SOPP473: I am trying not to worry about struggling, I just want to make music as good as I can
Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 473, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Ariane, who’s our Total Organist student. And I asked her on Basecamp, what is she struggling with, in organ playing. And she writes:
I am trying not to worry about struggling, I just want to make music as good as I can.
V: Ausra, is that a good approach
A: I think it’s a wonderful approach. I think that’s what approach should be because sometimes you worry to much about the details, and we are not thinking about final goal.
V: Right. To me, I think it’s already second nature—practicing and performing and preparing for a goal, certain deadline, like public appearances—that if I encounter a place in my musical piece that gives me frustration, then I just work on it more and more and more in wise manner, as I understand it. And that episode becomes easier with time, and I conquer it. Is that how you do it, Ausra?
A: Yes. I think that’s one of the most natural way[s] to do it.
V: Do you think about struggle when you practicing also, or you also enjoy music and try to play as good as you can?
A: Well, yes and no. Well, I always know what is the hardest thing in [a] particular piece and I work on those things, because just thinking about struggle won’t help you. You need to take some sort of complete action.
A: And then you finally have to struggle.
V: Right. What about pieces that we are playing today, organ duets for Denmark?
A: Well, I think we are quite ready right now.
A: Beginning wasn’t so easy.
V: By the time you guys hear this podcast conversation we might have already played this recital in Svendborg International Organ Festival in Southern Denmark. But I’m sure we will be talking about this recital in great details soon, afterwards. But this morning before we started recording this conversation, we had breakfast and before that, we practiced for a good hour, an hour and fifteen minutes, I would say—our duet program, right? And the day before we visited our friend Paulius, who works as an organist at St. Joseph Parish here in Vilnius, and we played for him several pieces. Did you feel Ausra, some frustration yesterday?
A: Well yes because we played it on the electronic keyboards.
V: Is that all?
A: Well, that was the most frustration for me.
V: For me was stop changes. Because different organ we didn’t have time to setup pistons. We just improvised the stop changes by hand. And sometimes those changes got quite unexpected turns.
A: But I thought that we are in quite a good shape.
V: I would say a few pieces need some slow work on our program, so that’s why we decided not to rush things, not to play in concert tempo, up until Denmark, I would say.
A: True. But I remember when we just started work on this program. I didn’t think we will come to that point that we can make throughout entire program without stopping.
V: You didn’t believe yourself.
A: I didn’t believe myself because my muscles would start hurting even after practicing one piece.
V: Right. And…
A: Because we had such an enormous hot weather in June when we started to learn these new pieces. It was almost impossible to practice because of the heat and humidity.
V: Mmm-hmm. I think we started in May.
A: Late May, actually.
V: Late May.
A: Late May, which was also very hot.
V: Right. So when you first started learning those difficult pieces, naturally some of the episodes appear very frustrating to you, even if you have lots of experience on the organ, right? But you don’t give up, Ausra. You find a way to succeed, right? Either work slower or repeated places with repetitions.
A: I would say the main thing is to find time to practice. And if you will find time then everything will be just fine.
V: Not necessarily because if you—imagine we had time, right? We would practice like we do. But we always would take concert tempo. Would that be beneficial?
A: No, that wouldn’t be beneficial. And you know that very well, because we have talked about it so many times that you need to practice in a slower tempo.
V: Mmm-hmm. And sometimes we do fast tempo because we need to know if we’re ready for concert.
A: But some of these pieces were so hard that they were impossible to play in a concert tempo right away, even one single voice.
V: Right. What’s the most difficult piece for your part Ausra, in our program?
A: I don’t know. Now it doesn’t seem like there is any hard pieces left. But I think at the beginning it was your Veni Creator.
V: Oh! Opus 3a. Back in 2011, I created Veni Creator for two manuals, the pedals, organ solo piece. And I performed it quite a bit and few people also performed it. Not only in Lithuania but as we were looking for the Lithuanian organ repertoire for this Svendborg Organ Festival in Denmark, because they wanted Lithuanian music more, I thought of making a duet, organ duet arrangement of this Veni Creator. And I called it Opus 3a. I made lots of canons there. What you think about that disposition?
A: Well, it’s sort of turned out like a very nice piece, but it’s difficult at the beginning. Because the keys change so rapidly and there are some technical issues with left hand. For example, when you have to play parallel sixths in a fast tempo. Plus, you really need to have a good coordination and good action. I don’t think it would be so hard to play this piece solo, because when you are playing it solo, you don’t have all those endless canons.
V: Right. And to me it was easier even playing with you because I knew the music.
A: Well, I knew this music too by you playing it so many times but it didn’t make my life easier because I couldn’t play in a fast tempo as I used to hearing you playing.
V: Hmm. That’s right.
A: So, it took time to learn it. But now I think it’s going fairly well.
V: To me, difficult piece is Sonata by Bronius Kutavicius which is called Ad Patres. It is based on the cycle of seven paintings by Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, Lithuanian painter and composer from the beginning of the Twentieth Century. And um…
A: It’s like a funeral symphony.
V: Yeah, like a funeral procession.
A: Seven paintings based on funeral procession.
A: Amazing paintings true, they are.
V: Bronius Kutavicius has the style of Lithuanian minimalist school, and he uses lots of modes and lots of repetition. So there are a couple of episodes in this piece that are difficult for both right hand and left hand to coordinate. But when you play for organ duet—because this piece was originally written for organ duet, and only later transcribed as a solo piece—then it’s kind of easier right? Because you divide the parts between the two players. But in your, one episode, you have to add one extra layer, right? So to me this fast episode still was difficult at the beginning, in May. But now I think as we’re working slower and slower, I think I’m much more secure now.
A: Yes, and also the piece called ‘The Sounds of Forest’…
V: Oh, uh…
A: By Kristina Vasiliauskaite, is difficult because it is handwritten. So we played from the autograph score. And it’s so widely spread that you have to do all this page turns and it’s quite frustrating. Plus, sometimes it’s hard to find your line, your three lines, and it’s sort of confusing.
A: I even marked my score, my three lines, in a red pen.
V: Why did you choose red?
A: Because that’s what I had to.
V: Uh, I see. I thought red was your favorite color.
A: No! It’s definitely not.
V: Alright guys, you see what kind of struggles and frustrations we have. And I hope you have less frustrations than we, or different kind of frustrations, maybe.
A: And you can share your frustrations with us.
V: In your questions.
A: Yes, and we try to help you out.
V: Alright. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: We are going to now record another podcast episode, but we hope you will start practicing today. Because, when you practice…
A: 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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