loving every note


I was visited by my dream daemons last night. When I was a young man, I wrote a short story called “Dreams in the Hands of Demons.” In it, I told a story based on the true fact that someone I knew as a child was hit by a car. She was thrown a long distance and was knocked out. She never regained full consciousness. I imagined what her inner life must have been like. Her demons were good old fashioned Baptist evil demons.

At the turn of the century I had a series of therapeutic dreams in which people in my dreams made helpful suggestions about the stress I was going through at my job. I  had an anxiety dream about doing Mass. Someone in the dream quietly asked me “What’s at stake?”  I woke up and asked myself the question and it eventually helped me get some perspective.

Since then (and some reading) I can see people in my dreams as daemons (roughly defined as a supernatural being somewhere between human and superhuman/godlike…. it’s a Greek thing).

Last night in my dream I was in a room with a lot of people. There were many things happening in the dream: discussions about books and music. I was looking for some music to go away from the situation and rehearse. A young woman I recognized came into the room and said without looking directly at me, “You know they’re beautiful.”

I understood her to be talking about my compositions. I asked her which ones. She replied, “All of them.” Just at this point I realized someone was in the next room performing one of my compositions on a piano. I don’t know which one, I just knew it was mine. I went into the room and discovered he was performing for two other people. I told him I was leaving. I think I was implying he was welcome to come with me.

There was more to this dream than I can remember, but it is an odd thing to have a daemon tell me that all of my music is beautiful. I think this is partly related to the conversation I had with my student about Joshua Bell’s teacher who he describes as never playing a note he didn’t love.

Yesterday in the lesson, my student had not practiced. We however went over one of his assignments, an Interlude by Brahms. I have been working on not picking him to pieces as he plays things for me. I had him play a page. Then play it again. There were some stumbles as he began to recall the piece which he basically knew but had not rehearsed. Before he played it the third time, I asked him to hum the melody as he played.

The third time was both more correct note wise and also musically more beautiful. At this point I mentioned Joshua Bell’s teacher’s love over every note. I told my student that when he hummed he allowed himself to enter into the music more and consequently got more of the details correct as well as playing it musically.

The “loving of every note” I interpret as entering deeply into the music with sheer enjoyment and awareness. For me this is an ideal of performing I seek (and often find myself experiencing). This sort of immersion helps when performing for inattentive noisy church crowds. So when I say “fuck ’em,” what I really mean is how beautiful this music is and what a privilege it is to make it just now.


When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers – The New York Times

This is along disturbing well investigated and reported piece about the damage privatizing can do to public services.


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