Monday, April 2, 2012

The Heart of Music

by Janielle Beh on Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 7:45am ·

You've heard people play without emotion before. All they do is churn out notes, even so quite perfectly, but then you know in your heart that that is all it is: notes.

How do we play in a way that transcends the notation on the page? There must be a reason that only human beings play and compose and improvise music. No other creature on the planet quite does it like we do. It is because you and I have a greater capacity to 'connect' with music. It is an indescribable force that has the power to creep into our souls, and even more exhilarating, flow OUT from ourselves and enable us to connect with others in a whole different level. We have the heart and soul and emotional breadth to make music come alive. That is what it is. Music isn't just notes on a page or recordings or pop stars prancing about on the stage. Take that all away, and what is the essence and heart of it all?

I have been thinking a lot lately on my approach to music, and I deeply regret that for the most part of my musical journey, I have suppressed my natural musical expression. It is waiting to burst out in flow and nuance and musical zest. Why oh why have I not allowed it to come through except for the few rare occasions? I believe with regret that it is half because I sometimes cannot be bothered to go through the deeper musical process, which can at first seem like it will require too much of me. And I know, it is a pity. I don't know, sometimes I'm just tired and out of it. So I convince myself that just churning out notes will suffice to please my teacher, or the audience. But myself? No, often I feel terrible. Like I've let down myself, and I've let down the music. Like I've let down Chopin, I've let down all the great composers. And I don't feel inspired or happy at all. It is a terrible, terrible disgrace.

I was inspired to write this because just yesterday, I've had a sort of wake up call in my piano lesson. I suddenly felt a genuine regret for taking the true essence of music for granted!

I realized that the reason my playing often reverts to just the bland production of notes and meaningless sounds is because I am sometimes 'unsure' of expressing my musical self. What if my teacher or the audience doesn't like the way I play it? What if it's too overly expressive, what if I interpret it wrongly? Beset with these doubts, I often decide to ignore my musical impulses and take the 'safe' route of playing the music as it is on the score. Ahh but how utterly, devastatingly bland and boring does it sound when I take the easy route!

What makes music come alive in us, through us? It is the instant when we allow the original moment of creative impulse & intent to AFFECT our present state of being. I get quite annoyed when people turn the beautiful abstract quality of music into intellectual jargon. That's when music is reduced to the suffocating state of mere notes and rules and theoretical formula. As much as all that is 'necessary', you've got to remember that the purpose of music is not to confuddle and befuddle intellectual minds or to impress anyone in particular. I see music as the voice and expression of the unspoken thoughts and feelings of the heart and mind, and soul. If you degrade music to notes on a page, if you just play them without putting your heart into it, your thoughts into the musical story, then it is meaningless sound. It might sound pleasant or you might say that one has technical finesse, but what is the point of all that if the music itself is devoid of the person's heart and emotion?

I think I'm beginning to sound like a hopeless Romantic enthusiast here. But really, without the heart and soul and human feeling and touch, how can music powerfully affect others and especially those who play it?

When I play for my teacher, nothing ever escapes his astute listening and observation. He tells me that he points things out to me (pretty much every single thing that lacks my heart, conscious thought and musical expression) not because he wants to be pedantic, but because he does it for the sake of music, for the great composer who wrote it. And I understand now. I realize all this while I've been missing out because I've skimmed over things, I've mishandled the music, I've been so careless and mindless about practicing. To my loss, I have missed many great opportunities to touch the music with my heart and feel it's song and story.

Music is a matter of the heart. You cannot play truly good music that can powerfully affect others and yourself if your heart is not in it. I've seen many people with technical prowess producing music with technical flair and accuracy, but I can hear it in the sound and see it on their faces that on the inside, nothing really meaningful is happening. I will admit that I do that as well, minus the 'technical flair'. Haha, it is a pity. I wish I would be more sensitive and HEARTFELT and genuine. Yes I think I've thought and mused and written enough, now I've got to actually make the change.

~ j a n i e ll e

1 comment:

Celinna Angesti Mawar. You can call me Celine for short. If you wanna scream my name it's "Cel!" or even my chinese name, zizi ! said...

Amazing Janielle ! I love your blog : ) Read it for inspirations once in a while. keep on writing : )

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