I sat down at a piano last weekend for the first time in a long time, and I was amazed at how quickly it all came back. It was like I was picking up right where I last left off, years and years ago.
I should mention here that I don't play piano, or any instrument, and never have. Ability was not the thing that returned.
What came back to me was a mindset. I found myself doing what I used to do at my mother's upright piano: looking intently at the pattern of the keys, pressing them and listening to the sound gradually fade away, trying to figure out exactly what those stupid pedals were supposed to be for.
To see it, you might think I have/had a facination with music or sound. But cross reference this data with the amount of time I spend/spent on my other favorite things, like playing with gadgets/legos or thinking about robots/robots, and you'd realize that I like/liked the piano simply for its construction, for the make of the thing.
And in that, an upright piano is in a special class of tools. While it can't produce the kind of sound that a fine grand piano can, it is small enough to fit in a normal home. That difference is important. It means more people have access to the instrument, thus more people learn it, thus the music it makes becomes a greater part of our culture.
Is this as strange a concept as I think it is? A person created a new design of an old thing*, and in doing so made a significant impact on music, more significant than any single composer.
*Another strange concept: making something easier often has much more drastic consequences than making it possible in the first place.