ArT of the Piano: Making a Liszt (and checking it twice....)

Sometimes I make things so complicated. The over-achieving, over-driven, reward-centered Self takes over and wants to accomplish everything on my practice list immediately. Sometimes my list is so long that I don't know where to start. Sometimes I end up feeling that accomplishment is tied to a number---playing X amount of notes at X speed. At the end of the day, I'm exhausted, not because I have over-played or over-worked, but because I have forgotten a very basic, simple principle:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
— John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn

Music is the process of making something beautiful, whether that "something" is an entire piece or a humble 2 notes together. The measure of our accomplishment as practicing musicians is NOT how many right notes, is NOT how much music we "get through" in an hour. It is, "Did you make something that caused your heart to sing? Have you created something you're proud of?" 

Music, like anything worthwhile, DOES involve struggle at times. (Hopefully not for too long). In the midst of this struggle (or the busy holiday season where practice time falls low on everyone's Liszt), we need little kernels of motivation. We can take a little time for beauty every day.

In your practice sessions, try making a small space for the appreciation of beauty. Whether just relishing the sound of a harmony, of the beauty of a diminuendo, call something small AND positive to your attention.

If you have a little longer, try talking to your score, asking it questions along the lines of "How can I make a more beautiful sound here?" Be happy with one beautiful, polished measure. Be content and proud that you played a gorgeous descending scale.

I hear you saying, "Yes ok, Adriana, this is all great, but it's hard to find something nice to say about the sound of my playing."

Yes, I hear you. But this is not about you. In the end, we musicians give away what we've worked so hard to create. 2 minutes to a hushed audience and it's gone. All you really have that is "tangible" is how you choose to embark upon the process of creating music. The way you work on the music is and becomes an extension of you.

 Would you rather spend time focused on where you are not or time dedicated to making more and more beauty? Even pearls start out as minuscule grains of sand, tiny flecks of nothing. Would you like to focus on the tiny, irritation-mongering grains of sand, or the shimmering wonder that you are creating? 

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Hope you enjoyed this post. As always, I welcome your feedback and comments, feel free to say hello or signup--I send these posts monthly!

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