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Photogragh by Gosia Czyzniewska

How Music Shaped Me

For as long as I can remember, I have loved music. I remember myself aged 5 standing on a miniature bandstand in the middle of a country park with my family and singing Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ with as much gusto as I could garner. My mum and I would often go to see Queen tribute bands together when I was still living at home. I hold these memories very dear. I still remember so many of the words to Queen’s iconic songs; to me the greatest band of all time! Onwards into my adolescent early teenage years and my brother became my main source of inspiration. I developed a deep affinity to the warped, weird, dark and wonderful world of Radiohead, which then lead me towards a multitude of varying genres including Hip-Hop, Trip Hop, Indie and alternative electronic music in later years; all styles of music that I still listen to today. Having an older brother with (what I considered to be) a fine, well informed and eclectic taste in music gave me the edge when it came to recommending artists to my peers at school. It was confidence and character building to be considered a sound port of call for musical recommendations by my school friends.

Now I consider myself much less of a tastemaker or trend follower, and much more of a general connoisseur and practitioner of music. I have enjoyed playing instruments throughout my life, starting piano lessons just before my sixth birthday with my local teacher Peggy Hooper. Each week I would journey 5 minutes around the corner with mum for my half hour lesson. We maintained this weekly custom for the next 8-9 years, without any significant moments to speak of. One moment I do remember very precisely though is my teacher giving me a certain piece of music when I was about 14 years old. It was the second movement (Adagio cantabile) of Beethoven’s Sonata ‘Pathetique;’ one of his most famous piano melodies, and used extensively in TV and film.  For some reason this piece struck a chord with me, and I practised like never before, putting in far more effort than my daily 30-minute parentally prescribed quota demanded. I learned the whole thing in a week or two. My dad, who is a great lover of classical music, particularly Beethoven, encouraged me to learn more. He even waved the tantalising offer of thirty English pounds under my nose if I were to learn the two movements which formed the outer layers of this sonata. These movements were well beyond me at the time, but I had no concept of this and so learned them anyway, claiming my prize with a great sense of accomplishment!

After learning this sonata, I soon became aware that it was just one of 32 piano sonatas written by the great German composer, and that it was one of the easier ones at that! Immediately my curiosity peaked, and I began feverishly working on his ‘Moonlight’, and eventually ‘Waldstein’ and ‘Appassionata’ Sonatas. In hindsight, progress was dismally slow and accuracy was poor, but my musical impulses seemed to be aimed in the right direction. The scale and technique of these works was so much greater and more grandiose in character than anything I had looked at previously, it was a giant leap from the music I was used to. This didn’t deter me though; I really felt that for the first time I had found something I was prepared to work hard for; and it was just the beginning. The treasure trove of music written for the piano is inexorably deep, and I had barely dipped my toes in.

I will always remember this baptism of fire, and how it shaped me for better and worse into the man and musician I am today. It was clear to me that this passion was something I should follow, and nearly 19 years later I can say that the journey it has taken me on has been a transformative one.

I remember several years into this folly, when I was 18 or 19 my only goal was to be able to travel, and pay my way in life doing what I love. 14 years later, I can say that I have lived from my art, and I have travelled the world from it too. Conversely it has thrown down some tricky life lessons, and more than one moment of painful discomfort. I have learned my own limitations, and have had to adapt my ambitions. My life, outlook and goals have most certainly changed with age; but one thing I can say remains consistent, is that when all else fails, music is always there to remind me of how sweet life really is, and how we should cherish each day we get to spend learning, loving and living.

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