possibly the most serious thing i'll ever do on the site
Zero. | Humility. (OP)
One. | (coming soon)
The pursuit of excellence begins with the scrapping of pride.
Let's hold on to that statement for a while.
Big statement here - the arts are about chasing perfection. The funny thing is that you'll never achieve it, but you're conditioned to chase it anyway. Play that part perfectly - otherwise practice and practice that part until you play it perfectly. Familiarise your motions on the keys until your fingers know exactly what they are doing. Learn general techniques and learn them well to help you adapt faster. But your objective at the end of it all is a presentation that is close to perfect; one that will make the audience wonder how you did it. Above all, to achieve the ultimate purpose of the arts - creating that feeling of immense, inexplainable pleasure that we only know as "that feeling", for yourself and as many others as possible. To touch their lives and enrich yours in that unspeakably powerful way.
Let's lay some things about practice down. People can practice for up to eight hours a day because they have this endgoal that they strive tiredlessly towards. This sound that they want to create - this vision of how they'll communicate "that passage" to the audience. This scene of perfection that is usually a far cry from what really happens on performance night. And so they hammer away at the same passage over and over again, reflecting on what they did wrong each time, constantly keeping their eyes on that unreacheable point of perfection.
The good thing about performance is that, most of the time, you don't need to reach perfection to impress an audience. There are so many other factors that contribute to a great performance. But the closer you get, the greater "the feeling" is for the audience. So, put in simple terms, a performer's job is to get as close to perfection as possible.
The practice stage, naturally, is the most pride-crushing part of the process. If you're doing it right, then you know what you should sound like...but if you're human then your run will not, at least most of the time, sound like that.
It gets frustrating; the chase for perfection is draining and repetitive, to reduce all the pain you're going through to a single phrase. So you bite it and stay patient. You try again and again. No one said performance was easy, eh.
Your greatest enemy, among a host of many other enemies, is pride. Pride tells you the point where you're "good enough" and you can stop, because you're better than that guy
or, worst case, that you're already at your best and there's no more room for improvement. Pride lets you keep whatever bad habits you choose not to hear in your own playing. It can make you resistant to feedback, even when it's coming from your own silent instincts. And when it comes from others - honest feedback from others is often much more valuable than your own - pride is so much more self-destructive.
In the chase of perfection there is no "I am good enough". There is no space for pride. I've been told many times that it's okay to show off once you're on-stage, but at all other times, remember that you're not good enough yet.
So yes, the pursuit of perfection - we label it as "excellence" to make it sound more attainable - starts with the scrapping of pride.
The foundational block to the magnificent tower, built up towards the unreacheable sky above with your hands, block by block, is humility. Start by accepting your limitations. That you, hopefully, and if you do, then thankfully, have two hands and ten fingers. Accept that no matter how talented you are, hard work and dilligence is your only way to the top, or anywhere close at all. Accept, when you're feeling tired and frustrated, that it's part of the chase, and keep your eyes on the meaningful end-goal ahead beyond the horizon. You're not too good for some pain.
But most importantly, listen. Pride does a good job turning you selectively deaf.
Listen to yourself - the way you play, obviously, but the way you feel about your playing as well. You can talk to yourself; criticise yourself. You may feel good when you've achieved small goals, but you should never feel like you're the king of the world even if you've accomplished the greatest thing you've ever accomplished. Because remember, you're not good enough yet.
And above all, listen to others. Especially the honest ones. No matter how piercing their words are. You know when someone is bashing you just because, and you know when they have a point to make. Don't confuse feedback for senseless flaming. Give space to others for their own beliefs even if they blatantly go against yours, because you probably don't know what's right anyway, even if you feel you do. Try to understand why they believe in such ways, and reflect, reflect, reflect.
I fought pride for some time. It was so much easier to say that other people were nasty and wrong than to find solutions. The years before them were mostly wasted, since I was limited by my own wall of pride. Challenging whatever pride you have left in you hurts, but it's the only way to even get off the ground. That's the single biggest lesson I learned over these past few years - the stay humble.
So we stay humble.
the real introduction:
So, I'm nineteen years old, I have no idea what the heck is going on in the world, and these are ambitious entries about performance philosophies, work ethics and judgments on musicianship which may or may not change over time as I figure out more about how the world works. There's this thing called the "end-of-history illusion", and chances are I'm falling for it.
But if I'm wrong in these judgments then I can look back next time and tell myself "heh, how noob" and move on. And update an entry or two, probably. If I'm right, then...yay? Though, chances are I won't be right.
Either way, I'm writing these because revealing your own codes of values for others ensures that you follow them yourself. And if you're lucky, you might inspire others and enrich their lives. So yeah, why not?
These entries will mostly be performance-related, though I might throw in some entries on composing and general musicianship from time to time. Reason being that composition is more of -my thing- when compared to performance - writing just comes so much more naturally than live performances. Writing, above all, requires much less effort and hard work than performing. Which is why I love the art of performance - it is tough.
You should be in some position of success to make big claims, and I'm not exactly there. In my portfolio I've got a file of nice-looking sheets of paper, a bunch of plastic boards, and a record of getting somewhere in some national piano competition. Some nice things, but nothing major. So you probably can take these entries with a pinch of salt. But for what it's worth, they've helped me improve tremendously - still not at the level of prodigies, but tremendously anyway - and, perhaps, they could revive some feeling in you that drives you to your best. So, maybe take them with a little more than a pinch of salt? ^^
Though, it's not like I'll be following these philosophies 100% of the time. Because, sadly and amazingly, we're human. And irrational and inconsistent at times. But I'll try really hard to.
Hope my reflections may inspire you to hone your skills in better ways ^^
And here's to more meaningful artistic experiences for all