I had a memory today from when I was eight years old. At the time, my parents owned a big old upright piano. It wasn’t very good, but it had an extremely large sound. Once a week the piano teacher would come to give lessons to my brother and me. She was an old German woman, very strict and always serious. The only music she ever taught was Schumann — the Kinderszenen and Album für die Jugend — which she encouraged us to play as loudly as possible.

In those years, our family would spend July and August in the Catskill Mountains, where my brother and I would often try, with paper cups, to scoop guppies from the creek near our summer cottage. The few we caught were cherished, and at summer’s end these would always ended up in a glass bowl on top of that piano. Sometimes the piano was so loud that a guppy would jump clear out of the bowl, and flop around on top of the piano until we put it back.

Once I found a dead guppy behind the piano, and I felt incredibly sad. I knew even then that guppies do not like Schumann. At least, not the way we played it!

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