Once upon a time I knew that collaging meant I would find a way to include my love of music in the images I’d create. From the moment I started having these fantasies, I’ve dreamed of a tiny man that loved music as much as I did, perhaps more, because he could play an instrument in a way I could not, and still cannot. I play my keyboard at the astounding velocity of three keys per minute, and I still catch myself thinking of notes on music sheets as “squiggly things.
A long time ago, when I first closed my eyes and saw this little guy in my mind, I knew that I gave him a little house where he could live, but he made it a home with the life he infused in every minute room. His body, as tiny as the smallest doll’s, wasn’t taller than any of my fingers, but his mind was occupied by brilliance from the very moment I “met” him. This shining intellect included the ability to play the piano, and consequently there was always a music room in the dollhouse.
In there, he could sit and scribble on tiny little paper rectangles lined almost imperceptibly to me, but to him rough parallels where he could place notes—squiggly things—that made beautiful music. Oh, he didn’t think so. Often I’d lift the dollhouse roof to peruse through the things he’d leave behind, and discover crumb-sized sheets wadded tightly in the thimble that doubled as trash can, because he didn’t like what he had composed.
But I’d save every single one of them. I’d secret them away and with tweezers straighten them gently, flattening them with a blunt-tipped instrument (fingertips contain natural oils that are damaging to such delicate works), and saving them in a special place. I’d never tell him I had all he’d every written, but I think he’d know anyway.
I loved to imagine sitting by the dollhouse, or bringing my body down all the way to the floor, pressing my ear to his little music room while he practiced, and oh, how I adored to listen to those infinitesimal keys take flight with the feathery pressure of his fingers, each no bigger than a grain of rice, yet gifted with the motion that carried beautiful tuned to my ears. Sometimes he sang along, out of key, but tenderly, intimately, as though every word he vocalized was a foreign language that always meant my name.
I still think about those things, and many more that relate to music, so when I found the elements for Piano Keys I was captivated by a similar story that unraveled in my mind, as they all do. In it, my beloved Little Man has been shrinking for a while, and still hasn’t reached his final height of two delicate little inches. He can still climb on furniture, do simple chores, wear readily available doll clothes, etc. But there’s something he can no longer do: play the upright piano in the living room. He misses it, and yearns to sit on that stool that now looms over him, to produce music as he once did, to collect smiles on my face as he plays a lively tune.
So I catch him looking at it, and knowing his heart as I do, I offer him a lift to those keys he can now only play with two arms instead of ten fingers… and I ask him to teach me to play. He shakes his head and smiles at my request, and I feel my heart jump, because when he smiles there’s nothing more important happening anywhere else in the world. So he kneels on six keys only as he tells me what to do with the rest of the keys. We always end up playing invented music for two.