Measure for Measure: My Beginnings in Music

The first measure of this piece’s title is, indeed, borrowed from Shakespeare.

It began when I was conceived by Asian parents. No, they did not play classical music while making love (I am a bit horrified from the thought…) But, like all* Asian parents, classical music is one of the most revered, most lofty, most imperative extracurricular, nay, Essential of ALL activities — beating out other notable curricular such as tennis, dance, painting, and even Chinese school.

*I’m cautious of using any all-encompassing terms. However, I do believe the all that I state here includes this particular generation of parents.

I am the younger of two siblings, and my older sister is a lot more steadfast and reluctant than me. Her shy disposition and my effervescent personality seemed polar opposites, it seemed, until I came of slight maturity around 19. She is five years older than I, so I keep reminding people, and started piano lessons at the age of seven.

For any parents reading this, I recommend starting piano around five and a half or six, depending on whether your child is like my sister, or like me (in which case, a healthy exposure at the age of three til six).

My sister started her journey on the piano, and so I latched onto her every time she was on the piano. I wasn’t so much her shadow on the piano, but more like a Newton’s cradle. For every action, there is a reaction — Newton’s Third Law, as well as Rosalind’s First Sisterly Pact. She gets on the piano bench, I push her off. And so the cycle would begin; everyday four o’clock was piano cradle time. Needless to say, I was (maybe is? hard to say) an annoying little sister.

My parents thought it was the cutest thing. My mom also thought that it was a sign for something beyond a child’s bossiness. She gave me my earliest piano lessons, starting at the age of two.

Where is the most comfortable place on earth?

Is it the sofa, every couch potato’s go-to?

Is it in the forest, every wanderlust-er’s fantasy?

Is it under the stars, every romantic’s dream?

For me, it is behind the massive 88 voiced horse carriage, where I can ride to any place in my imagination. On my bench, I can direct the music to go anywhere I’d like. Make a sharp right turn into dark stormy music, make a U turn back into reminiscence, straight ahead into the bright romance, slowly and amorously through an intimate passage, sprinting past the twisted and overgrown paths away from the big bad wolf…

Recently, I gave a talk in my graduate seminar. Hours of planning went into my lecture, and of course I was tongue-tied. Like taxis, I went to sit behind the piano. In an instant, I was at ease, and alive.

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