Art is about being unsure of what happens next. Factory is about predetermined routine, a conveyor which works as precisely as possible.
When we forget the difference between art and factory in organ playing, here is what happens:
Change is frightening because we associate it with risk. "I won't play this piece a major third downward because I'm not good at transposition."
We tend to avoid risk because it might involve failure. "Putting a hymn tune in the bass played by the pedals in service playing might make me vulnerable to incorrect harmonization."
We don't want to experience failure because it would force us to feel bad about ourselves. "If I mess up this improvisation, people will think I'm an idiot."
Feeling bad about ourselves may indicate our low self-esteem and nobody wants that to happen. "My registrations suck. I will never learn how to use organ stops properly."
So we tend to seek out comfort. "I will not play the tune of this hymn with the left hand in the tenor range because this will make me uncomfortable."
The feeling of comfort gives us a sense of security. "My prelude sounds well this morning. Maybe I should play it the next Sunday too."
Security forces us to seek permission. "Maybe I should ask my pastor, if it's OK to play solo organ music during Communion."
Having permission helps us to seek deniability. "If I mess up this Toccata, it's not my fault because you said it will be OK."
Deniability forces us to be average. "I just want to be a good organist for my church because this is what my congregation wants".
But we can't be artists and be average. We're either seeking to be exceptional organists who are willing to put ourselves on the line and be criticized for our work or mediocre factory workers who are "good enough" to play what everybody else is supposed to be playing.
I would rather play one organ recital after which somebody came up to me and said, "this is ridiculous, how dare you to play on our organ like that", than 10 recitals which would guarantee me standing ovation.
It all starts with doubt.
Never ask for advice seeking to avoid doubt. Instead, ask for advice seeking to embrace it.
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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.