Friday, March 22, 2013

A Scientist and Music

One of my most determined students is a scientist--a world-class scientist, in fact, who came to study with me because she wanted to know where "the music part" is.  She could play well enough to pass a pretty high level in the British system of grading but she was aware that it did not match some quality of what she heard in my playing.

What exactly did she hear?  That, of course, neither of us will ever know.  But I have some insight into what the difference is between her preferred experience in the lab as opposed to at the piano. 

The essence of a successful experiment is that it can be repeated with the same results by anyone, anywhere.  In order to produce that successful experiment the responsible scientist must maintain both an open mind objectively observing deviations from the hypothesis, and detailed records of every step forward and back.

The essence of successful music-making is, in many ways, the reverse.  "The music part" consists of the never-ending search for infinite variability, both in the quality of the sound and in the sense of the sequence of sounds that we call the composition.  It has taken years to arrive at the place where she is sufficiently confident of her tolerance of this iffy state of being to actually enjoy not repeating herself--or allowing Haydn to repeat himself, which is much more difficult.