On Thanksgiving I gave my first public performance – improvising on the organ – for all of 4 minutes - for a large crowd of 6 people, including myself. Well received by polite people. Alex: “I noticed that you only used one out the three keyboards.”
This comment began flitting around my mind for the next few days. It finally hit me that for some reason, unbeknownst to me, that I had only been using the combination stops for the entire organ, but not the individual stops for the specific keyboards, i.e. manuals. I had been totally locked into my mindset – not understanding that I might want to change the quality of the tone color from time to time in the same piece rather than sticking to just one sound.
Perhaps I had been intimidated by the formal nature of the music and the Rodgers’ organ, in and of itself. I suggest this because I had experimented regularly with different voices on my Hammond - whose sound is rough, but which has incredible variety, what with sound effects and all. But actually I had only done this on my improvisations – not on the classical pieces. Strange. Going crazy loosened me up, but didn’t extend to the classical.
Anyway shortly after I began employing the technique of changing registers and stops to enhance the quality of the music. I did this as I moved through the piece horizontally rather than just sticking with the beginning setting. After warning up with some improvisations I moved onto Bach’s Fugue in A minor (which Nelson says I have no business playing). Because I was rusty and still unfamiliar with changing stops as I played, I slowed down to a halt sometimes. My pace was irregular and my fingers hit many wrong notes. But for some reason I kept in touch with the ‘music’. I felt inspired and overwhelmed. It was the first time that I had really ‘heard’ the piece in its entirety, although I had played it countless times throughout the years. A few days later I listened to the piece at sunset. Although it was over 20 minutes long the performance had me sobbing uncontrollably at the beauty and magnificence of the composition – and the unrefined nature of my attempt. On the same evening I listened to another recording I had made of the same piece. It had fewer mistakes, no interruptions, and no slowing up. In short it was more technically perfect. But the ‘music’ was lacking. The imprecision in the first had nothing whatsoever to do with my ability to appreciate it. The raw expression actually enhance my enjoyment of the piece, hence its name - ‘To the Imperfection of Life’.
So what was the difference between the two? In the latter I was fixated on the notes being technically perfect (an impossibility for me). In the former I was just having a good time experimenting with the stops and register as I played the ‘music’. I was focused upon expression rather than ‘worrying’ the notes, the tempo and the phrasing.
Extending the analogy: It’s important to ‘play’ Life rather than getting lost in performing details impeccably – obsessively anal – killing the Heart. Of course, as a disclaimer, my work on technique enabled me to ‘play’ the piece. The cursed Balance emerges anew. – Practice vs. Spontaneity. - Constantly circling like the Yin Yang symbol. – Finding the white dot of spontaneity and Life amidst the dark patch of discipline. Discovering the black dot of order amidst the white patch of chaos. Ever revolving – refreshing the senses - neither one nor the other. Life is in a constant flux. Cultivate it.