Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Lots to Think (and Ramble) About

Lynn S. and others point us to a great post in Of Music and Men about musical giftedness.

Talvi writes:

"I often think of my father who played the violin very well, with a beautiful sound. Yet it had never crossed his mind that this would have become his profession. Music was greatly valued those days and everyone with an ear got trained to a point. Kreisler and Caruso were were the day's pop artists. But people wanted to be music lovers, amateurs, not musicians by profession. How the meaning on that French term has changed over the years! From being a lover of an art, now it describes someone not very capable in what he is doing."
Very true. When Deborah first said I was an "amateur pianist," I bristled. "Amateur" does seem to mean "incapable" more often than not. "Yes, I know I'm not a piano genius," I wanted to say, "but must you rub it in? Am I really that bad?"

Of course, she didn't mean "incapable." She meant amateur in the true sense, in the sense that I am a person who plays piano, who works at piano, who spends much of my free time (when I have it) at the piano, and not because I have to, but because I want to. Because I love it.


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Yesterday at my piano lesson, I expressed some frustration that I haven't gotten further along in my Mozart and Dett pieces.

"What do you mean?" Deborah asked. I think she knew what I meant, but she wanted to hear me say it.

"It's just that ... I know that, if I could even find an hour a day to practice, I wouldn't still be working on getting the notes to the Dett piece. I'd be finished with the Mozart and working on something new. I wouldn't still be stumbling through these *#$%! contrary-motion scales."

And it's true. I always feel like the "goal"--whatever it is--is just beyond where I am now. And I get frustrated with myself for not being there already. I think to myself, "God gave me this wonderful musical talent, despite my deafness, and what have I done with it? Frittered it away. Ignored it. Expected too much with too little effort and, when I didn't get what I expected, dropped it and tried to forget about it. Took it too seriously at times. Didn't take it seriously enough at times. Kept coming back to it because ... I love it."

Isn't that dumb?

And when, on the rare occasions that I play for another person, I'm told that I'm a good pianist, I say "Thank you," but inwardly I'm thinking, "Hmph. Not as good as I should be."

It's dumb.

Please, readers, don't make comments that it's dumb and unrealistic and wrong and counter-productive and soul-numbing. I know it is. Believe me, I'm quite aware of it!

My goal is to enjoy music. It seems like a silly goal, because I do enjoy music. I do love it. I like having the just-beyond-what's-tangible goal. My frustration is not with the music itself. And it's not with the fact that I didn't pursue music as a career. I guess my frustration is with myself. Maybe my goal should be not to beat myself up during the 18 hours a day that I'm not asleep.

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Talvi refers to a time when "there was a tremendous amount of joy in music making in homes and even in non-professional orchestras."

Do people do this anymore? Have people over, just to play and perform and celebrate music? If people still do this, I've never been invited. (Hmph!)


I love to play for people. LOVE IT. I love having an audience. It's not so much a show-off thing. Sure, it's nice (if a bit uncomfortable) to be complimented. But really, I just like to share the music. And it's not just a "like." I think it's a need.

I would never invite people to my house with the purpose of playing the piano for them. Particularly with poor George, whom I love dearly, but who is getting old and tired, and is falling out of tune more frequently than ever. I do wish there were some venue for adult cubicle-dwellers to play nice music for friends, or friends of friends. There was supposed to be an "adult amateur" piano recital in Asheville several weeks ago, but it got cancelled for lack of interest.

I used to play at a coffee shop, just for fun, because there was a piano there and the owner didn't care if anyone played it, as long as they didn't bang. I earned myself quite a few free cups of coffee from kindly older gentlemen who said that my piano-playing had made their day. (Was it my piano playing? Or was it my smile? My youth? My boobs? Whatever it was, it was nice to be appreciated. And I was broke at the the time, so the free coffee was good, too.)

I've also played at songwriter open mics at rare places that actually had a piano. I loved doing that, too. It is the most thrilling experience to play music, particularly music that you wrote, for strangers. (I say that, having never had tomatoes thrown my way during a performance.)

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OK, I'm rambling. I guess the lesson here is to learn to be happy with where I am, and to balance that "here-and-now" happiness with the dream of the just-beyond-what's-tangible goal.

Heh ... I remember sitting in the office of a very frustrated shrink (I had frustrated him). He had his head in his hands, and he seemed to talk to the ground.

"Balance, Waterfall--balance! You need to learn balance!"

At the time, I equated "balance" with "utter and eternal mediocrity." Isn't that dumb? (Don't answer that. I know it's dumb. I don't need anyone else to tell me.) Though, ever since I got diagnosed as bipolar and have done some research on bipolar disorder, I've learned that bipolar people typically have problems with balance. So maybe I can blame it on that. :-)


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I really need to get back to work. Don't forget to read the Talvi post. It's good. And (obviously) thought-provoking.

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