Thursday, October 23, 2014

What Does It Take to Hear A Piece of Music as if for the First Time?

If I had the answer to that one I'd be rich and famous.  It is not so easy. 

Try condensing all of Marcel Proust into ten words or less. 

Time is a critical element to Proust as it must be to anyone who plays music.  But time is real on so many levels and the temptation is for music teachers to reduce it to a lowest common denominator so as to save ... time.  In doing so, they destroy it.

I can describe the difference because I have experienced it.  One of my complicated students at age about twelve (actually, they are, as are we, all complicated) was struggling through a piece she was not really prepared to play, this is front of the assembled families and myself.  Seated where I could not see her I agonized at every instant over her delayed responses, the wrong notes, imagining what the parents must be thinking.

Turns out they loved it because they got the message: It was not a finished product that they needed to hear, but her struggle and her desire to know this beautiful music.

Years later I found myself watching the video of that performance:  It was stunning how focused it was - not at all the rote-drilled, note-perfect stuff of more conventional learning. 

Several years later, when she had already become fascinated with Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart sonatas I asked her if any of her friends were as interested in classical musical as she.  "No; they all had had it forced down their throats."