As I child I was not a fan of classical music. NOT a fan. I would scour the library or bookstores for popular piano music to avoid playing it in lessons. My teacher did let me play (and improvise) the popular songs while my classical scores limped along until contest.
When college auditions came, I panicked. All memorized classical music?! I was forced to “get serious” about practicing and nothing was more easily accessible than Beethoven.
Beethoven’s music sounded good AND fit well under my fingers. The more I played it, the more my musical language grew to appreciate early Bach and Haydn all the way to the late great weirdness of Bartok. But Beethoven was the road in. Hours of practice culminated in a long senior recital. It was one of my personal “conquering Mount Everest” moments.
Fast forward to now. After teaching others, my own practicing had slipped into playing student repertoire and pop music for gigs. And as my oldest student started preparing for her own college juries she needed me to brush off my highest level performing skills.
I began taking piano lessons from a brilliant concert pianist. It was both horrible and amazing. My brain couldn’t quite maneuver clumsy fingers. Ouch! Ego! Ouch!
The Beethoven pieces were easier than the Liszt and Debussy assignments. But the Beethoven exposed every little technique mistake. I couldn’t blame limping technique on song difficulty, but rather the lapse in attentive practice. At the same time, I started reading classical musician biographies. These composers we deify had horribly messy lives. What separated us from them was laser-focused passion. This ability to shut out distraction and move forward even after terrible setbacks.
In this total music immersion, I felt the cobwebs shake clear from my brain. I was playing better every day.
But recently TV got weirdly boring. I just didn’t care – about who was in what movie, who won last night’s “big game”, or who was making fun of who on late night.
My brain had eaten its metaphorical junk food. But now, thanks to Beethoven, my brain was forced to run marathons. The junk food (TV) just slowed me down. After this intensely focused musical practice, I couldn’t stand the noise. My brain was hearing its own words and melodies in the silence. Silence has become valuable processing time.
I have brain space to consume OR create, not both.
So I did it! Yikes!!! I broke up with TV.
So has the break up been hard? Yes. Can we still be friends? Of course.
Sorry, TV. It’s the end of our steady relationship.
I’m leaving you for Beethoven.