The Lesson

For the past four years I’ve been taking piano lessons with Alexandre Mion, an old student and friend of mine. Alexandre is a first-class pianist as well as a wonderful human being: kind, patient, attentive, full of smiles, the perfect teacher. Alexandre works at a conservatoire in Clichy, a commune adjacent to Paris but administratively separate from it. The conservatoire is housed in a new building right next to the metro station “Mairie de Clichy.”

What do I learn in our lessons?

Not piano technique in and of itself; no. I learn to respond to music, and to embody my responses at the piano. Technique, in other words, is an embodied response to a musical stimulus.

If I respond freely, my embodiment is free. Getting there entails a deep psychological process. I have to become open-minded, open-hearted, open-brained, open-opened. And for me to be open-opened, I need to open to the moment, to life itself—to Life.

Riding the metro, I ready myself for my piano lessons by becoming attentive and appreciative. Corridors, tunnels, crossings, and line exchanges all take on symbolic power, as I pass through different layers of a multidimensional, otherworldly labyrinth.

Arriving at my destination, I exit the underground and go toward light. The first thing I see is a public-housing project. It’s a study in perspectives, proportions, lines and planes, the occupation of space. It’s a beehive for humans, strange and marvelous.


Then I cross the street and enter the conservatoire. Perspectives, proportions . . . the meditation on space and light continues. I climb the stairs to the fourth floor. The steps, landings, and windows hypnotize me, and I’m now inside a ziggurat, timeless and mysterious.

I enter Alexandre’s room. Oftentimes, the first thing I do is to take a photo of the room’s window. The sun, the clouds, the raindrops are gorgeous; plus, weather hints at astronomy, and astronomy hints at cosmology, and cosmology is unfathomable. I like it that Alexander’s room hints at the unfathomable.

And there he is, my teacher, my witness, my guide, my friend, my brother. A single human being, representing the whole of humanity.

The sun shines and creates the strangest figures on the wall, on the piano itself, on the keyboard.


I’m ready to sit down at the piano, to respond to music, and to embody my responses in gestures and movements, in fingerings, in phrasings.

Will I be free and open? I don't know. This is the lesson I've come to learn.


©Pedro de Alcantara, 2017