landing on my feet

Since January I've been working with a violinist on her dissertation project. We're recording some sonatas by a rather obscure German composer from the late Romantic period. Think Brahms, but not quite as profound, yet almost as difficult. Plus, no one has recorded these pieces before, so we're going totally from scratch with no precedent to work with.

It's fun. It's really, really fun, and obviously it makes a world of difference that H and I really click in many ways, both musically and personally. When you spend this many hours working with someone, it can be either a wonderful experience or a real slog, depending on how you get along, and I'm glad to report that for us, it's the former.

We coach with a couple different professors at the music school every week. One of them is the woman I studied with for several years while I was doing a masters and doctorate in collaborative piano, and I have to admit it's a little weird going in every week for what feels like a lesson with her. I worked with her for so long and we know each other so well, that I almost always know what she's going to say - and that's a little demoralizing. Shouldn't I know this already? Shouldn't I be able to figure this out on my own? Isn't that why I'm Dr. Susan? Because I supposedly don't need a teacher anymore?

Well, any musician (or artist or writer or actor...) will tell you that part of the joy of being a professional artist is learning from other artists, receiving feedback and input to craft your work into something as perfect as you can make it. (Whether actual perfection is ever achieved is subjective, of course.) Isolation doesn't work for most people. Despite this, my self-esteem has taken a bit of a beating since I started this project. All the old questions lurking in the back of my psyche are trying to force their way out: Am I really good enough? What was I thinking? It was a mistake to try and be a full-time mother and professional musician at the same time. I am not legitimate.

But the last week or so, I feel like I have finally found my footing, landed on my feet. I have finally come to the point with this music that my practice time is reinforcing what I already know and enjoying the music, not just learning notes and solving technical problems (well, I always have technical problems to solve, but you get the idea, right?). I feel like myself again at the piano. I have found my sound, rediscovered some (if not all) of my confidence in my musicality. Good thing, since we're recording the first big chunk next week in a couple of marathon sessions at a local studio.

I'm still a little nervous about a few things. Like playing clean, for one. The movements are long and have a lot of notes, lots of room for errors, and one can only edit in so many splices before it sounds canned. I'm practicing for maintenance and getting as close to perfection as I can.

It feels good, but it has been surprisingly difficult. A couple weeks ago, I was ready to give up. It's not just the lack of practice time, the constant pulling of my attention in about a half dozen different directions, the distraction of kids and housework cutting into my concentration. It's the fact that this is the first music I've been able to sink my teeth into in over a year, and my technique and my ability to listen to detail got rusty. It's like I'd forgotten what it really takes to do this stuff well.


Anonymous said…
How encouraging to read this very positive evaluation of yourself. I'm glad that you are "getting your feet wet" again. I hope the recording session goes swimmingly as well.
Jessi said…
There is nothing that makes me happier than reading someone writing about their passion. Music just oozes from your pores, Suze and while I am glad that you found your footing, I never had any doubt.
Hear, hear! I second what Jessi said. I never had any doubt in your abilities whatsoever!

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