Friday, July 30, 2004

Amateur Adventures

At first, I thought about naming this blog something like “Amateur Adventures,” about the joys and struggles of being an amateur pianist. I plan to write a lot about that on this blog, as well as the sometimes-strange experience of being an adult piano student. I swear, sometimes I feel like I’ve been catapulted back in time as I leave for my lunch hour, music books in hand, to go to a piano lesson. Or when I’m on the phone and have to say, “Look, I need to go … I haven’t practiced my piano yet, and I have a lesson tomorrow.”



But it’s thrilling. It is so absolutely and incredibly thrilling to work hard at something, day in and day out, and to see the small successes as they occur. (In piano, big successes don’t often occur. Small ones occur after much work … and then one day, after you’ve played the same measure ten gazillion times over the past three weeks, you realize that you’ve started to sound kind of good. But it’s something you honestly have to earn.)



In this day and age (do I sound like an old fogy?), we expect everything to be automatic; we want it fast, and we want it now. Deadlines and time constraints, not quality, often determine the type of job I do, even in my own personal work. And we’re expected to be able to take in an incredible amount of information in record time. Even if we’re not expected to, we still do—every time we turn on the TV, open a magazine, or even walk down a city street. It’s overwhelming to think of the number of words we read each day, and the number of images we see each day. Or that I do, at least. Between blogs, yahoo groups, Internet news sources, my hiking lists, the books I’m reading, and—oh—my work, I must read several hundred thousand words a day, at least. And I must write at least half as many, between my job and my own personal writing.



So it’s nice, while Dan is listening to the drone of FOX news or ESPN, while the neighbor dogs are wailing at whatever it is they wail at, to shut the door to the “piano room” at home and sit there with Mozart, or Chopin, or Bach. It’s so refreshing to focus on something outwardly small—to explore, for instance, the intricacy and depth of a single measure of a nocturne. To play something over and over again at an extremely slow pace, knowing that I have to play it that slowly now or it won’t sound right when I play it faster a week from now. There is so much repose and spiritual refreshment in that. And it is sheer ecstasy be able to play a piece well, to be able to listen to the miracle of music as you make it. My ears don't work so well, but I am so thankful for the blessing of being able to experience music.



As for the non-auditory aspect of music, it is its own miracle … don’t get me started on the quiet excitement of exploring the theoretical unfolding of a piano piece. I’ll write more on that later, believe me.



It’s also nice, when at work, to log in to my favorite website, naxos.com, and listen. While writing things like “Click Enter to open the Incident form,” I can listen and marvel at the sheer miracle of Bach’s Mass in B Minor or the comic genius of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. I can stop for a minute, shut my eyes, and lose myself in the music, knowing that I’m in the presence of greatness. In a world where quality seems valued less than quantity, where deadlines seem more important than actually “getting it right,” it’s nice to be reminded that true art is out there, that true artists exist, and that, somehow, I’m not crazy for pursuing my music and wanting to be a part of it all.



3 comments:

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