Piano at Night

In 1995, I bought a cassette with my little saving. The first and last music cassette I bought in my life, it contained a dozen of piano works, with the first one being the then very popular ‘A Maiden’s Prayer‘. I bought it because, in the novel I was then reading, this ‘A Maiden’s Prayer’ was kind of the theme song of one of the heroines. I played the cassette every night, in a low volume, when I was ready to sleep. With all the lights off and curtains closed, the soft, clear piano melodies were floating in the room, charming me into peaceful dreams, and sometimes making my eyes wet because the slowness of the music, the calmness of the air and the darkness in the room made me sad — and yet this sadness was so pleasantly sweet; the unshed tears made me aware that I was alive and able to feel.

There was a music radio station, which had a classical music night every week. The DJ was a gentleman who spoke with a soft and calm voice, and the music he chose was all soothing piano solos and concertos, occasionally alternated with violin concertos and quartets. The timing was just when I was ready to sleep. So on that particular day of each week, I did not play the piano cassette but turned on the radio. I tried to visualize the images and scenes described by the music and to empathize with the composer’s emotions expressed through the melodies. It seemed to me it was the best time to feel and appreciate classical music at night, lying on my bed, without any light on, because then I could own the whole world and I could focus on the sound instead of being distracted by the modern materialistic world.

People say I have an old man’s soul. Listening to soothing piano music when going to bed is one of the ‘symptoms’. Maybe I have had an old man’s soul since 1995, when I was 13 years old.

The cassette era was gone for good, and the CD era came. I bought quite a number of piano CDs (including more than two Richard Clayderman‘s), but none could give me the same sensation. Perhaps it was because then I was staying in a hostel and it was inconsiderate to play my music through loudspeakers, especially at night. I could only listen to my CDs with earphones, which I did not dare to put on while sleeping. Things changed in 2002. Some months before my ‘A’ Level, I started studying in an air-conditioned study room with a long sofa. There was no one else at night, so I slept on the long sofa and played my piano CDs through the cheap loudspeakers, in the same low volume, just like 7 years before.

Then I discovered Kevin Kern. It was a Sunday afternoon when I was browsing the CDs in a shop. And I was captured by the beautiful music that filled the shop. I put down whatever CDs I held in my hands, and went to the counter to check out the ‘Now Playing…’ box. It was ‘In the Enchanted Garden‘ by Kevin Kern. Without second thoughts I bought it.

Kevin Kern’s music gave me exactly the feeling I felt listening to the cassette in 1995. It was magic. After a whole day of hard work, I read a chapter of some novels before sleep, with this CD as the background music. Lights off and eyes closed, the music again charmed me into peaceful dreams and sometimes made my eyes wet. I bought almost all his albums. But ‘In the Enchanted Garden’ remains my favourite till this day. I played it when preparing for ‘A’ Level in the hostel, in 2002. I played it when trying to get rid of all those negative feelings at night, with moonlight pouring on the floor on the second storey in the rented house, in 2003. I played it when I could not sleep in my university dorm, with breezes flipping the curtains and cats meowing outside the windows, during my college days. I still played it frequently after I started working as it made me recall the difficult days and be grateful for what I owned at the moment.

Of course I also discovered some other great pianists and  composers, like Roberto Cacciapaglia, Lin Hai (林海) and Shi Jin (石进). Especially Shi Jin. Born in 1981, he composes and plays piano music that feels pretty much older than his age. I like playing his music while working and writing, but I love his music even more when I play it while I am getting to sleep. Three of his four albums are titled ‘(Piano) Melody of the Night’ and I think these titles are very appropriate.

I will continue to have an old man’s soul, listening to soothing piano music when going to bed, till I am indeed an old man, because I do not foresee any possibility of dropping this habit in near future.