A painful index finger

19th May 2009 | Concerts | 0 comments

The index finger of my left hand has been painful for some days. I think I whacked the piano keyboard too hard during a phrase marked ‘brutal’ in a performance of Messiaen last week. Next morning, I picked up a mug of tea and it really hurt to curl my finger around the handle.

Since then I’ve played three more concerts, each with an enormous programme. My index finger didn’t hurt too badly if I was able to keep it curved and play the key with the fingertip, but if I used a flatter hand and hit the key with the first joint of the finger, it hurt. In the heat of performance, one can hardly focus on this kind of thing, but pain was a reminder not to overlook it entirely.

When conditions were calm during the concerts, I re-fingered things so that instead of using my sore index finger, I used the third finger. This could only be done when the music was moving slowly enough. You can’t instantly re-finger something complex which you’ve practised a million times and whose pattern is stored in your subconscious. But it was interesting to try to intervene in my automatic finger-pattern memory of slower passages. It reminded me of piano professor György Sebök saying how hard it is to make changes in habitual routines such as shaving, or combing your hair. He commented that making innovations in such routines can sometimes have a surprisingly liberating effect. And so I found it in my three concerts: a little reminder that things can be different, a tiny sliver of fresh thinking.


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