I was interviewing someone for my Musical Bundaberg project (which is pretty much in rest mode at the moment) and we were talking about playing in public. This person had been a fine pianist and studied music at UQ. That was some years ago and she confessed to no longer wanting to play in public either solo or accompanying because she could no longer be confident that she would play every note perfectly.
I found this a little bit stunning. Perfection? Sorry. This does not compute. Because while I strive to do the best I can in my music making I know that in fact there is no such thing as perfection. I have long since given up putting that pressure on myself (or indeed my students). So you made a mistake? Did the world end? Are you still alive? Did you do the best you could? Did you learn something? Then, good job! I have that conversation more regularly than you might imagine.
Because music is not about perfection. It is always beautifully and wonderfully flawed. It has to be. If it isn’t then I don’t think it’s music. Music is about creativity, expression, individualism, interpretation of the work of others who engaged in the same creative practice. Music is about communication and sharing ideas that can’t be expressed in other creative forms. It’s soundscapes that we produce with our bodies and the help of instruments. Sure, we can analyse it, deconstruct it, review it, write about it but in the end music is about how it makes us feel. Writing about it, as someone wise once pointed out, is about as useful as dancing about architecture. (Yes I realise I am writing a post about music. Later I am going to dance around a small building)
And often those feelings can’t be articulated except at an affective level.
For instance, music actually rarely makes me cry either with joy or sadness. But when it does I don’t hold back.
Example 1: The Last Post at my Grandad’s funeral earlier this year. Empty, haunting and overwhelming sadness at the end of an era and a life well lived. The tears streamed down my face.
Example 2: A performance of Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols by the Bundaberg Youth Choir at Christmas at the Holy Rosary Church in Bundaberg. I didn’t know the work well. I was sitting in the audience. It finished and suddenly WHALLOP. I was downright sobbing. And I couldn’t make myself stop.
Music frequently makes me happy though… both making it and listening to it. I’ve spent my life doing it in various ways and places. Over the last few months I’ve become part of an organic musical network that uses twitter and sound cloud to make and share music. I can’t quite remember how I got involved. I’m pretty sure I invited myself when I saw some tweets about people covering Guns and Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine ukulele style. A challenge! I can play three chords on the ukulele so that was out but I can play the piano so I made a recording and tentatively shared it with these good and talented people. And then there was another challenge. And another challenge. And then I got to pick the theme for the week. And suddenly we were vaguely organised and committed to meeting the challenge of our weekly musical personal learning network.
What I love about this is that it goes to heart of what I see music’s role is in our lives. To bring people together. To develop a community. To share and support other musicians who like all of us, are striving for something. To sing, to play, to continue on their musical learning journey. That journey (as I think any musician in the world would tell us) is a lifelong journey. It certainly is for me anyway. And for me, this community of @KatrinaMacADL @kimtairi @gcwhite @corinh @jessincanberra challenges me every week. For instance, I’m not a singer by any stretch of the imagination. But I love to sing. So I do. I record it and I put it out into the world. This community has helped me to be brave. I’m no good at the ukulele (I’ve never been able to persist with the guitar either) but I learned a fourth chord and managed to strum my way through a couple of the week’s themes. Another achievement unlocked.
I can’t speak for anyone else in terms of what they gain from this. But for me, it’s been yet another way of connecting with people. It’s emphasised the force of social media to actually be social. It’s introduced me to new music, musicians and ways of making of music. Most of all, it’s reminded me just what an essential part of our lives music must always be.