The Sounds and Music of Open Space
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Blog written by Jairo Geronymo, pianist based in Berlin, Germany
I will move to Berlin this summer.
So I began the hunt for the large, well situated, extremely comfortable, well designed, charming, impressive, and of course, reasonably priced apartment.
The real estate market in Berlin is very different than what one would expect in such a large city. I have heard horror stories from colleagues and friends living in Manhattan. They have shared that to get the perfect apartment at a reasonable (…) price one must be smart and aggressive beyond any measure.
Germany has strong laws to protect renters and only a few empty apartments come up for sale. One would expect that they would sell quickly. Quite on the contrary, they linger forever on the German version of realtor.com (www.immobilienscout24.de).
I believe that in large cities, many people able to buy an apartment often remain renters because there is no risk and sacrifice in their comfortable but unprofitable renter experience. My blog is not about housing politics so I will move on to the housing needs of our friend musicians.
Listening to a concert or a recital in a theater is a very different experience compared to listening to your neighbor practicing, no matter how accomplished the musician is. Serious musicians practice for hours, with systematic and repetitive techniques that can bring the worst out of pleasant neighbors. The acoustic guitar, the harp and early keyboard instruments luckily can play on, undetected by irate disturbed neighbors.
For their sound to blossom, all instruments need a certain amount of air volume. If you play the Tuba or have a large grand piano, it would be better to move straight into a theater! Colleagues that own houses sometimes have carved, through many creative artifices, the perfect place to practice undisturbed from neighbors and family.
I was only once accosted in the elevator by a furious neighbor regarding my long hours practicing a Prokofiev Piano Concerto. I was young and had the stamina to go on for hours banging away on the keys. The concerto that I played so well, to the delight of so many, made my neighbor hate the day in which Prokofiev (or I) was born! Today, luckily, I can learn music faster than my neighbors can get annoyed. However, that takes a lot of planning!
In large cities, where most musicians live in apartments, the situation is worse. Musicians need to consider carefully the architectural and psychological elements of their prospective nests. Is there a way of having nobody living underneath me? Are the walls thick enough? Is there a baby living one floor above me? Can I practice at school? Musicians that do not pay attention to these aspects can pay a high price. A colleague of mine in Berlin is being sued by her neighbor and this summer will go through an extensive renovation in order to isolate her piano room acoustically.
Piano Shaped Object (PSO) and Patience
Like many colleagues I have at home a keyboard with weighted keys. Sometimes I use it late night or in the early stages of learning a piece. However, this robs me of the sensual experience of discovering a new piece as it was supposed to be, free and unashamed of its powers. New melodies, surprising harmonies and powerful climaxes do not sound the same on a plastic PSO (piano shaped object) and headphones cannot duplicate the acoustical experience of an instrument speaking freely where its sound can bloom.
Most painters do not work with the rarefied white light that fed old masters in Holland. Most musicians cannot afford the perfect space for the sound of their instruments to bloom.
So I plead with everybody that once enjoyed any type of music: be patient with your neighbor musician while she or he practices. Their future audiences will thank you!