In our student days, those of us studying music (and in fact anyone who wanted to continue their piano studies) were allowed to hire upright pianos and put them in our rooms. Not infrequently there were two or more people on the staircase with pianos in their rooms – I remember one year when I and another pianist had ground floor rooms across the corridor from one another. My piano-playing neighbour was actually studying philosophy, but he was a very good pianist who practised more than I did.
On our staircase there were four other rooms. Not only did the other residents never complain about the piano-playing, but they used to say that they enjoyed hearing this or that.
I had forgotten about all that until last week’s dinner when a couple of people spoke to me and recalled that they used to like coming back from lectures or the lab and hearing me playing Debussy or Ravel, my big favourites at the time. One person even said that when certain pieces pop up on the radio these days, they bring back happy memories of sitting with a book on the grass outside my window, piano music weaving in and out of his thoughts.
Wow, I was lucky with my neighbours! I didn’t realise it at the time. Of course, we were all students together. Mutual tolerance was the order of the day.
The topic of ‘neighbour nuisance’ is a lively one these days – lots of people have told me, in comments on my blog, how annoying they find it if someone practises the piano nearby. So for a long time I have been mindful of the need to keep piano practice to certain hours, and to warn my neighbours of any upcoming events which might be more than usually noisy.
But at the dinner last week, I was transported back to that blessed time when my fellow students enjoyed the sound of my piano practice.