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There are passages – certain rousing conclusions, like this one from Concerto and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 909 (doubtful) – that amaze and exhilarate me as I play them. They heat the blood.

In the morning, before I leave for campus, I play these passages again and again. My heart, my mind, my hands — everything’s sort of feverish. The spotlight over the notes on page 95 of Johann Sebastian Bach Miscellaneous Keyboard Works Toccatas Fugues And Other Pieces illuminates the little world in which I sit as long as I can, picking out sounds and smoothing them.

While I teach, while I order coffee, while I sit on the metro, these final notes flow through my mind. Not just these notes; all the variations on them that whoever wrote it worked through the piece.

Whatever else my mind’s doing during these hours, it’s also spinning harmony after harmony.

At some point I drop this game and decide to sing all parts at once of the Domine Deus duet from Mozart’s Great Mass. High low up down alto soprano strings.

Later in the evening I return to the piano.

For years I made do with my father’s Waldorf spinet. Not much point tuning it, and I didn’t much care, being a good singer and a bad pianist.

As I got better on the instrument, I wanted more sound, and I had the spinet taken away. I bought in its place a pretty good baby grand.

It’s a beautiful thing to see, this piano, in a corner of the living room, its lid propped high, light from the deck windows on its dark wood.

I bought a red rectangular leather cushion for its black bench. redcushionblackbench

The high shelves behind the piano are all about my music books. Everything’s out of order. Suzanne’s between Handel and Haydn.

I like grazing the shelves, thinking I’ll sing this, getting distracted by that.

Anyway, this is what I’ve decided to thank this Thanksgiving. The piano that takes up a spotlit corner of the living room and heats my blood.

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