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"Can you play me a melody?"

Posted on: 29/03/2021

Billy Joel’s Piano Man takes me back to the cosy and intimate lounge of a hotel nestled in between the mountain peaks of the Alps. As the logs crackled in the hearth and the musty yet comforting smell of old timber furniture drifted around the room, a pianist entertained his guests with melodies familiar to both young and old. Whilst he tickled the ivories of the worn piano, which seemed to have seen better days, tired voices gathered up their final energy to hoarsely sing along. It did not matter whether the notes were right or rhythm perfect for that was not why they chose to sing together; this act of unison was made purely out of a longing for comfort and simple joy.

Each individual piece of music awakens inside of us a memory, grasping at emotions that are often left untouched during our hectic everyday lives. Often these feelings take us by surprise, as it may seem irrational for a few notes and words to evoke feelings of admiration, desire or even desperation. Yet that is the beauty of music: every one of us can hear the same succession of notes and will experience entirely different emotions that can be so powerful that (I am not embarrassed to admit) sometimes a tear is forced to escape our eyes.

How wonderful to think that humans can paint a story full of depth, meaning and intimacy by using only three chords or a simple rhythm. Our fingertips can create a sound so ethereal that birds will pause to listen, and our own voices can call out in a harmony so euphoric that time itself seems to stand still.

As well as a music student I am also an admirer of the English language and so could not resist the temptation of exploring the lyrics of Piano Man. At five minutes and 40 seconds, it’s quite a lengthy piece and sometimes your ears can begin to wander and drift in an out of the lyrics, yet I believe that the song is about more than just an entertainer and his trusty piano:

Growing old is inevitable, and society has conditioned us to dislike the wrinkles and aching joints that come with it. Yet why should our changing bodies be a source of discomfort? Knowing that we have worn “younger clothes” should bring to mind exhilarating memories of adventures and experiences that have crafted and moulded us into the person that we are now. Never, for anything in the world, would I exchange my past experiences for others: they have taught me such important lessons and the goal in life is to grow and expand your horizons, but you cannot do that without precious, yet sometimes painful, memories.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could all live our dream lives, surrounded by those we love? However, often we find ourselves wondering were life is leading to and desperate to escape our seemingly monotonous routine of life. Looking out at a crowded street bustling with people going about their lives it is sadly common to watch “as a smile runs away from” a face. One important lesson to learn is that to truly find your joy and passion you must search for the happiness and comfort in the simple things in life: the steam rising from a freshly brewed cup of coffee; a robin perched on the garden fence; the satisfactory gleam of newly cleaned dishes. Once you are able to breath in the love that fills the world and saturates nature from root to tip, your life becomes the one that you have always dreamed of and you will no longer yearn “to get out of this place”.

Finally, it is so difficult to remember how every single individual on Earth provides a unique and important perspective on life. Whether it is that your neighbour’s chicken jokes make the children laugh or that your cousin twice removed bakes a cake for their partner each anniversary, we all contribute something quirky and special to life. For the piano man, his “melody” allowed the people “to forget about life” and their sorrows “for a while”. Without his chords, their lives may have been filled with distress and worry, yet through a few simple chords and the soothing nature of his voice, life became that little bit brighter.

No matter whether you can see what your unique and quirky ability is or not, you are important to everyone around you. Perhaps it is your laugh or the way that you get excited and jump up and down at the first snowdrop appearing, you are providing a light and joy in someone’s life.

by Rosie Paul

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