Inspiration, joy, and a bit of technology

Inspiration, Joy, and a bit of Technology

A change of direction

Inspiration struck and I sat down at my computer this morning to begin writing. However, the Microsoft 360 gods decided to undertake a massive update at the same time. “DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER” now occupies my screen for a second hour. I ate lunch, read several chapters of a book, chatted with my husband. What’s a girl to do, but dig out an old Bluetooth keyboard and get to work on the iPad? 

What I really meant to start with here is that I decided to embrace a new path as a pianist.

Recently, I began putting together a program that I thought might be impressive for a job interview. I picked a respectable sonata to revisit and got to work plotting and planning my strategies of attack. This section is tricky – I’d better practice it first. The left hand in that section jumps around, so I’d better leave time to drill that. Oh, and I remember playing this in public the last time, and my technique fell apart … right there.

Sitting at the piano in front of this piece was stressful work! And no wonder. Here is my breakdown of the path I had forced myself to take:

1) I chose a piece to impress others.

2) I secretly hoped that I could pull it off under pressure, but I wasn’t sure.

3) I felt fearful, anxious, and just a bit nauseous practicing it since my inner voices were highly critical and unsupportive.

Could there be a more hostile environment for seeking inspiration? Oh, right. I wasn’t actually seeking that, was I?

During the fourth day of practice, and after a particularly heavy sigh and massive eye roll at my lack of progress, I decided to go read something else to take my mind off the miserable psychological state I was in. My book opened to Beethoven’s Sonata in E-flat Major, op. 31 no. 3, a piece I learned when I was 19 years old.

What happened was joy.

I was able to manipulate the sound, pull the phrases this way and that, play with the rubato Beethoven wrote into the piece, and force the focus to the upper line here, to the middle there. I found myself actually laughing out loud – both at the humor found in the piece and at my silly mistakes. I played around with the staccato in the second movement, choosing one that stayed on the ground just long enough to let the notes speak their truths of harmony. Yes, I played the piano and I simply played around. At what point to do we musicians lose this ability and interest?

I am reading Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace. In the introduction she says, “I’d spent two decades building a train and laying its track. Now, the thought of merely driving it struck me as a far less interesting task.” How descriptive this is. I don’t want to feel like I am just “going through the motions” ever again.

It should be no surprise that I have switched tracks, choosing pieces that bring me a sense of playfulness, ones that remind me of why I had to become a musician, and ones that will authentically communicate to my audiences. Creativity can not find its way when ennui and a false sense of duty clog the arteries. I choose joy.

And, my computer is on hour three of its update. Time to get to a different keyboard and play a Beethoven sonata – yes, “that” one!

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Deborah Rambo Sinn

Deborah Rambo Sinn