Actually, I'm okay with it. 39 upset me. 40 was a calmer version of 39. And I think 41 has been a summing up of the last 20 years for me.
In these final days of 41, three events seem to have closed out that epoch in my life meaningfully.
1. a solo recital on the SEU series consisting of works from my auditions for D.M.A. programs that I have played several times since, as well as compositions by myself and my friend James M. Gurthie from our Chowan days
2. a final day in the recording studio with my colleague Shudong Braahmes on our Massenet chanson project
3. accompanying a couple of anthems on the South McKeel school music program including "Sahaytah" by Ben Allaway which was a lovely experience of sharing in a work about peace and community with a choir of children before a very large audience
I think I'm sensing that, over these last 20 years (plus the 21 before that) I've gathered a little experience. This state of having a little experience under my belt is not so much about learning concepts - I think I've known these concepts for a while - but more about being able to apply them more than before.
What are these concepts?
- Concentration is the name of the game in performance, recording, and maybe in living, too. In making music, one concentrates on the sounds and how they unfold. You have to discipline your thinking and develop the ability not to be distracted by internal chatter that's not relevant to the sounds themselves. At the same time, you need not to get confused by concentrating on concentrating!
- The honest emotion of the moment when we come face to face with the music is the appropriate emotion. In performance, we sometimes fool ourselves into acting like we're feeling all sorts of things in the mistaken notion that we will have a compelling performance that way. It's the music that moves the listener and perhaps the performer's earnestness, not our manufactured histrionics.
- When working with other musicians, truly knowing the tempo gives a lot of peace. In classical music, we often feel that what happens within the time-span of the musical work is what matters, but being with the tempo in advance together is an important staring point that can set up a better relationship with your collaborator and the music.
- Our perceptions in the moment of music-making are often inaccurate. Our high level of focus within very specific parameters and our expectations can confuse us about what we're actually hearing. Recording and playback prove this. I sometimes hear intonation problems and lack of rhythmic coordination during performance that are not even there on the recording! Performing and listening are very different experiences. Trusted listeners can provide useful feedback we wouldn't have otherwise.
- Stress usually doesn't help you perform better and it's mostly about stuff that doesn't matter anyway!
- The experience of beauty and of health, including healthy relationships, are not just important for our development and refreshment as artists. When you take a walk by the lake or a trip to the art gallery, or have a good conversation with a friend, it doesn't just speak to your artistry. It ministers to your soul.
- Things take time. This is true of getting a recording just right and evidently it's true of getting my bad moods to clear out!