practice break

It used to be exciting to sit down with a brand spanking new piece of music, full of potential and not yet covered in scrawling, penciled reminders not to rush, not to drag, remember to count, use third finger, this is a first inversion g diminished triad. The first read-through would be a fun challenge: what will this sound like? Can I play it up to tempo yet? What sections will I have to work on?

Nowadays I hate that first practice session with a new piece. It's just so stressful to look at all those notes I can't yet play and try to calculate how many hours it will take to learn it well enough to get by. Do I have enough hours on the weekend to learn this? I stumble through page by page, trying my best to ignore the messy house around me, the dishes that have not been washed, the lunch that has not been fixed, the laundry that has not been done, as my Saturday slips away.

Clearly, I am having this problem right now or I wouldn't be blogging it. Earlier this week at a rehearsal I ran into a composer/singer/conductor friend of mine who asked me to play a set of songs he wrote. I said I'd look at them. When I got them, I said yes because he's a fine composer, a fine singer (a fine musician all around, really), and he's my friend. And the songs are all settings of random quotes by George W. Bush - they're really good songs. And the concert is a benefit for Human Rights and Peace organizations. It was hard to say no.

I am starting to regret saying yes, though, because now I have to spend every free minute I can find learning these songs, and they're not easy. Since the concert is in two weeks, we may cut the hardest one, so that helps, but I am still in full stress mode and feeling really overwhelmed.

Will I ever stop feeling ambivalent and torn about every gig I agree to? When I have nothing to work towards in my professional life, I get ancy and resentful of all the housework and childcare I do around the clock. When I do have music to learn, I berate myself for piling on the extra stress and I worry about learning it in time and playing well. It sucks that I can't feel satisfied either way.

In about two minutes I will go back to the piano, look at those songs, and allow myself to feel completely overwhelmed for a moment. But only a moment. Because I have to learn them and I can't let myself or my friend (or our audience) down. One song at a time. One page at a time. One difficult passage at a time.

Somehow I will get it done. I always do.


Anonymous said…
Bird by bird.
Pam said…
Hey Susan, I can totally relate to this. Since I have taken on such a busy life, I feel less and less happy about learning new music. I used to love learning new music! What happened? But, you are so absolutely right when you say, "One song at a time. One page at a time. One difficult passage at a time."
Animal said…
I always feel bad for students (undergrads, that is) who get so totally worked up about their recitals or other performances; their work-up is generally undeserved, because many of them piss away the hours & hours of practice time they have at their disposal. I try to warn them of EXACTLY the thing you're now experiencing: when "life" gets in the way of practicing, you simply have to make do with the practice time you have.

But, of course, they're young and brash and as smart as they're ever going to be, so they can't comprehend children who need overseeing, and lawns that need mowing, and dishes & laundry that need cleaning. They'll make the same mistakes they ever do, then look back with regret at all the time they pissed away doing nothing. *sigh* Somehow, out of all of this, most of them turn into pretty good performers.

(Can you tell by my bitchy tone that I'm at the end of my semester?!?)

Popular Posts