Tuesday, March 25, 2008

practice violin soul destroying

Someone found my blog yesterday by searching for those particular words, and I certainly hope that the person who was searching is now feeling better about practicing his or her instrument.

Practice, for me, is anything but soul destroying. It is actually an oasis from the other things in life that tend to depress me or make me angry, because when I am practicing I am in complete charge of my musical life. Nobody else matters. There is a solution to every problem, and when I find the solution it makes my soul feel good because it sounds good.

The problem comes for me when I put the fiddle down. It is then that I realize that other difficulties I have in my life don't have solutions in, literally, the palm of my hand. Living far away from the centers of musical life that nourished my youth is hard, even with the internet. Creating an active musical life where I live is hard because most of the time I am the one pedaling the bicycle, and much of the time doesn't seem to go anywhere. I have found that it is much harder work to try to make a musical life than it is to practice an instrument in order to be prepared for one.

For a composer, being out of sight seems now, more than ever, being out of mind. With the speed of communication, yesterday's news (and yesterday's performances of yesterday's music) seem to already be old before they even have a chance to "sink in." I would like to imagine that there are people somewhere (in other remote locations, perhaps?) who enjoy playing the music that I have written, but it is only rarely that I hear from anyone.

How I long for 19th-century St. Petersburg! How I long for the salons of Paris! How I long for the 19th-century opera culture in Italy! How I long for the cafes of 19th-century Vienna! Then I would be able to write music for people who would play it, discuss it, and criticize it! But then again, my participation as a composer would not have been taken seriously because of the fact that I am a woman. And those salons and institutions would be populated by a select few, and there is a great possibility that I wouldn't even be invited in. A Rastignac I am not.

It would be great if the internet could be a democratic and gender-neutral replacement for the salon, but that hasn't seemed to happen so far. Music is still something that needs to happen among real people in real time in order to do anything for the souls of those of us who write it, practice it, and perform it.

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