Confession: I hate practicing. I hate it so much I simply don’t do it anymore, and that’s why I’ll probably never be an active musician. I hate it because I know what I should sound like, and I have never, ever made it there. I spent most of my high school orchestra career, when practicing was a mother-mandatory activity, in the throes of a violent inward frustration. Some day, if I can ever afford it, I want to buy a really cheap violin purely for the pleasure of chucking it through a window. It will be a decade-long fantasy come true. Ah, catharsis.
Now that I’ve finished endearing myself to the musical masses, I have a (hopefully redeeming) observation about listening to someone practicing.
My brother is a freshman at Peabody, and although he’s a violist (hee hee hee) he takes a piano class – I think it might be a requirement? Anyway, he’s taking a piano class and currently working on Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. My mother’s piano is in a room right off the kitchen, and I could hear him working on it as I ate lunch last weekend.
It was a curious experience, and one that I don’t think would apply to all pieces, maybe even all instruments. I’ve also heard him practicing viola for half my life and this is only now occurring to me. My brother has by no means yet mastered the piece and is not a pianist by trade; he’s a musician, so his rendering was competent, but there were decided stumbles and hesitations.
And yet somehow… in this case, it worked. The Moonlight Sonata is naturally pensive, touchingly so in the right hands. These were not the right hands. But they were hands that, in their pauses and tiny hiccups, writ the music’s meaning anew. Rather than darkly brooding, this Moonlight was timid and a little scared, but nonetheless resolute. It was… I don’t know, like Piglet in the trenches. Like an eighteen-year-old kid trying to sleep the night before hitting the beaches at Normandy. Or something.
I don’t know if that makes any sense, but what I’m trying to articulate here is that the practicing transcended itself and became a new interpretation of the piece. Naturally if Beethoven had wanted it that way he would’ve written the pauses in himself, so I don’t recommend that concert pianists all adopt this as a new performance standard. What I am saying is that practicing has its own curious… lens through which to see, maybe?
But don’t mind me – I’m obviously a crazy person. Speaking of, does anyone have a cheap violin they don’t want?