Third Finger, Left Hand

Three years ago this morning I wrote the following sentences:

"I've had real trouble of late with the third finger of my left hand - the one that goes on the "s" on the keyboard. I suspect that the problem is just a pinched nerve somewhere but I left my physician's certificate somewhere so my diagnosis is worth no grain of salt".

That observation led to a couple hand surgeries as I had some pinched nerves that needed some work. The operations were a success. My hand got worse. I began dropping things  About two years ago I reached for a light switch but wasn't strong enough in that hand to turn it off.  My little third finger trouble turned out to be ALS. That, of course got me to thinking back then about left hands. 

A life long friend from LA had messaged me about a  musicology question (that's music history to those who want to bail out now before boredom creeps in). He had the wrong set of facts and we had a pleasant exchange as we always did.  Garby (my friend), had been one for half a century and was/is a superb pianist and musician among his many talents.  When we were in high school or so, he was taking piano lessons in Detroit and his teacher had him working on a piece by Ravel for "left hand".  Seems a pianist lost his right arm and long story short, went to various composers and effected musical works for his now altered physical condition. I remember Garby telling me that the purpose was to strengthen his left hand technique - the very hand that that started failing me.  The piece has always been one of my favs so I put it down at the end of this entry....and since my left hand barely works right now, I'll live vicariously through someone else's abilities.

Schumann, the romantic era composer/pianist had what I have and tried, as the legend goes, some weird-ass operation to make things work better.  He may have had better luck with a sorcerer. That was the most famous "hand" in music history and honest to God, some musicologist I know actually wrote a paper on the physiology of the operation and why it wouldn't work.  I certainly should mention that musicologists are extremely strange.

In a moment of trivia, one of my public graduate lectures dealt with the cataract operations performed on the composers Bach and Handel (Bach of Schroeder/Peanuts fame and Handel with the Messiah oratorio to put them into perspective). They died several years apart in their late 60s and each developed a cataract that greatly hindered vision.  If you can't see, it is hard to composed.  Obviously.  Long story short, Bach had his cataract removed in about 1748 by a method called "couching" where little more than a sharp stick was inserted in the eye and it pushed the offending cataract lens back and out of the way. Ouch.  Handel, a few years later, had the new cataract removal treatment  that we used up until perhaps 30 years ago.  Had enough? Give up yet? Uncle???

There is an affinity between physical health and ailments and musicians. We are generally a healthy lot due to long hours of isolation in a practice room and the warning that goes along with our presence; like a sign that says "don't go near or feed weird artists".  Mostly, it is that something as simple as a pinched nerve ends a career lickity-split. Boom. Something accidental is one thing. Body parts failing is another.

I don't make my living by pounding a piano keyboard; more the laptop variety and after years of doing this, I am feeling like our Mr. Schumann or the one armed pianist.  I'm sure I'll get past this but for right now it is a royal (for those or us who remember typewriters) pain and actually a little scary as in what if this is what it is.  Will it drive me crazy like it did (partly perhaps) Schumann?  

What it does do, short term, is hinder little responses to messages like Garby sent me that other day. Sorry.

With my few remaining key strokes possible tonight, here is that wondrous piece by Ravel for "left hand"; the one Garby learned half a century ago and the one that of course was always out of my reach and tonight, bordering on fantasy. (by the way, this is Wittgenstein, the pianist obviously with one arm.)