Hard Thoughts: A Renaissance Woman’s Dilemma (part 1)

NaBloPoMo Day 18!

This afternoon I attended the Detroit Symphony‘s performance of Gustav Mahler‘s Symphony no. 9. I’m going to write about it, you can bet your bottom dollar, but I haven’t quite peeled myself off the ceiling yet (I hope it’s obvious that I mean that in a good way! 🙂 ), so I’ll sleep on it and give you the scoop tomorrow.

In the meantime, let me sing you some Piano Blues! 😉

I’ve been in a bit of a rut with my piano playing lately. I have a bunch of pieces that I’ve played a lot and still love, but I want something new. Even my usual trick of opening up one of my music books and picking something at random to sightread isn’t doing it for me right now.

I’ve been really curious to have a look at the score to György Ligeti‘s Études pour piano, a recording of which is one of my favorite CDs. Not that I expect to be able to perform any of them anytime soon (if ever!), but I just wanted to see what they looked like on paper, and plunk out some of the notes, a few at a time.

Fortunately, the library at Wayne State University has the first two books of the Études (there are three in all) in its collection, so I went and checked them out today, along with a couple other things that are impossibly difficult but will be fun to fool around with (at least I hope so! 🙂 ).

I’ll report on my keyboard adventures in the coming days!

I must confess, though, being in a rut notwithstanding, I’m still a bit ashamed of how much time I’ve not spent practicing lately. It’s tough to fit in all the musical activities I’d like to do — composing, playing, and most importantly, writing this blog! 😉

I’ve always liked to think of myself as a Renaissance woman, though; I think it’s important to be well-rounded (let’s leave my eating habits out of this, though! 😉 ).

As I was thinking about my less-than-ideal proportion of tapping the computer keyboard to striking the piano keys, I was reminded of a quote I read as an undergraduate — something to the effect that:

Hard thoughts take time away from the practice room.”

I don’t remember exactly where I ran across it, and Google didn’t produce it for me (I’m shocked, shocked!), but my recollection was that it was in a book or essay by a famous pianist. I do remember being annoyed by it. My first, um, thought was, “That’s easy for you to say, buddy — you don’t have a paper to write for Music History class!” 😛 I also remember feeling that this idea was really just unfair. What musician doesn’t do a little hard thinking now and then? You can’t shut your brain off when you’re not in the practice room!* Besides, I didn’t spend my high school years being a nerdy wallflower for it not to pay off now, when it’s finally cool!

*Actually, that’s not really true, is it? For a fleeting moment there, I forgot about the existence of television! 😛

I did have my hands full, though, once I discovered that I loved both playing the piano and composing (the addictive nature of which I wrote about here). It wasn’t easy to get in my practice time, write music, and keep up with the work for my classes. (When I was an undergrad at U.C. Berkeley, music was tied with physics as the major with the most required classes. Differentiate THAT, science nerds! 😛 ) One of my professors said to me at one point: “You can’t do everything, you know.”

I wonder if he realized that I could only ever take that as a challenge? 😀

Coming up, (after I review the Mahler!) further tales of skating along the cusp of two musical sub-specialties!

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