Some thoughts for today

Boy, am I beat. All I did today was try and figure out why the baby was crying and wash the dishes. Yes, that took all day. We don't own a dishwasher, so that second thing takes more time than you might think. As for the crying baby, that's anyone's guess. One thing's for sure, though: my child nurses strictly for nutritional purposes. There's none of this "nursing for comfort" crap that Dr. Sears advocates. Sometime I'll tell you all the reasons I hate Dr. Sears, but I promised myself that I would blog about things other than parenting, so I'll save that for another day. Anyway, if baby Daniel's fussing and I try to nurse him and he's not hungry, MAN does that piss him off! He writhes and squirms and cries even louder. In addition to all that, today he started a new thing: clamping down on my nipple when he's mad and doesn't want to suck it. OUCH. This better not continue after he's got teeth.

Of late, I've had a few people ask me what I do all day. I know that their curiosity is honest and innocent, but I have to admit I have found it a tad insulting. I have a hard enough time feeling valid right now, why rub it in with these questions that reinforce the nagging feeling I have that I'm getting nothing accomplished?

I didn't really mean to spend a whole blog entry on the minutiae of baby care and the "challenges of motherhood" (I feel the mother martyr complex coming on already!), though. I actually wanted to reflect a bit on being a collaborative pianist.

Being a collaborative pianist (or, as most people call it, an "accompanist," but that term is actually rather demeaning) can give you a complex if you're not careful. A lot of musicians think that pianists who choose to make their living as collaborative artists do it because they don't have what it takes to be a soloist. (Ditto for teaching.) This is mainly because solo pianists memorize their music, and collaborative pianists don't, leaving many with the false impression that it takes more brains to play solo music. I've done both, so let me tell you right now why that's not true:

1. If you're playing a solo piece, you have one thing, and only one thing to concentrate on: how you're playing that piece. If you're performing with other people, you have to keep up with your part and all of theirs. A collaborative pianist must be able to multi-task at the highest level.

2. If you're playing solo music, you have only your own ego to contend with. When you collaborate, you are, by definition, working with other musicians. You must learn to find that perfect balance of asserting yourself musically while adapting to their sense of style. Not only that, but you have to deal with other personalities on a daily basis. A collaborative pianist must have excellent diplomatic skills.

3.Many solo piano pieces are famously difficult. But don't think you don't need some serious chops to play chamber music. Some of the hardest music I've played in my life has been with other people. To name a few: the Brahms horn trio, the first Bartok violin sonata, the Ravel trio...and those don't even include orchestral transcriptions, which weren't written for the piano in the first place and therefore require real finesse to pull off. Twentieth-century brass concertos come to mind. A collaborative pianist must have the pianistic ability to play very difficult music AT THE SAME TIME as everyone else. You have very little room for error.

I say these things because sometimes I feel like I have to justify what I do. Every time someone tells me they do a little accompanying on the side when they're obviously not very well-trained, it makes me feel defensive. If anyone can do it, why am I in graduate school for it? (Same goes for teaching; I have a masters degree in piano pedagogy.) Sure, having an advanced degree in "collaborative piano" means I can charge a little more than the schmuck down the street, but how many people really understand the difference?

I have to be careful, though, or I'm going to live up to the stereotype of the whiny, defensive, over-sensitive pianist. There are enough of those already!


Popular Posts