The great thing about living in Penang is that a lifestyle of hedonistic decadence is totally within reach. Want coffee; there is a Starbucks ten minutes away from anywhere you live. Feel like dancing; there is a slammin’ salsa scene downtown. Need money; get a job at one of the hundreds of technology companies, banks and retail shops on the island. Going to school; universities, colleges, private schools cater to your every educational needs.
Best of all, it is sunny and surrounded by the ocean.
Having a coastline gives tremendous geographic advantage to any location. This little island has made full use of it. Besides the many hotels on the beach, it has nurtured a small sailing community.Yachts and sailboats moored near the shore are visible at various locations around the island.
I have a longing desire to one day own a small sailboat and sail from Penang to Langkawi – a perilous journey in perfectly calm waters, stormless weather that takes less than three hours.
Rivers and oceans have a magnetic pull on men for millennias. We are drawn to build homes near the river, make rafts to hop to nearby islands, build ships to cross oceans and write songs about these adventures. ‘Venetian Boat Song’, ‘The Beautiful Blue Danube’ and ‘River Flows In You’ are piano songs inspired by the natural ebb and flow of the river and roll of the waves of the oceans.
With some creative imagination, I actually realized that I just played a musical phrase that was probably inspired by the natural stream of water in bar 6. The three-note roll phrase fused with a pair of double note chord was a fluid smooth flowing one, much like a raging river of Amazon.
It then moves in a direction that leads towards the heart and soul of the piece that is the climax of this gloriously soul piercing piano song. The journey leading up to that destination starts in bar 10. Three bars later, an eight-bar phrase of short beats made out of mostly semiquavers enthrall the fingers playing it.
Stretch your fingers to be able reach both the ‘A’s separated by an octave, they act like a comma between the speedier run of the other notes. Undoubtedly this part is the pinnacle of difficulty you shall face in this piano song, due to the swiftness at which you have to alternate the fingers, specifically; from hitting G with the fourth finger to landing on A with the fifth finger – 4,5,4,5 at high speed is always a tricky affair.
While I was playing this lovely romantic ballad just for the joy of it, I was also in the midst of working on a serious piece - a classical piano song by Mozart called Sonata K545. Scales extending up to two octaves make several appearances in the piano song.
For the past month I have been pushing myself to the limit during my practise sessions so that I do not dishonor this piano song by one of the greatest composer the world has ever seen.
As it turned out those excruciating practise sessions made me play the shorter scale phrase in bar 14 of ‘River Flows In You’ better. Due to my weak fifth finger, whenever I played this bar, the finger tended to gum up to the fourth finger. It was hard to make the fifth finger strike the key in the scale independently without dragging the fourth finger with it.
I would not have had this problem if I had been dilligent obeying my piano teacher’s advice to practise the major/minor scales, chromatic scales and arpeggios like I was supposed to. Thankfully, I have Mozart come to my rescue.
The scale phrase in bar 14 of ‘River Flows In You’ ascends from A to E and decsends again. A simple climb up the keyboard and going down again would have been easier to play, but this song is meant to melt hearts, well up eyes with tears and shake knees so the black keys of C# and G# are roped in to enrich the phrase musically, so be sure to play the accidentals properly.