Today I woke up with the appetite of writing an article on a subject that has caught my attention deeply this last week.
Long periods of musical abstinence
It is frustrating but it is also a reality, in this XXI century we are tortured with long periods of pianistic abstinence. Mainly forced by our everyday life. We are thrown into the mouth of boredom. We are submerged in administrative tasks, repetitive teaching (when students just don’t study) or musically unrelated, though imminent, matters.
Those periods of abstinence produce two very different effects:
1. they make us feel distant from music;
2. they make us musically anorexic. Yes, anorexic!
We feel so incapable of reaching our standards in the immediate future that we rather not even try... We think: well, maybe I should just commit to work for my bread and butter and forget what is actually my real bread and butter! Good news for us pianists, this syndrome doesn’t stick to our minds as strongly as we might believe. I realised that as soon as we forced ourselves into feeding, we sooner rather than later pick the taste for it again.
Coming back to this concept of eating music, I would like to emphasise the fact that memorization plays a rather decisive role in the level of satisfaction achieved from getting back into music. When we learn a piece by heart, difficult as sometimes this is, we get all the substance of it embedded in our thoughts. The full piece structure, if well learnt, feeds our neural connections, it finds a place within our brain and it settles. It becomes a quick-access-source of information and it increases our awareness about all the musical matters the piece in question travels through.
When I was a composition student, I always remember how easy it was for me to understand and put into practice the theory of musical form. This didn’t happen because I was particularly well-read on musical bibliography, this happened because I had many piano sonatas living within my mind. Therefore, my intuition was passively, or maybe very actively -who knows-, developed.
The act of memorising music is what I call, eating scores.
Why? Mainly because it is the best way in which we can feed our brain with the musical matter. The musical matter with all its eccentricities and inexplicable meta content. Each one of us memorised in a different way and by doing it we create relationships between concepts, between motives, between phrases. We find explanations that make the music we are eating compact and palpable. We create an abstract, but at the same time, a concrete object that exists within the boundaries of our active imagination. If we are truly eating a score, we are also digesting it. When we do so it becomes a part of ourselves. It is the ultimate learning experience, we incorporate a bit of someone else, we make a part of someone else the composer, our very own organ.
Of course, this is not an easy task, we might not be able to do this properly on request and with a fixed deadline. Each piece takes its own time to settle in our brain. It’s as if it made our brain its home, we can’t really push the process that much, nevertheless we can assist it by being consistent. It is a beautiful process that we shouldn’t suffer, on the contrary, we should enjoy. It is a trip into another dimension, it is a trip into a universe that we create around the piece we are learning; full of imaginary references to our visual and emotional world. By memorising a piece we are creating a story that only “We” know, that only “We” can read and which very existence depends on our constant and regular musical feeding.