One could say I have given up. But that wouldn't be entirely true. There is some light shining through. Starting around late February/early March, a really intense apathy grew inside me regarding school, life, and music. I didn't practice the piano as much, I didn't listen to as much music, I didn't talk to anyone about anything. I pretty much stopped caring, and no it is not all better now. BUT, it is getting better. Here is how.
When I turned 14, I decided it was time I start learning real things on the piano. No more kid-oriented things that had no musical significance (in essence, or for me). I went to the music store and urged my mother to let me get a big lavender book of Frédéric Chopin's Complete Ballades, Impromptus & Sonatas. I had no idea what a Ballade, Impromptu, or Sonata was, and I can't remember if I even knew who Chopin was. I must have, or I wouldn't have been so interested in buying it. I opened the book and could not read a single line, even without being at the piano, but I knew that I MUST learn something out of it, even if it took me a century, I would do it. I bought it and took it home. I had just gotten a new piano for my birthday, (and I still love the shit out of that piano), so I was anxious to start playing some real music on it. The first piece in the big lavender book was Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23. To this day, it is my favorite piece of Chopin's music. I cannot find a single fault with it. I was able to play the first page no problem, and would often play it for my mother while she sat outside on the porch because it was just so beautiful. I remember turning the page and deciding to go ahead and tackle the whole thing - who would want to hear just the first page? I learned the second page, the third page, and then on the fourth page I realized that I had probably gotten really over my head. So I skipped pages four and five. Six wasn't quite as bad, so I picked that up as well, and while seven was tough I liked to pretend I could get through it. I went through the rest of the thirteen pages like this until I could safely say I "learned" this piece, for better or for worse. I played it every day, over and over again. I started at all different places, almost never the beginning, until I memorized virtually every single note in the entire piece (except, of course, pages four and five). I still have journals in which I documented my progress with the piece, writing how badly I want to learn the whole thing, how badly I want to memorize it and play it straight through by myself. I wanted to internalize the piece and be completely consumed by it. I bought a recording of the piece played by Ashkenazy or something and would sit with the score in my lap and turn it all the way up. I didn't know the terms with which one would describe the things Ashkenazy did with the music, such as rubato and rallentando or a tempo. I just took a pencil and wrote things like "nothing too fancy at first" and "some tone quality, but not full-force" and... what else... "bring this out" and "play fast" (I even wrote, literally, "take time plz" at one part) and notes saying to sing out the melody as if I were a singer. I was coaching myself to play the piece exactly like the recording. I was reminding a future-version of myself to play as I hoped someday to play. I was so encompassed by the piece, but there was always something missing. I had a few teachers hear me play it, and they never discouraged me but there were definitely some wrong notes that I had learned due to wanting to learn as much as possible over a short period of time. As I grew up, however, and moved to other pieces... I did stop playing it. I stopped opening up my big lavender book, I stopped spending hours on a single piece until my hands screamed for rest. I stopped drilling passages that I thought were simply IMPOSSIBLE to be conquered, stopped playing and re-playing sections that my hands were just not large or agile enough to handle. I moved on. Aside from some pieces that I do not care for, I barely played any Chopin again.
Now, three or four years later, I find that I am tired of learning piano music written by people who didn't understand the piano quite in the same way that Chopin did. Rachmaninoff, Brahms, Ravel, Bach. These are the composers to whom I have been dedicating nearly all of my creative and physical energies. I am not at all saying these are not amazing writers of piano music, but you have to admit, none of them can compare to Chopin. Rachmaninoff was a mystery, constantly searching. His music is never satisfied. It is an emotion. It is a nebulous, dark thing. Brahms' music is much the same way, slightly more pointed but still far from elegant or balanced. Ravel and Bach both wrote mathematically lovely pieces, their colors and harmonies incredibly gorgeous and sometimes highly complex and mystifying. AND YET, as a pianist, I had almost forgotten how utterly frustrating it was to play anything in the entire universe besides Chopin. His music does what you want it to do, it follows the natural flow of pianist expectation, and yet it does just the opposite. You are surprised, you are taken aback, you are confused, you are moved to exhaustion or breathless excitement or just plain melancholy. Whatever it is, there is nothing you can do but succumb to it.
I opened up my big lavender book and played through the Ballade, still skipping pages four and five because I have the rest of my life to learn those two goddamn pages. I am falling in love with Chopin's piano music again. Even though I stopped playing his music, I never stopped listening to it. It is not a perfect collection of music, his, and it's a well-known fact that his music is played and played and played and... played. All day, every day. Chopin piano music. But does anyone really understand it? Really, truly, honestly? I don't know the answer to that question. Anyway, yeah. This Ballade is magical. It clicks with me immediately, and I suddenly find myself immersed in a time where I never had to worry about all of the shit that occupies my mind nowadays. A carefree life where I thought for myself and existed completely inside myself. Fucking paradise. It was such an amazing feeling... And this is nothing new, I have known for a while that incredible things can lie in the pages of music long untouched. Entire memories are enclosed in the black-and-white print of manuscript, preserved almost perfectly, and when opened again (especially when you didn't even mean to) the experience is mind-blowing, shocking. I can't really explain it. It's a warm feeling, and I imagine my hair blowing in the wind or something.
AHH okay. I am learning the Ballade again, or rather fixing it up because my fingers' muscle memory has remained almost completely faithful, and those two pages are a piece of cake to me now. Maybe not quite, but very close. I have no worries about it, the whole piece seems much easier now that I have gotten through so much in the interval between now and when I first tried to learn it. By the end of the summer, I will have the Ballade down, and I will know it better than anyone alive or dead. The end.
Currently loving with ALL OF MY HEART:
Les Rallizes Dénudés
Ed Hall (<333333)
Frédéric Chopin - Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23 1 & Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op. 38
Sergei Rachmaninoff - Étude-tableau No. 8 in D minor, Op. 39 & Suite No. 2, Op. 17 for two pianos/four hands (focusing on 1st and 3rd movement)
Béla Bartók - Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm (No. 3)
J. S. Bach - Concerto No. 7 in G minor, S. 1058 for piano and orchestra
Claude Debussy - a bunch of random things
Schumann - Traumerei, just because it's incredibly lovely and dreamy
yes i'm quite busy with all of that but it keeps me happy, keeps me sane
no more brahms for quite a while
no more haydn, ever
Movies I want to see: Waking Life
still reading IQ84.