Post-Recital Thoughts: Simple, But Not Easy

I have returned home triumphant, after the second leg of my local recital tour, followed by pizza! 😀

Performing the same program multiple times presents interesting challenges. I had a harder time getting myself focused for this performance than for the first one; an evil little voice in my head kept saying, “You don’t really have to practice this music again, do you? You’ve already performed it! Let’s eat cookies instead!” But the answer is, yes, you do have to keep practicing. There is some cumulative effect to it, I think, but I also know that performing music is similar to being an athlete — if you don’t keep in shape, you may very well hurt yourself! 😉

Paradoxically, it can be particularly hard to practice an easy piece. I did a number of short and not-too-difficult pieces on this program, and the temptation to neglect practicing them is strong. The truth is, you really don’t have to woodshed them the way you must with longer, more difficult pieces. But you can’t completely neglect them either. I mean, what could be more embarrassing than stumbling over an easy piece? :O

I found that practicing the less technically demanding pieces is very similar to doing Zen meditation. The basic task is so simple: just sit, focus on your breathing, let your thoughts go by without getting caught up in them. What could be hard about that? So you do it for a minute or so, and then your attention wanders, and before long you catch yourself writing angry letters to the editor in your head, or maybe just making a grocery list, but either way, totally at the mercy of the monkey mind.

It’s amazing how complex one’s thoughts can get while simultaneously playing a piece of music. It’s like the Three Stooges are running around inside your head. This evening, among other things, I was absolutely tormented by a squeaking noise my shoe was making. I was wearing my organ shoes, which are incredibly comfortable, and I practiced in them and everything, but all of a sudden, my heel was touching the floor in just such a way as to squeak every time I pedaled. It finally went away, but little did the audience know that I wanted to scream bloody murder while playing my cute little piano pieces.

In Zen meditation, the instruction for when you find your monkey mind taking over is just to gently bring your attention back to your breathing and let the thoughts go. It’s similar with performing — you bring your mind back to the music, and don’t sweat the squeaks! 😉

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