Tuesday, March 21, 2006

If music be the food of love ....

Paino (c) Walkingmantis.comthen you'd better practice! I have been studying (actually more wrestling than studying) the piano the last few years. And I have my first recital in about three weeks. Needless to say I am nervous, but there is a great sense of accomplishment when I get something right. It also helps to exorcise some old spirits that have no place in my thinking.

My brother - the classical pianist and organist - was the one who found refuge in the 88 friends of our Ivers and Pond baby grand when we were kids. I remember when my dad had the thing delivered. It was a real surprise. I think - memories are sometimes a little foggy - that my mom was originally the one who wanted to play it, but it was my brother who became the real musician. My mom learned one song - Sweet Hour of Prayer - and that was it. She never really stuck it out.

But my brother fled the toxicity of our upbringing by hiding in the piano. Not literally, but the instrument requires such focus that you cannot - cannot- be thinking about anything else.

And that's where my current struggle brings up the old ghosts. My brother - having achieved a certain amount of musical success - always found poignant ways to tell me how much I sucked when I played guitar. To this day, when someone compliments my music, I will give an "aw shucks" kind of response or deny what they say. Isn't that sick? I work hard to be a decent musician and I am taking lessons, so why should I have such a negative reaction to what people see?

It's a Faustian bargain. I want the praise of others - that's one of the insecurities I believe all artists carry - but at the same time I am expecting their criticism. I act to prevent criticism by practicing, but even if I perform perfectly, I am harder on myself than anyone. Sounds a little like an addictive cycle, but I know a lot of performers who struggle with it.

It's like being out there with the paidagogos the guy with a stick who used to escort young Greek men to school. If you got out of line he smacked you with that stick.

But I don't believe that God gave us music to be smacked with a stick. I think He gave it to us to express what's inside, and it's a gift. And the gift reflects the giver. So there is something to playing well - I'm exercising the gift. But I need to remember that the Giver is not going to smack me with the stick if I miss a note or two. And I don't think He wants me smacking myself with an internal stick either.

So I will continue getting ready for my recital. Pray for me. I need it both to perform well and to let go of the anxiety of performance.

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Hey, let us know when that recital is! I'd love to be there, mostly for support but what would a recital be without a good friend there to make fun of you?!?! (Ya know I'm just kidding!) Seriously, let us know and we'll come hear ya!