No, this is not related to binge drinking. The circle of fifths is a term in music theory devised by Pythagorus. Jennifer asked if I knew what it was, and escorted me to the piano when I said no. She had me draw a circle and subdivide the circumference like a clock into twelve segments. C stood on the top, midnight and high noon. On the piano beginning at C she had me play a sequence of five steps, do to sol. G. Put G at one o’clock. D at two o’clock, and so on all the way back around.
Here we were, at the very beginning, and I’m already Elmer Befuddled when she drops in talk about major and minors and seventh. Pythagoras figured all this stuff out when he was still in his pajamas but me?
Like any good teacher, (good for me, in any case), Jennifer offers praise. I could find Middle C on the piano. She pulls out sheet music for Au Clair de La Lune, and I try to play it on her accordion. The notation is very simple, i.e., simple enough for moi, and once I figured out where C was on the little keyboard I was on my way. God it sounded lovely. But then there were all those nubby buttons crowded together on the left hand side. They were aligned according to the circle of fifths. Ah, yes, er. Jennifer got a mirror so I could see where to put my big-fat-needing-a-cleaning fingers. She wrote in tiny letters under the notes, om cha, oom cha, oom cha, oom cha.
My first accordion lesson. Will I stand the onslaught of second-thoughts? Is this nuts or what? Someone with less than average musical aptitude? Someone with the rhythmical limitations of his too-white ancestry? Someone who is roiled with impatience when stymied? Someone who often doesn’t follow through?
I remind myself what I often tell my swim students: slow down.