SOPP277: My dream of organ playing is to completely free, sit down at the organ console and play and improvise whatever I want
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 277 of Secrets of Organ Playing podcast. This question was sent by Rob. He writes:
In this mail I’ll provide the answers to you questions: (that is the least I can do for the wonderful work that you and your wife do)
1. What is your dream for your organ playing?
My dream of organ playing is to completely free, sit down at the organ console and play and improvise whatever I want. (my inspiration comes from people like Pierre Cochereau, Jean Langlais, Marcel Dupre, Ben van Oosten, Sophie-Veronique Cauchefer-Choplin and others).
2. What are 3 most important things that are holding you back from realizing your dream?
1) (Lack of) technique i.e. the idea that I am not “advanced enough” to take on any organ piece
2) the false notion that certain pieces are “too difficult”
3) finding enough time to develop my skills
In a separate email I’d like to share some feedback with you and tell you a little bit about myself if that is OK.
So, of course it is okay--please write us more detailed feedback, right Ausra?
V: What did you notice about his dream, Ausra, first of all?
A: Well, he mentioned so many wonderful French composers and organists, and I suddenly remembered that funny test that we did a few years ago, remember?
A: We took a test just for fun, to find out which French organist we resemble.
V: On Facebook.
A: On Facebook, yes. And it was funny because both of what Rob mentions here are on this list, on his list. And Vidas was--guess who!
V: Uhhh...Pierre Cochereau, maybe?
A: That’s right. And do you remember what I was?
V: Marcel Dupre?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: You were Marcel Dupre.
V: I don’t know why, but it was funny! Yeah, these people were great improvisers--and some of them still are. And they are like the sun behind the horizon--the goal or the dream can never be reached, right? Who can successfully say that “I’m like Pierre Cochereau” or “I’m like Marcel Dupre” today, right?
V: Right, because there was already one Pierre Cochereau and Marcel Dupre too. There is actually no point in being the second Marcel Dupre.
A: But each of us is unique.
A: And we need to be proud of it.
V: So Robert should be proud of being himself. Of course, he could take inspiration from these people…
A: That’s right.
V: In general ideas--general ideas like freedom of expression, of creativity that these masters did. But Rob’s path is different, and our path with Ausra is different, too--my path from Ausra’s is different, and Ausra’s is different, too. And we have to own it, own our differences. And actually, some of these differences can become our guiding points, right, like uniqueness, and we can differentiate ourselves in the world.
A: That’s right. And now, talking about his 3 things that he writes, that he needs to improve his technique--
A: And he wants to play whatever on the organ that he sits down easily, or improvise; and he needs to have more time. So I guess I would reverse all these problems in the other order; because I think the first thing is you need to find time to practice. Because only if you will practice on a regular basis, you can improve your technique; and only if you can improve your technique, you will be able to play whatever you want, and improvise.
V: Difficult pieces as well. Let me disagree politely with you, Ausra--
V: --when you say finding enough time. And Rob writes “finding enough time,” in these words, finding enough time. I would say making time--not finding but making. When you say I need to find more time, you say that it’s not in our control--like, you’re looking somewhere, and maybe you will find, maybe you will not find.
A: But when you are talking about making time, it seems like you know...each day and night lasts for 24 hours, and let’s make 2 more hours, yes? Per day? What do you mean by making time?
V: I mean that, let’s say...This is a serious dream. If Rob is serious about this dream, making time for that dream to gradually happen would be on the top of his--maybe not top-top-top on the very top, but top 5 things that he does in the day. Would you agree?
A: Yes, I would agree.
V: So everyone can do 5 things in a day, at least for 15min in a day. If we agree on that, then finding those 15min--it’s not an necessary word, actually. Making those 15min would be more appropriate.
A: But are you sure it would be enough to play--to practice 15min a day in order to be able to play any organ composition?
V: Let’s say you tell yourself, “I will sit down today on the organ bench for 15 minutes.” And you do: you sit down, and you can continue if you feel like playing for an hour, or for 45 minutes or whatever. You can. But the trick that our mind sometimes plays on us is: if we cannot find or make 60 minutes of quality time for organ playing, then we don’t bother to sit down at all, you know? And say our day is wasted. But if we sit down for 15 minutes, there is a chance we will continue for more.
A: So it’s like cheating yourself!
V: Obviously, yes. We have to cheat our tricky mind! Right? Because that’s what we do. We seek our dream. That’s what we try to do here. We take steps--baby steps. Anything else, Ausra?
A: Well...Well I would say, you know, if you really want to achieve something, you have to do it; and you have to find time, or to make time, as you say. Because if you are not doing it, maybe it’s not as important for you as you think it is.
V: I think it is important for him, because he wrote it to us.
A: Yes, that’s the first step, I think.
V: Mhm, to admit that it is important to you and write it down.
A: But you know, I think if you will practice, let’s say, for 60 days straight thorugh, you will develop a habit of practicing
V: Exactly, 66 days.
A: And then you will not be able to stop practicing.
V: You will feel not right--something will be missing from your creative day, if you don’t do that activity. At least for a bit, right? For 15 minutes. Would you agree, Ausra?
A: Yes, I agree with it.
V: Do you feel that you cannot function well if you don’t play every day?
A: Sure, sure.
V: What is it that you feel, if you skip practicing?
A: That something is missing.
V: And how do you react to it? Do you feel like a different person--
A: Well, I sort of start feeling guilty.
A: And this is not good, maybe--I don’t know, but that’s what I feel.
V: Very Catholic!
A: I know, it is!
V: Good. But you know, I feel that guilt, too. Haha! Yes, if I skip! So therefore, I try to do this first thing in the morning. Not necessarily organ playing, in the morning, because maybe you will be sleeping, right? If I rise earlier. But some creative activity I do first thing in the morning. Then, if something goes wrong with that day, if there is an emergency or something, or the electricity disappears, like it happened a couple of days ago--at least I know I did something creative in the morning. The day wasn’t wasted.
A: But still, you know, most of the time, I cannot practice in the morning. Only in summertime, for a couple months, in summertime I can practice in the morning. So I have to do it after making all other my works...
A: And it’s really hard. Like last school year, I allowed my only one day a week not practicing, and it was Tuesday--because I was working straight from 8 till 6.
V: Did you feel that something has to change--that either you are playing too much, or you’re working too much?
A: Definitely I’m working too much.
V: Did you have this feeling?
V: Mhm. What would you rather sacrifice? Playing or working?
V: A little bit--not necessarily you have to quit your job, I’m not communicating that, but--
A: Of course working--of course working.
V: --But instead of working 100% like you do now, maybe 90%.
A: Yes, that’s a good idea, but you are not always able to do what you want.
V: Right. And on days that you practice, Ausra, are you happier?
A: Sure, of course I’m happier.
V: Happier. Did you practice today?
A: Yes, I practiced today.
V: So you are happy now?
A: That’s right.
V: And I only played organ duets with you, so I’m not as happy as you are, so I better go now and practice. Okay.
A: Sure. Of course, when you practice...
V: 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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