Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 554 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Sjouke. And he writes,
Hello Vidas, It has been a while since I wrote to you, maybe last spring. My memory is not that great anymore, as we get older it seems that is one of the things that seems to stand out more being forgetful that is. My question to you is this, quite a few years ago I was pretty good playing fantasy and choral by Jan Zwart, Translation. A mighty Fortress is our God, you may not know that piece for he was an outstanding organist and composer as well, but getting back to my problem and question, I just picked up that piece again and I found something quite shocking that I have forgotten how to play that piece of music totally. For about a week now or a little more, I am practising this piece but I do not seem to be getting anywhere. Just as I think I am getting it together again I come back the next day, it is as though it is back to the first day again. Now to be fair to you and your wife, I suspect I have had the suspicion of having had a few minor strokes, not noticeable on my speech, but more so I forget so many things as though I am really out of it and that usually lasts a short time a couple of hours, but it usually comes back but not in my organ playing I am afraid to say. I had it once that I got up one Sunday morning and had to play, practised all week and got up Sunday morning did not know what I had practised, till I looked at my notes and wonder if I really did practice all that I had written, I noticed in my playing, it was not all that bad, I do not think anyone else noticed it, but I did. But what I want to know is that before mentioned piece of music will I be able to get it back, I am starting to lose hope. ~Sjouke
V: So Sjouke...probably this problem is related to his strokes, right? Because memory loss is one of the symptoms, right?
A: Yes, yes.
V: Could be long term or short term. I’m not a physician of course, but I suspect that might be the case. When a person practices a piece of music one day and completely forgets the next day.
A: Well, yes, but when he talked about A Mighty Fortress is Our God, he shouldn’t so surprised, because he hadn’t practiced that piece for a few years. And even for a professional, and even for a good professional, if it’s a difficult piece and you come back to it after a few years, you might have to relearn it at all.
V: The real test would be to learn a new piece, not an old one. And then come back to it, a month later, let’s say, and see if he can forget it or can remember it, right? Because Jan Zwart’s A Mighty Fortress, as you say, was learned a few years ago. To me also, it would be very difficult to come back to it, depending on the level of difficulty of course. But if it’s a difficult piece for my own level, then I have to spend let’s say, at least a month for it. Maybe he worries too early about it. Maybe he just needs to spend more time.
A: More time. Yes. And what I could suggest for Sjouke, he might record what he’s practicing. And then if he will not remember what he did last time, he might listen to the recording. He needs, you know, he’s taking notes, but I think sometimes I think a recording might be better. Because sometimes you cannot describe on the paper what you have learned and what you have done. But if he would listen to what he can play, let’s say, yesterday - it might make things easier for him.
V: You’re right. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so how many words is worth a recording?
A: Yes, and he might record the next practice and then compare those two rehearsal sessions, and see how things sound. But of course, if each, we all sort of have to overcome some obstacles. It’s not an easy thing, especially after a stroke. And in general, sometimes people lose their confidence about things. For example, yesterday, my mom threw away the old socks of my father. But she didn’t tell him about it. And then she left, she had some business outside of the home, and my father was left alone, and he is usually not very good about finding his clothes.
V: Who is?
A: Well, I guess many men are not good at this kind of expertise.
V: Including me.
A: Yes. But my father started to look for his socks. He knew where he placed them, but could not find them in that spot. So he kept searching throughout the entire place, and finally he decided to look at the refrigerator, maybe he put them in there!
A: Can you imagine that?
V: He looked in the fridge?
A: I think it’s hilarious, but on the other hand, it’s very sad. Because he lost his confidence.
V: And did your mom confess?
A: Yes, she told him after she came back, but I asked her why she didn’t tell him that she just threw them away, and she told, I forgot about it, so.
A: What can you do, you know?
V: Yeah, it’s funny when you say that.
A: But it’s not funny when I’m thinking about my poor father looking for his socks for over an hour, and looking at the fridge.
V: Yeah. I was thinking about something to say while you were sharing that story, and I now remember what I was meaning to say. That the fact that Sjouke still practices is very good. That if he stopped practicing since he lost hope, and said, “I’m not making any progress and it’s not working,” then I think his memory might be even worse, right? Even though it seems like he’s forgetting things, it’s still better than not practicing, yes?
A: Yes, I believe it, yes. I believe that sometimes not the result is the most important, but the process. And the process of practicing might be really beneficial for Sjouke.
V: Mm hm. And when you get into a routine, this routine is something to look forward to every day. It gives sense of security for a person. Sense of meaning, purpose. And at this age in his life, this is very important.
A: I think so.
V: Ok. This was Vidas
A: And Ausra.
V: Let us know how your practice goes, guys. If you have similar problems and you keep forgetting things, maybe organ playing helps you or not, we are very interested to know. And keep sending us more of your questions, because we love helping you grow. And remember, 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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