Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Music in the Cracks

Life is starting to return to normal. There was a great interruption a couple of years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer at the same time as we needed to move to continue Dear Wife's medical education. I wound up getting my first impressions of my new environment attached to an IV bag. Then I was unemployed, friendless, and not-quite-right in body or mind for a while. But slowly I began to make contacts and break into the musical scene around here.

Two years later it's still not a done deal, but I've had three concerts this weekend in addition to two church services, a rehearsal and a class. The calendar is as full as it's been so far. People who know other people are starting to hire me to do various things and are even beginning to find out some of the various things I am able to do.

Some of those things are what enabled me to survive the last several days. I improvised a prelude at church this week so I could work on the pieces I needed for the additional service last night, as well as the pieces I played in class, in rehearsal, and in the three concerts. I also sight-read a number of things, or at least learned them very quickly, because there is not enough time to deal with a high volume of music on short notice.

That's the life of a professional musician. You don't get all semester to work on your recital piece. You have to work fast. And if, as it happens, you want to do things on top of what pays the bills, pieces of music you want to engage with in order to learn, understand, be challenged, be satisfied, share them with others, record them for your website...well, that has to be done in your spare time. And it turns out, if you work at it long enough, hard enough, and are determined enough to use every spare minute in creative ways for creative can get a lot done over time. Thirty hours and counting of recordings made in the cracks between rehearsals and concerts, lessons, meetings, compositions, and whatever else.

It adds up, eventually. But it can be exhausting. And there is a science to using your time effectively, a skill that improves with time.

It seems odd that a person who makes music for a living and a person who does not has this in common, but making the music you want to make is often just as extra-curricular for the musician as it is for the amateur. People will not often pay you for the exalted flights to Parnassus. All the little Johnnies of the world aren't there yet. And little Janie doesn't want to sit through the final sonatas of Schubert. Unless you are one of the few globe-trotting pianists who makes a career of playing nothing but concerts--and there are perilously few of them; even they generally teach at top-ranked music schools for a living--you too will experience substantive music making as a hobby, as a thing that often gets visited upon the unsuspecting public who isn't exactly clamoring for it.

But then, once in a while, they find themselves not minding it so much after all. A crack opens in the cave and light pours through. Between soccer practice and that meeting and the kids' travel t-ball teams and the conference and scouts and everything else. As if the world stopped for a split second and we could all hear the music of eternity.

It doesn't happen a lot. But when it does, it is amazing.

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