(To prof N. and prof J.)
When I was five, I was confronted with the first dilemma of my life. The first I can remember of, even though it took place during the timeframe of physiological childhood amnesia, a period well-known by clinicians and therapists – especially those who stubbornly forge its doors open for their patients to uncover all childhood traumas that might be bothering their present. The difficult choice the privileged 5-year-old me had to make back then was not so frightening: which extracurricular activity would I like to pursue?
Some wanted martial arts, some preferred ballet. I remember knowing too well that piano was a great option for me. My mother had had classes up until high school and there was a lovely tuneless white piano back at my grandma’s house whose keyboard I used to playfully hammer every time I had the chance. Turns out I made a choice that would make me happy (for the next 10 years at least), steal a significant amount of money from my father’s bank account, add a stunning new black piano to my bedroom and fill my family with pride (at the same time it would make me wet my panties) every time I had a recital.
My first teacher was the kind of person whose kindness left a mark in my heart forever, for always treating me with the same respect and consideration he would give an adult, even though he was, in fact, addressing a tiny prototype of person whose feet remained far away from the piano pedals and whose hands could not cover half an octave on the keyboard. I remember fondly the days he used to come pick me to the playground and take me by the hand to the piano classroom to play four hands.
I remember being heartbroken when he announced he was going to be replaced by another teacher. I felt abandoned and prepared myself to, in revenge, deeply dislike my new teacher. Well, thankfully, that was a task that proved to be quite hard to accomplish, as the new teacher was, in her own mysterious way, equally kind and I soon got to like her a lot. She was the first person in my life in whom I could recognise (maybe without being yet able to name it) a feminist attitude, both at the piano and when seated in the corner of the classroom, attentively watching me playing. She endured both my piano-player life phases, the interested and hardworking student I was for most of it and the rebel-giving-up-messy-player I turned into in its final years, and deserves all credit for that.
Today, all these memories came to my head like a thunderstorm, provoked by a melodic auditory trigger, my absolute favourite piano song, whose simplified music-sheet I studied and played so many times it became imprinted in my brain, Für Elise. Right in the middle of an astonishing immersive art experience, inspired in the artworks of Claude Monet and Gustav Klimt.
This immersive art experience, taking place at the Water Museum – Mãe D’Água das Amoreiras Reservoir in Lisbon, transformed the old cistern building into a monumental canvas where the content is projected 360º, giving you the sensation you are traveling away from reality and into a parallel universe of colour and sweet melodies. Seated on a floating wooden platform, I let myself be swallowed by this parallel universe, experiencing art and culture in an innovative way that made my cortisol levels fall down so abruptly I almost fainted.
For cultivating in me the taste for classical music, I am deeply thankful to my family. For the patience to teach me (and the naiveness of believing in my talent) how to play some of it, I am forever thankful to both my piano teachers.