Have you ever tried to run on an icy road? Surprisingly, it doesn't always feels slippery.
Most often we slip on the turning point. It's simple physics - our body is still moving forward but underneath our feet there is too little traction to make a turn. And so we slip.
Improvising organ music is like running on ice. We don't play the wrong notes when the musical road is straightforward. Usually we only slip when there is a turn - a change in texture, rhythm, melodic direction, harmony, or registration.
What do we do after we slip? We get up and continue running. Exactly.
I don't trust you
I don't care enough to try
I'm interested in something else
I don't like it
This is not what I do
I don't want it
I don't know what I want
I feel uncomfortable
I'm afraid it might not work
I'm afraid it might work
It almost never means I wish I had more time to do this.
Why does time fly so quickly when we are on vacation? It looks like the fun time has just started but we have to get back to work already. Those two weeks really look like a weekend.
One of the reasons we experience seemingly faster passing of time is because there is no work, no job to go to.
Since job is often associated with exploitation, disrespect, obedience, and subordination, we think we ought to do it as little as possible.
To kill time while at work we often indulge in extensive use of social media and reading newspapers online.
What if we turned that around? What if we treated our jobs as vacation: fun, insightful, and meaningful time we can't afford to waste? What if we had the same lights of adventure in our eyes as when we go on a family cross-country trip? Here's even better question: What if we transmit this passion into our co-workers and colleagues?
Then time will fly too fast when we are at work. And it will no longer feel like work. It will be like all unifying mission.
You don't have to be a boss to do this.
Actually, I take it back - you do have to be a boss. But a different kind of boss.
A boss of you.
Do we really have to have visions to experience the divine? Do we have to see angels, saints, or god to experience the transcendence?
Unusual life experiences are all around us disguised in usual things, if we care to look for them.
One way to notice them is to ask "why" relentlessly.
Why some birds want to live in a cage when given a choice willingly?
Why some students want to get A's?
Why Dorian mode sounds sadder than Lydian mode?
More important, though, is what we do with these unusual life experiences once we notice them?
Most of the time we do nothing. But sometimes we help others to see them as well.
[HT to Gena]
How to know that it's time to stop practicing today? A lot of people would tell you - when you're tired.
Wait. You could be tired even before the practice begins, couldn't you? Besides, how to know that it's the real feeling instead something we imagine in order to play save?
Here's is what you can ask yourself before you stop:
Have I discovered something that I didn't know before about this piece, composer, organ, myself, others, or life, during practice?
If not, practice a little more. That's how you will forge the will of steel.
(Amazingly, often the tiredness can be postponed quite a bit with this attitude).
Don't care enough
Don't want to
Taken advantage of
It almost never means "I will take action you want me to take with the intention you want at a certain time in the future because I have no time to do it now."
"I don't have motivation to practice or to study hard" we hear a lot these days as if this motivation has to be given from some outside source - from strict parents, inspirational teachers, competitive pears, or leading bosses.
And who will motivate parents, teachers, pears, and bosses so that they could be our examples?
People on a mission will not wait for an inspiration to strike or for others to push them. People on a mission will sit down, do their work regardless of how they feel about it and then an inspiration will come.
We have motivation not because we are pros. We are pros because we have motivation.
Motivation is a choice.
That's what some people tell when faced with imminent stress of playing in public. No smile, only anxiety, and a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach.
It's no wonder why they can't relax, can't feel the joy of creating music for others (at least before the event).
Not ready to be generous. Because generosity requires an act from a different part of the brain. The one that is activated by the giving and sharing. When threatened with the imagined danger of public humiliation ("they will laugh at me"), this brain is easily overridden by our ancient defense mechanism activated by the oldest part of our brain which was quite vital when you didn't know, if you would survive the night or an encounter with a fierce animal.
But to have a recital is to be generous in the first place.
No need for stress. Wake up to the miracles instead.
The most difficult part that any creative person does is not coming up with the unique, original, and remarkable idea.
It's not even executing it fearlessly.
It's not even shipping it to the world generously.
The most difficult part is quieting this inner voice which tells you "you're not supposed to" just long enough for you to do your work again.
The answer is not to fight this voice, not to reason with it, not to engage in counterarguments of why you should do it. Because the more you speak back to this voice, the more it feeds on the discussion.
The secret lies in this: Only do it.
[HT to Leon for the link]
PS My organ improvisation recital on the excerpts of the four-part poem "The Season" by Kristijonas Donelaitis (1714-1780): "The Joys of Spring", "the Labors of Summer", "the Goods of Autumn", and "the Worries of Winter".
Why do we need reassurance from others when we embark on an important project? Because we are afraid.
Because we are afraid that it might not work. Because we are afraid that the world is going to find out things we are not proud of. Because we are afraid that we don't have what it takes to do art. Because reassurance releases us from responsibility to choose for ourselves.
And what if the project didn't work? What if we chicken out of the hard decision and chose the path that we won't rather talk about? What if instead of the tyranny of "you told me it was OK", we had to face the consequences of the change that our art created in people?
Just as we can't learn to do 1000 push-ups in one day without being comfortable with suffering, we can't create art without experiencing the fear.
The only reassurance artists need to know is that they beat their inner dragons just today. Until the next time.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.