To make it happen? Me, myself, and me? I was in no one’s land. Lost. It seemed to me that none of my previous teachers had helped here. We spent a rather disappointed year with the piano.
When I was still a college student, my teacher had a lot of work to do, just to understand the classical style, the wording, the technique … Well everything very much. After a lot of modeling and mentoring on his part, a piece seemed to flow out of me in a completely natural musical way. I needed coaching. Still, there were parts that never came together for me, and I felt that, but I didn’t know what was missing.
My next teacher gave me a system for learning and memorizing music, including a math metronome calculation that started 30 tempos at a final tempo, 2-4 measurement sessions, odd and even sessions. I was expected to follow rigidly. It gave me a number of new techniques, pedal effects, virtuoso effects, and more. The music was up to me. I was never personally tied to the pieces I learned with him, even though I tried to apply what my university teacher taught.
Going back to my new teacher and my first disappointing year when I tried to connect my emotions with what was going on harmoniously, historically, technically and architecturally. Somewhere along the way, I realized that if I wanted to be able to take the performance to the next level, I had to become a piece when an actor took on a role. When I performed, I listened to the music rather than work with the composer as a co-creator. I had to grow up and not grow up all at once.
My part that led to this discovery was reading Madeline L’Engle’s adult novels and reflections, especially The Little Rain, The Detached Wasp, and The Silent Circle. He talked a lot about the artistic process in both his fiction and his fiction. I found myself drinking a lot in your thoughts, especially in the thought of being of all ages like you’ve ever been. If I wanted to kick my musical understanding and performance to another level, I had to switch.
I needed to be nearly 30 years old and still be at any age like before. To do this, I had to get to know my inner child again — stupidity, torment, joy, pain, and everything else. I needed the world, with all the admiration, horror, harmony, hatred, love, and yet to be outside. But how???
My new teacher kept me wondering what the parts and pieces were about and what I wanted to say. I still answered awkwardly. Gradually, I began to be able to connect myself and my experiences with events in music. I remember quite clearly the first time. I worked on Bach’s Eb Minor Fugue from Book 1 of the WTC. It was simply Psalm 23. I saw and experienced them side by side as I played. There were no questions about what the piece was about from my teacher.
Of course, I started thinking about how I could help my students connect more deeply to their music. We created the Musical Adjectives project together (see top menu) for pianists of all levels. The original inspiration was Maurice Hinson’s wonderful (now dog-eared and very, very faded) reference handbook, which consisted of an entire page of adjectives. Somehow I have missed the significance of this publication before. In my studio, we use images, descriptive words, stories, poetry, and characters to connect with the music. I even made a board game to make it fun.
I had a student who worked on Bach G Minor’s fugue from WTC Book 1 and played all the sounds but missed the music. We tried the above and the piece remained the same. Finally, I asked what color do you see when you play this? He came back cheering next week and announced, “It’s orange!”
Orange was the last thing I ever thought about the piece, but it wasn’t about me and what I thought. So we took colored pencils in every shade of orange, from neon to burnt orange to the grayest peach, and shaded it all. Bingo. Then the piece was his. He won a medal in a tournament, doing so in his program. Now we are also talking about color.