Letter to a Young Musician #1

02010-01-01 @ 09:01

Dear Friend,

“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

That is what the protagonist says in Herman Hesse’s wonderful novel ‘Siddhartha’, when a prospective employer asks him what he can do. Those three talents would be of great advantage for any young musician as well. Maybe we should replace ‘I can think’ with ‘I can play’…

“I can wait.”

A professional musician WILL spend a good amount of his life waiting – for the start of the concert, for the boarding of the flight, for the bus to reach the next venue, for the recording to get finished, for the CDs to arrive in stores, and most importantly for a check to arrive, months or sometimes years later… Being able to wait is a difficult skill to master. Most people will get bored, but one skilled in waiting will not.

“I can fast.”

Being able to fast is a handy ability as well. Being able to cook for oneself is good – cheaper than going out. Being willing to eat rice and beans and sink one’s money into studio-time can be important…

“I can play.”

This ability is not as obvious you might think. Children can play, but can you, or have you already lost that skill? Most people lose it, you know, sometime in their teenage years. Children play with abandonment and don’t mind if the result isn’t perfect. Most adults on the other hand tend to be self-conscious and try to avoid mistakes. Consequently adults tend to stick with what they know. For a musician that means they keep returning to patterns they have rehearsed, scales they know like the back of their hand. That’s not really playing though… Somewhere between the scales and chords we know and the exuberant noise of abandonment lies the real music, and to get to it is the real dance of creating.

Those three skills may not seem like much to you now, but believe me they are rarer than you think, and much more useful than you can imagine.

Remember to practice.

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