I spent the weekend in Eugene recently – indulging myself in, among other things, Lisa’s baby grand piano. I’ve (somehow) survived the last year without an instrument, and I’ve practiced only sporadically for the last few years. Playing hers, I was frustrated by the depths to which my technique had sunk, and felt as though I’d lost the mental discipline it takes to really focus and improve, as versus playing for fun (and sounding like crap).
But it still felt SO so good. I was flooded with relief and happiness. It was cathartic and joyful and strangely painful all at the same time, and it got me thinking about why the act of musical expression is so important to me.
The first time I remember music standing out to me in importance was when I was about 11. I was going through a crisis because all my ideas about how I might some day earn my living had been discredited by Mom, and I was seriously worried that I might end up starving in a gutter somewhere for lack of other options. First, I had wanted to be a rock drummer, but Mom didn’t want to listen to me practise drums so she made me take piano lessons instead. Then I wanted to be a freedom figher/hired assassin and skulk around in tight black leather with a big gun, taking down dictators in Africa, but Mom said no one would hire me because I didn’t look forbidding enough. Finally, I wanted to be a Bedouin princess, and lie around on silk cushions in a multi-colored tent in the desert, amusing myself with gorgeous men and fast horses, but I wasn’t Bedu and Mom wouldn’t give me an allowance, so I had no money for a ticket to the mythical Orient. I was in despair. All I could think of as far as my marketable skills was being semi-proficient at the piano.
Over time, making music morphed from being a useful skill to being an absolutely essential lifeline of physical, emotional, and intellectual activity. It provides the counterpoint to the logical, unemotional, cooly stratified reality of my quotidien tendencies. It served, for many years, as a conduit through which I could explore the nuances of my unexamined passions and emancipate the resultant internal tension. I’m realizing it’s one of those things that I need to make a priority, regardless of anything else. Time to get creative!