West Virginia is snowed in – 15 inches and climbing! Here in the mountains, it sure is a beautiful sight. As my fellow West Virginians like to say –it’s “almost heaven.” And they are so right.
And what a great day to hunker down! I make my way to my studio (not an easy feat with 15 inches of snow to plow through) and take a seat at the piano. I am blessed- my piano studio looks out to the mountains- great inspiration for any piano player -and today these mountains are covered with snow and look especially peaceful- not as rugged as usual.
No distractions for serious work! I remember so well that when I was a child, I always loved rainy days- the perfect time to practice, explore and to play at the piano. Actually, now it’s no different. The outside world is on hold but my composer “friends” are just as active as ever.
I have been practicing “Out of Doors” by Bartók in preparation for our new CD release party. I recorded it a few years ago in the hot summer month of August but now looking out the windows of my studio, the perspective with cold white snow on the ground seems to fit this music even better. Bartók would have been inspired by the aftermath of this blizzard- it sure adds a different dimension to the chase finale at the end of the piece but that’s definitely not an excuse to slow down the tempo!
What I always find so amazing is the process of relearning and rediscovery. We work on a piece of music, strive to get it up to performance level, perform it in concert and then usually put it away for a while, and it seems to “hibernate” and mature on its own. We pull it out again- relearn it from “scratch” as if it were a new work even though it is stored somewhere in our physical and mental memory and voilà- it miraculously takes on a different character. We see things we hadn’t noticed before- we concentrate on an entirely different level- we focus and peel away even more layers than we were able to hear before. This has been true with my journey with Bartók’s masterpiece but couldn’t this be true of any piece of great music! The more we grow, the more we are able to bring to these great composers. We are never finished- the music is always alive and constantly growing like a living organism!
I always talk about going under the notes for the deeper meaning. I guess I could also say rising above the notes- not being bogged down with the technical problems of the music so that we can actually hear what the composer is trying to communicate and grasp the larger picture. Our job is to free ourselves from the notes and the details, once we master them, so that the music has the freedom to soar and take on a life of its own- only then can the magic begin to happen. How blessed we are to have a job where our work is never finished – it only keeps getting better!!
And that is the joy of rediscovery! It doesn’t matter how well we play, we can always go deeper- we are never finished with this marvelous journey! That is a gift that we have been given as musicians with a passion for what we do.
Enjoy this beautiful and peaceful time before the snow melts and spring arrives!!