I think I may be beginning to feel like my self after changing my life so drastically from church musician to human being. It’s the compulsions that are the tricky part. A good deal of my life has been spent in my version of discipline, mostly around music. Now I don’t feel the need to be disciplined the way I did when I was leading a program and performing weekly. This has had the effect of me examining how I arrived at the point I am with music. One thing that has struck me is how no academic teacher has really mentored me.
Ray Ferguson was the closest I had to a mentor. Though Ray was very helpful giving me a leg up and getting me accepted to Wayne State University, I don’t think he ever lost his picture of me as a sort of primitive, as indeed I was. We had many brutal heart to heart talks for which I remain grateful and Ray seemed to enjoy. One of my mild regrets about his death is that I never was able to show him how much technique I gained the last decade or so on keyboard.
Anyway, I’m not practicing daily any more. Sometimes a day goes by and I don’t play music. It feels odd but right. This is a transitory time of my life. Some of this is diminishing physical capacity especially in my left hand due to the Dupuytren’s Contraction. But recently I have found when I do play piano my abilities are not quite as bad as I picture them. Octaves in my left hand are possible if only at a slower tempo. Playing slower has never bothered me before so I am able to continue to enjoy hands on with music I love.
At the same time my own aesthetic is becoming clearer to me. It’s an aesthetic that is broad in that I generally trust my own gut reaction now more than I have ever been able to in my life. But when I examine other musicians’ approach I find more and more people that seem to share a bit of this. Usually they are much finer musicians than I am but at the same time I am able to share a broader love of music with them even though my technique as a musician is not as honed.
The BBC radio show called Inside Music has fascinated me in this respect. Musicians are called on to DJ an hour and half show and presumably choose the music. Their chat and choices fascinate me. Unfortunately these do not stay available online for long so I can’t just link them in and expect you dear reader to access them for very long.
The first show I heard was hosted by Julie Fowlis and I immediately became excited because her choices and comments were so wonderful. Unfortunately, she turned out to be an exception in that way. I found that I was not only listening to the comments and the music of the musician but detecting their approach to their own musicianship. Usually there were annoying limits to the way they saw what they did as a musician and the music they were sharing. After listening to several of these shows I began to understand both the presenters and my own critiques of them.
I don’t expect BBC necessarily to find many people as passionate, adventurous, and honest as Fowlis. But I was heartened that Elizabeth Llewellyn recently exhibited a wider range in her choices which included Bernstein, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Mozart, and two songs which I would think of as pop music.
Quite the thing for stuffy old BBC. Cool. I didn’t go for all of Llewellyn’s choices but it felt like talking about tastes with a musician I respect. Very cool indeed.