I love homework like this.
Here's a snippet of my piano homework:
1. Listen to lots of Mozart, particularly Symphonies No. 40 and 41.
2. When practicing this week, start with the Bach Sinfonia as the 10-minute "appetizer," focus on the Mozart Fantasie as the 30-minute "main course," and savor the Chopin Nocturne as the 15-minute "dessert."
3. Decide what I want to add to my repertoire once the Mozart is up and running.
See, I've had a problem with the Mozart piece. Not really a problem ... it's just that I'm slow to warm up to new pieces. They're just like people. As an introvert, I'm not one to strike up sudden friendships; I tend to know someone for a good, long while before the friendship really begins to blossom. Ten years later, if I'm lucky, we both realize that we've made a friend for life.
It's kind of like that with music. When I take on a new piece, it's kind of like I've let a stranger wander in on my tea party tete-a-tete with my best-friend composers. Mozart has wandered in on the most delightful of tea parties that I've been having with Bach and Chopin. And we all have to move over to make room. I humored him and learned all the notes to his piece, but now he's demanding that I go further--that I think hard and concentrate on things, Mozartean things, I didn't have to think so much about with Bach and Chopin. While I'm intellectually excited at the prospect of learning new ways of thinking and playing, part of me just wants to ignore him and continue my lovely tea party with Bach and Chopin, with whom I've become so familiar.
And what's so funny is that, if composers were really my friends, Mozart would be one of my very BEST friends. Heck, he would have been a bridesmaid at my wedding. His wedding march from The Marriage of Figaro was my wedding march. I requested it so the genius of my old friend Wolfgang could be there. I've listened to some of his symphonies so many times that I can pretend-conduct them in my car as I listen. I've seen Amadeus more times than I can remember. Mozart is the reason that I quit listening to 80s pop music in 1984 and became a classical music nut. Mozart is my FRIEND. He's been with me for more than half my life. We have been through a lot together.
But for some reason, I'm hesitant to work with his Fantasie in D Minor. This may be for several reasons:
1) As much as I love Mozart, his music is very difficult to play. Oh, it seems deceptively easy ... and "deceptively" is the word, dear readers. If you think Mozart is easy to play, be assured that you are missing something very important. His pieces are really quite challenging. It's a major accomplishment to play Mozart well. Perhaps I fear I'm not up to the challenge. Or that I'll take on the challenge and fail. That I'll think I'm playing it well when really it sounds awful. And then I'll be a loser and a fool and no one will love me anymore and I'll shrivel up and die. And Mozart is supposed to be my FRIEND.
2) It's a beautiful, slow piece. I'm playing nothing but beautiful, slow pieces these days and really want to learn something that's a bit faster and more lively. More biting.
3) I'm shy. The Fantasie is like the new kid at school. I'd like to get to know her, but don't know what to expect, so it's easier just to hang out with my old friends Bach and Chopin.
4) I've started to learn a million Mozart sonatas (OK, maybe five or six) but, due to a lifetime of bouncing from teacher to teacher, have never finished a single one. So why even try?
But now that Mozart is the 30-minute-a-day main course, I'm sure I'll start progressing in no time.
Even if I don't ... at least I know I will enjoy the homework. It'll be almost as hard as the homework I had when I took "History of Jazz in New Orleans" for May Term in spring of 1989. The assignments included "listen to lots of live jazz," "go to every single day of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival," and "listen to all these great jazz tapes that you'll be tested on at the end of the course." I made an "A" in the course. And I STILL listen to those tapes.
But for now, I'm listening to Mozart. And pretend-conducting in my cubicle. La la la la la.