#AskVidasAndAusra 86: My coordination is beginning to fail, so I just stick to easy, slower, less complex pieces
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 86 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by Neil and he writes:
“The only thing I struggle with now is my age. I am not able to play fast complex pieces any longer. My coordination is beginning to fail, so I just stick to easy, slower, less complex pieces. Mostly hymns and ballads. However, I really do enjoy listening or reading what you bring up on organ playing. I do learn things, and I also am reminded of things I already knew, but just forgot over time... Please keep doing what you are doing, it is appreciated. Neil”
So, age, right Ausra--do you think people can still improve with old age? Or can they just repeat things over and over that they already knew, and basically enjoy older pieces that they learned at a younger age?
Ausra: I think it’s possible to learn something new in old age, but it might take more time and more effort.
Vidas: With old age, you have to realize that you don’t have to rush anywhere, right?
Vidas: You don’t have to compete with someone, you don’t have to compare yourself with the masters anymore. You yourself are in a position where you can enjoy what you are doing. Just like Neil is writing, probably. But perhaps even at this age--I don’t know what he means with “old age.” Some people write that they’re old when they’re 65, and some people write that they’re old when they are 85, right? It’s a big difference.
Vidas: And we do have people playing the organ at the age of 86, late 80s. I think one was even early 90s--91, I think.
Vidas: So people are still trying to improve at this age. Do you think it’s healthy for your brain to keep busy with reading music and coordination?
Ausra: Definitely. And if I were a neurologist, I would do some extensive research on playing organ and about how your brain works during that process, because I think it’s very beneficial. And I strongly believe that it might slow down such illnesses--or prevent such illnesses--as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and so on and so forth.
Vidas: Even at my age--I’m forty, what, forty-two now…
Ausra: Forty-one. Hahaha…
Vidas: Forty-one. Good. I forget my age!
Ausra: Well, you definitely have to practice more!
Vidas: Or maybe happy people don’t think about their age. So, but, you see what I mean. Even when I improvise--there was a period of time when I played those long improvisation recitals--storytelling events exclusively. And during that time, I didn’t play from the notes very much. I was very happy to improve my fancy and create in the moment. You know what I noticed? I noticed that my concentration did not improve, but deteriorated during that time; and it was more difficult for me to focus and to read, in general, long-form texts or books; because reading music is also related to those things, don’t you think?
Ausra: Yes, definitely.
Vidas: So, I started sight-reading more. And I do this now much more regularly, and I think it’s healthy. Do you think for people of older age like Neil, it’s good to sight-read also?
Ausra: I think so, yes. That would help, too.
Vidas: Keep your brain busy with unfamiliar musical ideas.
Ausra: Yes. I think in general, reading new music and playing old pieces--it all keeps you in good shape: your muscles, your coordination, and your brain.
Vidas: Yes. When you play old music, your muscles and coordination work, yes? But when you read new music, also your brain develops a little bit more, I think. You constantly get to think, mentally, about what you are doing--not from muscle memory positions, but mentally.
Ausra: And when you are old, I think the most important thing is maybe not to develop something, but to prevent from damaging your body and your brain. To keep it in a current shape, I think, is the main goal.
Vidas: Exactly. Do you think Neil can also exercise physically, or do some stretching, like sometimes people do easy moving--sometimes we do Pilates--or something else besides organ practice?
Ausra: Well, I remember seeing sometimes a very elderly lady in our gym, and I think what she did is she went to yoga.
Ausra: Yes and then to swim in the pool. And she seems very healthy at a very old age.
Vidas: So it’s never too late to improve, basically.
Vidas: As long as you’re moving, you’re alive.
Vidas: So keep moving, guys--keep your hands moving, keep your feet moving, and keep your brain moving!
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: Excellent. And please send us more of your questions; we definitely love helping you grow--it’s really fun! And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
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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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