The Technical Pianist (Part 1)by Sayan Bhattacharya

The ‘cottage-piano’ had been in our house for so long, and actively musical at that, it had almost become like a family member. Well, the piano had forever been a passion and a prized possession of my father, who had pursued his musical talent and skills on it since his early youth. So, the arrival of the piano in our house dates back to close to half a century now!

My father bought the piano to fuel his passion for music and excelled at it with constant practice under guidance from an eminent musician of his times. My childhood was therefore dotted with memories of many musical evenings, when my father after returning from work used to sit at his piano in the drawing room and keep playing various tunes. Much later, even after he got his Roland keyboard synthesizer, the lure of the piano never died down though he started using it more to give lessons to the students who came to him to learn playing the piano. That kept our house and the piano abuzz on week day evenings and weekends as well.

Now, as is true for most musical instruments, the piano needed frequent ‘tuning’ and ‘touch-ups’, due to its regular usage and wear and tear! This once-a-month activity was done by a person called Ratan-babu, who used to come home on a pre-fixed appointment and ‘service’ the piano. It was a whole day affair and as a child I would keep looking on with wonder eyes as the large furniture-like ‘cottage piano’ would be dismantled into smaller parts and the cleaning and tuning process would continue. At times it looked as if the skeleton of the piano with all its bones, ribs, joints and teeth was out from its dark cavern, and soon again the scientific and technical binding of the innumerable pieces of wood held together behind the large black facade of the piano playing in seamless precision and delivering the desired chords and notes at the strike of its black and white keys, used to mesmerise me.

And to watch ‘Ratan-babu’ at his work was a treat in itself! He was a short and lean person, very reserved and rarely spoke to anyone else in the family except for my father, and that too confining the conversation within limits related to matters of the piano. He used to acknowledge the cup of tea and couple of biscuits that my mother offered him every time he visited, with just a perfunctory smile; and used to disappear for an exact hour-long lunch break at mid-day. For the total eight odd hours that he would spend in our house at the piano on each of those days, Ratan-babu used to be totally immersed in his work with close concentration, like a true professional!

He seemed to know everything about the piano, which strike of key would move which piece of wood and then trigger the sequence to finally deliver the sound in the correct pitch and tenor; Ratan-babu was a true commander of the technicalities of the piano! The first half-an-hour and the last one hour of his work was truly fascinating. He used to simply sit and play along, using the entire expanse of the keyboard and all the possible octaves on the instrument.

Read more about ‘Ratan-babu’, our technical pianist in the next part of the story… coming soon right here!

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