Monday, January 26, 2009

Zen and the Art of New Age Piano

We all want to be in the moment. That’s where real transformation takes place. For some, walking gets them there. Others like to play sports or watch movies. For me, it’s playing the piano.

When I’m in the moment, letting the music speak, it’s like the world is new again. The notes flow out of the piano into the air and I know that something magical is taking place.

It may last a minute or a half-hour. No matter how long it lasts, I know that I’ve been transported to a special place. Many musicians know of this place - especially musicians who know how to improvise. There is no planning - only spontaneous invention.

Zen music in particular has an ethereal quality that seems to grow organically. It starts and ends yet there seems to be no starting or ending point. The music just is - like a living being it just is there. It’s like a fine perfume in the sense that it lingers in the air but does not overwhelm or grow tiresome.

Any instrument can be used to create this kind of music but certain instruments lend themselves more readily to it. Flutes, the harp, the piano, the Japanese Koto - these instruments are often used to create atmospheres that linger delightfully but really do not want to go anywhere.

Here in the West, we are used to a music that must pursue an ending course. We must have a climax or a big finish or we are not satisfied. Like a fireworks show, it begins and ends with a bang.

There can be a struggle between creating a music that comes from spirit or making music that pleases the crowd. We can be torn between pleasing the ego or pleasing ourselves. To play piano in the “new age” style is to understand a music that isn’t planned but allowed to become. Once this concept is understood, the music will flow.

Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music’s online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Stop by now at for a FREE piano lesson!

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