Sounds can be deceiving. Consider, for example, Indianapolis-based pianist Becky Archibald, who on July 1 reprises her appearance last year on WPLN’s Live From Studio C and, that same evening, performs at the Scarritt-Bennett Center’s Wightman Chapel. Archibald’s music is a thoughtful flow of ideas, written and improvised, with flashes of humor but an introspective quality drawn from the wells of Chopin, New Age and Gershwin. It’s hardly what you’d expect from a musician who’s been through the kind of crisis that Archibald has survived since that last radio appearance.
“I played on WPLN last July,” she remembers, “then took a short vacation. Right after that, in August, without any warning, I felt this amazing pain in my right thumb, so bad that I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t pick anything up, I couldn’t cook or cut vegetables.... I couldn’t do anything.”
Even now, the source of the pain is a mystery. Archibald consulted a variety of doctors. Early on, she ruled out surgery, partly because exploratory tests inflicted on her by a team of “creepy” doctors left her feeling even worse, with tingling and discomfort now spread to her left hand. Chiropractic treatment didn’t help. She went through two physical therapists, both well-meaning but ineffective.
Eventually, after she began wearing splints and undergoing more holistic physical treatments, Archibald sat at the instrument she could no longer play and began to compose a series of workssix string quartets and new pieces for the piano. “It’s strange, because one of them is a ragtime piece, which is terribly funny and fun,” she says. “But there were darker things too, like 'Light at the End of the Tunnel,’ which I based on a half-diminished chordall minor intervals except for one major third, so it also contains light.”
With her splints removed last month, and her technique essentially restored except for some lingering pain in her left wrist and palm, Archibald recently recorded this material for her third solo piano album, Light at the End of the Tunnel. She’ll be premiering much of the record at Wightman Chapela gig of more than casual significance. “Coming back to Nashville means a lot to me,” she says. “It means that I’m really back, in every sense.”
For more on Becky Archibald, search her name at www.cdbaby.com or in the band listings at www.iuma.com.
Robert L. Doerschuk
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