amateur hour


My sister-in-law and brother gave me This Day: New & Collected Sabbath Poems 1979-2012 by Wendell Berry for Xmas. I was reading the preface this morning and came across a sentiment with which I identify: Berry writes “I am an amateur poet, writing for the love of the work and to my own satisfaction.”

I have felt this way about music, being an amateur. When I say “amateur” I hear the etymology (which I just checked to verify on the OED) of the Latin. I don’t know my latin declensions but the OED says it is derived from amatorem which combines to love (amare) with the suffix -em (of agent).

Agent of love. I like that.

I feel like I am in love with music. Most days it can refresh me and pull me back to my true self when I sit at the piano and play Bach, Beethoven or other composers. Every time I get in the zone of composing I am revived.

Berry talks about walking “on the best of sabbath days” experiencing “a lovely freedom from expectations.” This loosening of expectation is related to the arena of doing art. Berry’s “mind becomes hospitable to unintended thoughts,” “inspiration.” Then he observers “poems come incidentally or they do  not come at all. If the Muse leaves me alone, I leave her alone.”

This is an excellent encapsulation of that moment of relationship between the creator/thinker and the next step or action one takes. It relates to “just playing” that musical performers aspire to. That is, only playing, nothing else like thinking or consciously directing one’s performing self.

“The best inspiration often came while walking. Beethoven always took a pencil and paper with him in the Vienna Woods, and Kierkegaard often came home and started scribbling again still in his hat and coat.”

When I read this sentence recently in a book review by Christopher Hart, I thought first of Brahms who walked daily to compose.

Then I thought of my own experience with receiving ideas as I walked.

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