Music Matters
Back in the nineties I created a lot of essays all loosely joined by A being about music B memoir related and C pertaining to how place affects creating music and how one listens. A mixed memoir called "Music Matters". Much of it I would heartily disown now , but not all - and who am I to judge now that the work is done, anyway? So I am resolved to dripping out the essays over the next few months, often without comment, sometimes with.
Geoffrey Armes
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The First Day at Ailey
Geoffrey Armes - 2020-06-14 23:33:46+02:00

What a weird welcome. I'd got the piano into the corner downstage (parallel with the teacher facing upstage but not in her space), my copy of the Face (style magazine bought every month in NYC as a method of staying connected with London's madness while living New York's) spread on the music stand.

Cocky wasn't I, but I'd long argued (rationalised!?) getting my mind out the way was key to good improvising. I'd also eyed up some wonderful women already and, well, things were proceeding as normal. I was playing well, appreciated and glad of that – suddenly the door next to me crashed open and a gruff voice hurled by a swarthy mustachioed man ordered ,

“You're gonna put that piano back after you've used it”.


“You're gonna put that piano back after you've used it”.

“What? I'm playing man. Leave me alone.”

“You're gonna put it back after you've used it”.

And the door crashed back. I looked towards my colleague but she was busy with her job to have noticed, of course, and bemused I got back to mine.

Next gap though, confusion and curiosity won out and I snuck out and confronted the orderer, sat on a bench across the communal hall between studios with a mate. What was all that?

He repeated himself. Who are you to ask, I demanded. He told me. Another musician I gathered. I dug in, to the effect of you've got no authority then over this or that as far as I'm concerned and the piano stays there after I finish.

His top lip was trembling.

His mate chimed in.

“You're fucking gonna put that piano back after you've used it.”

Who are you? He told me, name, threatening look, saying ,“And I'm telling you....”.

I thought about if for a second, pissed off, riled, nervous, aware I had to get back in the studio and work, and as always, wanting a quiet life.

“You look pretty emotional here.” I said, suddenly inspired, steadying my own voice just enough.

“What are you going to do about this?“

The second guy copped me a look, flexed his biceps.

I pushed on.

“All I can tell you guys is this – I am not moving this fucking piano back after I play it. So... why don't you do whatever it is you want to do about it now, because nothing else is going to change? Come on.”

We all stilled.

“Come on,” I repeated. “Do it!”

Maybe my colleague appeared at that point, or I just sensed the moment with all its greater ramifications – the music, the job now, my body, my future – anyway, I went back in and returned to playing.

At some point she asked what was going on. I explained a little .

“Oh, territorial.” she observed. “They may have wanted your gig themselves.”

Later that day I passed them of course. I certainly stayed long enough to observe them jamming, the mate on congas, my orderer on piano, piano moved back to the position he favoured. They sounded good. We all got along quite well in the years after.