Monday, January 02, 2012

A Lesson Remembered, A Lesson Re-Learned

It has been an unusual start to the new year. It's been a happy day and I'm glad it was spent in the way it spun itself (more on that tomorrow) but I'm tired and don't have the mental energy to explain it now.

Instead, I'm resurrecting an old post from January of last I'm particularly proud of and just re-discovered a few minutes ago. Truly, the video alone is worth it.

Happy new year, Lovely Readers! Back tomorrow with enthusiasm!

Do It Again. With Feeling. Originally posted January 7, 2011:
I love it when I unlock an internal mystery and snippets snap snugly into place - a whole picture created and ready to be mounted, framed, and hung. Finished.

The particular mystery to which I'm referring tonight begins with the story I started to tell you all last night. The one about me and the piano and the realization I was no one in particular so I quit?

The thing is...the thing that's bugged me for 25 years...I was good. I didn't acknowledge this at the time but one doesn't get accepted to a camp like the one I went to or invited to participate in workshops and retreats like I was unless one is good in some capacity.

The evidence of talent was there. I just didn't see it.

And I couldn't figure out why I didn't think I was any good...until now.

Technically, I had problems. I had stiff wrists and fingers - a problem that's continued to plague me when I took up knitting - which caused hand fatigue which led to mistakes. My teacher gave me exercises to do to try and loosen up but nothing seemed to help. Adding to that, I also have smallish hands and, as the repertoire increased in difficulty, so too did the occurrences of playing octaves - no small feat when that was my maximum finger span. Additionally, I had a terrible "mental game". If I made a mistake - which I nearly always did - I'd be completely thrown, lose my place, freeze. My teacher gave me books to read about improving my mental game - The Inner Game of Tennis and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. At 13, I was certainly able to intellectually grasp the concepts in the books. I simply wasn't mature enough to apply them to myself.

I also lacked confidence.

Because, in my head, what made a pianist great was the ability to play every single note perfectly - performing a literal translation of the language of the notes on the page into beautiful music.


That's not why I was good. Talent isn't about literal translation or hitting every single note perfectly. Talent is about interpretation, letting the spirit of the thing move through and resonate. I was good because I inherently understood nuance and letting the spirit move through...which is probably why I would get stuck if I made a mistake - I was lost in translation because I was pulled into the interpretation.

But I didn't understand this, really, until today. Because of this video I watched (more than once) a few days ago:

"Do they every let the tripping of the tips of their tongues against the tops of their teeth transport them to giddy euphoric bliss?" - Stephen Fry

And then I remember reading this in the wiki about Liberace: Music critics were generally harsh in their assessment of his piano playing. Critic Lewis Funke wrote after the Carnegie Hall concert, Liberace's music "must be served with all the available tricks, as loud as possible, as soft as possible, and as sentimental as possible. It's almost all showmanship topped by whipped cream and cherries." Even worse was his lack of reverence and fealty to the great composers. "Liberace recreates—if that is the word—each composition in his own image. When it is too difficult, he simplifies it. When it is too simple, he complicates it". His sloppy technique included "slackness of rhythms, wrong tempos, distorted phrasing, an excess of prettification and sentimentality, a failure to stick to what the composer has written".

And yet, Liberace was, for a long time, one of the most beloved performers alive. Not because his translation was accurate but because his interpretation resonated with him and with his audience.

And then, finally, I re-read Diva's comment on last night's entry and this: But if you write for you - just for you - your joy in doing so comes across all on its own. That's one of the reasons I'm here, anyway. And remember, I don't like to read personal blogs. *smile*

So there it is. The understanding. The finished picture, framed and hung.

It's not about being perfect. In music or in writing or in photographs or in bowling.

It's about doing it with feeling. For me.

OH! I get


Gaelyn said...

Always follow your heart and passion.

cdnkaro said...

Very interesting video! Great post, I love your passion:)

Lucy said...

I get into more trouble being me but being me feels so much better than trying to copy someone else or worse, fit in. Keep doing it your way!!!

Just Jane said...

cdnkaro: I love love love that video so much! It's got such a great message.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Gaelyn, Jane, "follow your heart," and never change. :)

By the way, loved the video. Very interesting!


alienbody said...

Your original thoughts on why NOT to play are my thoughts on why I don't write more. And...I absolutely love the video. I love the voice, which sounds so pretentious and yet carries a message that language, in all its uses, is appropriate. And, like all situations...sometimes you dress it up, sometimes it is just what it is. I shared it AND thanked you for letting me steal it...on Facebook.