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Music as a Metaphor

Music as a Metaphor for Life

In music and in life, can you be sharp and be natural at the same time?

Think about it.

To be sharp means listening intently, and staying focused.   It may be on a specific piece of music you are playing.   It means paying attention to a difficult passage - and what is showing up suddenly.    This can create a feeling of internal dissonance and even tension that slows down your playing and your pace.   

To be natural means being authentically you, and working with what is comfortable for you right now.   The need to challenge yourself with more complex pieces or steps may be what you want.   But you don’t want to push yourself too far too soon.   That way leads to possible injury.  

So how do you know what is just right, just now?

First, don’t choose pieces that are way beyond your level or skill set.   You may want to play Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata #1 in F minor, but the chords and speed involved may be beyond your current ability.  When working with a good instructor, make sure you both agree that the pieces are right for your technique level.   If the gap between your ability and what you need to achieve is too great, a challenge will become a disruption in your playing when you try and connect one passage to another.   With some intricate practice in steps, you’ll improve.

Second, rely on your metronome to slow you down.   On the passages that are hard, there’s a lot to think about including phrasing, accents, speed and changes in timing.   Work on small sections, and experiment with different fingering positions.  You may be tempted to play the easiest parts again and again, because it’s fun and it’s what you know.   Doing this, you won’t learn anything new.   It can be frustrating to focus on the challenging parts.   But challenging will become invigorating once your playing is transformed and you can incorporate that passage into the rest of the piece.

Third, listen to recordings of the masters for inspiration.   If you are having technical issues with your hands or any physical limitations that require you to slow down, that’s ok.   It’s more important to make the music authentically you at the time you are expressing it.

These suggestions are also a metaphor for life.   How many people do what’s easy (running to the store to buy new clothes) and don’t do what’s hard (slowly and meticulously cleaning out a closet filled with clothing not worn for 10 years)?

How many people do what’s fun (binging on sweets and junk food) and resist doing what is uncomfortable (giving up the sweets to lose weight and get healthy)?

How many people start the right business, but their timing is off so they give up?   Had they waited, maybe the “next new thing” would be the very thing they created.  

Conversely, how many people have the right timing, but are in the wrong business?   The business can be wrong for many reasons.   Do you like what you are doing?   Is it what you really want to do?   What are the strengths you bring to the business?   The right timing won’t amount to anything if the business is not for you.

In music, B sharp is also C natural.   It’s important to have a vision and to see what is most natural for you going forward, whether it is the choice of a music career or any other.

Finally when played together, B natural and B sharp – or C – forms a minor second.   Is the sound of those two notes discordant to your ears?   Or is it interesting?   Can it be incorporated as an intro to something bold and a courageous step, or does the tonal quality intimidate you?   Does it need to be expanded or scrapped and re-written right away?     

Can you think of a relationship in your life that is working or is there dis-chord and disharmony?   

It really depends on the listener and source.    External noise can be pleasant for some and not others.  Internal noise is another matter – and may need to be addressed.   So be open to different ideas.

Remember music as a metaphor for life.   It is always moving and can be slow and even-paced, or speed up at times of ease.   Either way, the sounds can be beautiful.    Take notice, be sharp and be natural, choose your tempo and play your life.

Copyright July 4th 2016 by Bonnie Chernin.   All rights reserved.    Not to be reproduced without permission.

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