06 March 2011

Dreary days

There's been a fair amount of radio silence in these parts lately. Perhaps I have been very busy, you may think. But, alas, I have no particularly good excuse for overlooking my scrapbook. In fact, it has been my relative absence of activity that has been the real culprit.

I am currently in between projects - or perhaps more appropriately, objectives. Having recently finished a round of auditions, I have not quite started working on my next venture. And, although I continue to have plans of what I want to achieve in my practice and in lessons or coachings, I've had a hard time mustering up the driving force to execute them this past week. I work; I analyze. But the better part of me is not quite there.

Ennui by Walter Richard Sickert, ca. 1914, Tate Collection.

It's a disappointing place to be in: At some point in their development, musicians learn to practice. Something shifts in our approach, understanding and/or capacities that transforms the chore we used to have to do because of external forces (a watchful parent, the threats of a teacher, an approaching concert) into an interesting opportunity to explore. Practicing becomes not simply a hateful means to more glorious endeavors, but an attractive end unto itself (at least some days). I myself have only found the confidence to truly enjoy working alone within the past two or three years. I used to be terrified that I wouldn't manage to recreate any of the sounds that I had achieved in lessons or, worse still, that I would botch my hard-earned new skills by practicing improperly. But, as basic technique became easier and even automatic, I realized I could not only practice as a means of staving off technical decay but as a way to progress on my own terms. I could trust myself to dig into the puzzle unsupervised.

Practice sessions that are focused and productive are energizing and exciting. The importance of a session's concrete goals (mastering a tricky passage, learning a piece, etc...) may even become secondary to the engrossing act of doing - creating and expanding in the moment. On the other hand, too many lackluster sessions are disheartening indeed. You can't help but wonder if you really enjoy what you're doing at all, what the point is.

Of course, this is normal, and in any field of interest or work. There are bound to be humdrum days. But there are also exhilarating days, assuming you are following a path you really do love (I recognize not everyone is in that comfy boat, unfortunately). Maybe you need to shift something in your approach. Maybe you need some form of new, external inspiration. Or maybe you just need to wait it out. As for my own enthusiasm troubles, I'm not too particularly worried - after all, there are flowers starting to appear in Prospect Park.


  1. I know the picture isn't really the point of this post.. but it's from the camden group right? I love their nostalgic scenes of everyday pre-war life in Britain.
    Tate has a great collection of their work, as does the Ashmolean.
    Lovely for a Sunday afternoon. xxxxxxx


  2. What is most important is that you recognize that this hum-drumness will pass...it always does but while it is around, it sure sucks! Luckily...you have already "stopped to smell the flowers" and thank you for sharing this lovely sight!!! xx Cat

  3. I agree with Cat...Its so good that you recognized it and I love that photo. Happy Monday, sunshine

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