pale, champagne in an ice bucket. Playing selections from “A Chorus Line” for a crowd of stalwart admirers, he was radiant in that darkened room. He was gorgeous and charismatic, a charmer of snakes and men.
He looked up and, seeing Barnabas in the doorway, gasped, for Barnabas was as beautiful as he’d remembered: his caramel skin glowed with youth and vigor. His wide, innocent eyes were clear and his dark hair was cropped short; gone was the defiant retro Afro he’d worn in high school. Staring at him, the frisson of lust and love that shot through him caused Gatsby to miss a note, and frown. He bent over the keyboard; his face dipped into shadow, dissolving into triangles of violet and purple.
So I suppose it should come as no surprise that there is, of course, a piano in my new book, In His Eyes, that is played by Micah, one of the main characters in the book. Actually, there are several pianos in the book; each one is as critical to Micah’s life as they are to his relationships. This following passage is one of the most telling in the book, I think.
Instead of going upstairs to Calvin’s room to rest as he’d intended, he found himselfdrawn into the music room. He sat at the piano and raised the lid. Soon, his fingers were skipping over the keys, teasing and tickling the ivory, to draw out their secrets. The room became filled with the music of his childhood, which, until then, had seemed very far away, lost in the distant past.
Dusk was gathering when he heard the key in the front door, followed by the sound of voices. He stopped playing abruptly when Calvin and another man walked into the music room. The man beside Calvin was dressed in surgical greens. He was diminutive and very light skinned. A thatch of chemically straightened hair lay across his head like roadkill. Though not altogether unattractive, he wore a pinched disapproving expression. His expression, combined with his extreme paleness, reminded Micah of spoiled milk.
“You play very well,” the man said grudgingly.
“I didn’t know you played piano,” Calvin said.
“I do. I have since I was three years old. My saddest memory is standing on my neighbor’s porch across the street, a week after my parents kicked me out, and watching as they had the piano my grandparents bought me when I was six years old, hauled away.”
In His Eyes officially releases on August 1, 2017, but is available for pre-order now.
In my next blog post, I will explore the music that makes up the sound track to In His Eyes.