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The world stops when my fingers make contact with my piano’s black-and-white keys. Music modeled after the Romantic style makes me feel truly alive—brimming with enough raw emotion to make my breath catch. Von Goethe’s statement is most relevant when I play Eugenie Rocherelle’s “Le Salon de Musique.” The song itself is generally simple in technique; its complexities come in the emotion and connection with the piece that are required to perform. Therein lies its beauty and ability to serve both as an escape and a retrieval from that escape—it provides a medium for me to enter a different world to tell someone else’s story while centering myself to better cope with the world around me.
Rocherelle’s piece opens with a section that can only be described as grounding, with slow, measured intervals as a left-hand harmony to a sweet, nostalgia-inducing melody on the right hand. Its simplicity allows me to contemplate my surroundings as I play, and directs my thoughts toward the tangible—toward the present, toward whatever situation I am currently facing. The largo (very slow with great dignity) tempo designated for this section adds to its calming and centering qualities, calling to mind the scene that the piece was inspired by: a grand piano in the middle of a large living-room, sunlight streaming through the windows. Then, just as the song starts sounding comfortable, maybe even monotonous—it shifts. The left hand extends its range; instead of being confined to simplistic intervals, it begins flying over multiple octaves with arpeggios.
This is where the escape begins—as the drama intensifies and the use of crescendos and decrescendos changes the volume of the sound escaping from the piano, I am transported to another place, another life. The tumult that I express through the music is not my own, but someone else’s: someone who’s been through more than I have, who’s lived a full life and is simply reminiscing on its roller-coaster ups and downs. The narrative in my head develops further as the melody becomes more complex and the tension builds. My piano and I melt into a single entity; my breathing aligns with the phrasing and dynamics of the lyric melody, and the formerly cold, lifeless keys become indistinguishable from my decidedly alive fingertips. I, as the pianist, am no longer aware of my surroundings, completely bound to my piano in a place where only the music and I exist. We are one, and our sole mission in the moment is to pour every single bit of energy in my body into the piece.
At the climax, there is no room for personal contemplation, no room for internalizing my surroundings—both the harmony and melody are composed of runs up and down the keyboard, and the song is at its most intense, requiring complete focus. I am fully absorbed into the world that “Le Salon de Musique” has created. Then, the drama fades out and the last run trails off; the real world fades back in. The simple use of slow chords returns, the beginning’s melody repeats, and the tempo slows to largo, slowing my heartbeat and breathing, bringing me back to reality. I come back in a better place, soothed and grounded.
For the duration of the song, my worries fade away, and when I finish the piece, I am better equipped to deal with them—with real life. “Le Salon de Musique” both revives and quiets the soul—allowing me to escape for three minutes, and then guiding me back to stability.
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