Let It Be.

photo: keys by Hoder Slanger

Bill Withers — Let It Be (opens a Spotify link in a new tab)

Everything I could think of was in flux, and I had to face the fact that I was dangerously close to spiraling out of control.

I saw a book in the corner and picked it up. “Big Hits of 1977.” The copy danced and whirled across the cover in an orange and navy blue font, a showy display of 1970’s graphic design.

Inside the book was sheet music — pages upon pages of unlicensed material covering songs that were popular at the time. The old school equivalent of pirated mp3s.

The book was on loan from my Dad. He handed it to me at Thanksgiving, after I explained how I was feeling a little cloudy after all of the change — the breakup, moving, getting hired only to leave the company a few months later.

“I’ve been running through scales and playing some old sheet music,” I said. “It helps.”

I asked him how he was able to improvise so easily. He sat me down and showed me how to pick out the root chords and combine them with the bass note.

By stripping away the melody of the song, you’re able to free your hands up to accompany nearly anything.

“Unless you find yourself in a land of sharps,” my grandmother chimed in, pulling a face.

I remembered that book well. He played songs written and performed by Don McLean, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, and many others. Music was a staple in our home, and many songs from the soundtrack of our childhood came from this book.

He went on to explain that he faced similar hardships at my age. He went from job to job, leaving one only to get fired from the next. He didn’t discover his true career path until later in life.

“Plus I had you guys,” he said, referring to me and my sister.

“You’re stronger than you think. You’ll continue to take risks during your lifetime, and trust me. I know it’s not easy. Especially when you have a family to consider.”

He paused.

Everything will work out. You’re smart,” He concluded.

He didn’t say the words but I knew what he was thinking when he handed me the book.

“The music helps.”

Back in Soho on a rainy afternoon, I picked up the book and opened it to a random page. I wandered over to my keyboard where I sat down and began to play. At first my fingers moved slowly and clumsily but eventually found their way.

I recalled the lesson he gave me. I practiced, using the strategy of economically shifting from one chord to the next while using the primary bass note as an anchor.

I may not have anything figured out, not even close. Do we ever? Sometimes it helps to have a little gift from the past to keep us anchored. A steady bass line.

Over the next couple of days my fingers began to move more fluidly, and my mind began to sort itself out along with it. I harnessed the energy of the present into something tangible that could be articulated through music.

Sometimes I’d sing along quietly, other times I’d bang on the keys in frustration. There were times when I couldn’t figure out a particular passage and just get up and walk away.

I’m not sure what the world has in store, or what passage I’ll be working on next. The best I can do right now, in this moment, is just let it be. And play on.

Originally posted in http://losangelestonewyork.tumblr.com/

More about the author: http://nicolecifani.com