Psychological problems probably account for the vast majority of difficulties or discouragements for a musician at every stage of their careers, and most of these should be avoidable. So often it boils down to inflated or distorted egos: the excessive desire to be admired, successful, or praised. There’s a sense in which these desires contain perfectly natural reflexes for us as human beings, both sheer survival techniques and also a matter of common sense and mental stability. But there’s also the potential here for enormous strain and self-destruction. If we walk on to the stage, or into a lesson, with an excessive hunger for approval or adulation we stifle something inside us. Aside from any moral or cultural distaste one might have for boastful, egotistical people, such self-absorption rarely makes sense from a purely practical standpoint. It’s like driving on the highway and looking too closely at the car in the next lane – the lack of perspective is dizzying and dangerous. Or like seeing reality in a mirror – observing ourselves only through the eyes of others and their approval or lack of it. The great pianist, Egon Petri, once said that we would never be nervous if we were humble. It’s not a matter of not caring, or of being a shrinking violet, but of practical mental health.
John Cage picking mushrooms.
This explains so much…
When you mix a lack of practice due to a crazy theatre rehearsal with symptoms consistent with the onset of stomach flu or severe anxiety (I haven’t figured out which…) and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a less than stellar lesson.
I’m pretty sure my teacher wishes I would move a bit faster in learning the music. I’m still ridiculously slow. I’m better than I used to be… but I usually can only get through about 4-8 bars a week.
But it was still a very productive lesson. I’m making progress and I have some strategies for tackling the next section of my Beethoven. And a lot of the material repeats, so once I learn this section, I’ll have three quarters of it under my fingers. That just leaves the coda, which is the easiest part of the whole piece.
The musical opens this week, which means my work load is not going to let up. But I’m going to do my best to get some keyboard time every day. I don’t think that’s a goal that’s out of reach.
See you all next week!
"Nimrod" from The Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar.
Chicago Symphony at Carnegie Hall, conducted by Daniel Barenboim
This is resolutely in my top ten favorite pieces of music of all time. The first time I ever heard it was arranged for wind ensemble. Our group had a new conductor who wanted to get a feel for us, so at our first rehearsal of the semester, we played this. I felt a sense of profound peace and solemn joy throughout the whole movement… sort of like knowing for certain that something wonderful is about to happen, and all you need to do is be patient and wait.
This was the processional at my wedding (arranged for organ). I couldn’t think of anything better or more fitting to my state of mind. And after the wedding, my British grandmother-in-law approached me and asked, “Why did you choose a funeral march for walking down the aisle at your wedding?”
I had no clue what she was talking about at first. She told me that this movement from the Enigma Variations was often used in England at funerals and memorial services. I went and read up on it and found out that it holds a similar place as Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” I would have never guessed.
I guess it goes to prove that music does not strike us all equally.
Not sure I agree… but I certainly understand the sentiment.
At 110 years old, Herz-Sommer described how, in a time of death, music was her saving grace. Originally from Prague, she had lived in London until the Nazis took her, her husband and her son to Terezin (Theresienstadt) a labor and concentration camp. Both of her parents were gassed and killed at Terezin.
While her husband was killed at the concentration camp, she became a member of the camp’s orchestra, playing piano for Nazi soldiers.
"Music saved my life and music saves me still," Herz-Sommer said.
Pay “particular attention” to the quote MUSIC SAVED MY LIFE. Music saves US. And… makes us all human.