Sunday, July 26, 2009

House of Music

Musicians, professional as well as non-professional, are extremely sensitive to interpersonal relationships that enter their musical lives. The contact that we have with one another is extremely intimate, even if we do not particularly get along with one another personally (and even if we barely know one another). In most places, even in cities, the people we play music with are limited to a certain circle. In higher-population areas, it is limited by musical caste, which is in turn limited by schedules and logistics, and in lower-population areas it is limited by the proportionate number of musicians to non musicians. We all have to learn to either get along or make due, as we watch interpersonal situations loom large in musical life.

I was talking with a friend last week about a sensitive interpersonal situation in an ensemble, which left her feeling demoralized, and made it impossible for her to practice. When I saw her again, she thanked me for my advice (she had to remind me what it was--advice for me often flows out, leaving my figurative pitcher empty), which I will share here.

I told her that music-making was like a house, and when you play with people, it is like letting them into your house. They are your musical guests. But when they leave your house, it is still your house.

The act of practicing is like the act of each of us taking care of our own musical house, so that we each can live comfortably and happily, and welcome guests in from time to time.


T. said...

Love, love, love this piece of wisdom. Thank you so much for making it more widely available.

Unknown said...

This is so true in community orchestras. In my orchestra, we have a mix of retired professionals, hobbyists and 'I played this in college 15 yrs. ago'. We rise and fall on relationships and practice.