Monday, February 2, 2009
There is a quality in each person's playing that is completely unique. An approach to music that is completely our own, that comes from within and which is part of a personal quality that has been there from the very beginning. It can't be taught and it can't be learned; I think it is something that has to be remembered.
When I work with children approaching the piano for the very first time, I get a glimpse of it. In the very enjoyment and curiosity that a child displays when doing everything for the first time-- his first song, his first time playing with both hands together, the first time he actually sits down and presses a key-- there is an unimpeded deliberation. A sense of doing and being that gets lost over time with all the "what ifs" and the "should haves" and the "would haves" the fill up our mind almost immediately after we start.
This quality is stifled by fear and soon forgotten. Over our lives as we learn to make music, our own mind works against us in subtle ways. Before a musician makes that big step from being a student to being a professional, it is important that he deals with his own demons and emotional baggage. I experienced a kind of release-- of shedding away some unwanted load-- before I started feeling a bit more comfortable with my own playing. While building up all the necessary skills and knowledge we need to be musicians, we also must experience an intense personal search of ourselves. Our goal: to play-- in the broader definition of the word.
Some people physically exhaust themselves trying to reach that goal, playing everything in a million different ways, practicing hours and hours; through constant repetition and hard physical labor, they bang their head over and over again on a brick wall hoping to make a dent. Other people analyse every single aspect and possibility that the task at hand offers, they read every single book there is about technique and spend hours just thinking; by arming themselves with knowledge, they try to outsmart the wall. Both of these ways eventually reach a point of saturation either by complete physical exhaustion-- repetition until the task loses all meaning-- or information overload in which our knowledge reaches a point of impracticability.
At that moment, a release comes and when it does, the wall is gone. It's fear; fear of what we are. Once the fear is gone, we are free to play as we played that very first time we sat at the piano; but knowing what we're doing this time.
That is what I admire most in the small children I teach for the first time. Their complete fearlessness. It is a fragile thing, but as a teacher, I try to help them hold on to it as long as they can. Hopefully, it'll be that much easier to remember once the time comes.