Monday, December 26, 2005


Imposing order on chaos with music

Chaos is the maelstrom of what we don't yet understand, and what we don't yet even percieve.

Long before "life" as we know it existed, nature was creating itself out of chaos; beginning with the transformation of entropy into energy, then harnessing that energy into matter in the form of particles, then atoms, then molecules, etc.

Each step in the process builds more complexity into the equation.

Chaos is eroded by our imposition of order on the world.

Building on what has been done before us, we create reality out of chaos.

Scientists use their theories and experiments to draw strands of understanding out of the unknown.

Authors write their own pieces of reality and populate them with stories.

Philosophers dream up explanations to help us understand reality.

Engineers find applications for new ideas.

Artists create visual images of reality.

Musicians create reality with sounds.

Playing music, well - learning to play music and every once in a while almost getting it right - is my way of bringing a tiny bit of order out of the chaos around me. For just a moment or two I can lose myself in my music...

I'm obsessed with my cello. If I could, I'd play it all day, I think. But after an hour and a half or so, I run out of steam and stop hitting the right places, and I have to put it aside.

Right now I'm playing from three books, all at the same approximate level. Each day I vary the emphasis and routine between the three of them. Usually I focus on two sets and then just run chords for a while. Now, I'll also add some time experimenting with harmonics.

I have a good musical memory. I recognize every tune I've ever liked. If I don't like a tune, I won't remember it unless I hear it over and over again. Once in a while I can play out one of these memorized tunes for the first time without having seen a score. Just some of the basic ones.

Today I started a new piece that I think I've never heard before, so I didn't have a feel for how it was supposed to sound. Using a pencil I marked each string change and any unexpected position. Then I started playing on one line at a time, slowly working out each measure and then putting the measures together, one by one, into a cohesive tune. I'm not finished with it yet, but it's interesting figuring it out and then commiting to memory not only the tune, but how to play it.

Looking ahead in my book, "The Art of Cello Playing", by Luis Potter Jr., I see so much learning / work yet to come. It's pretty intimidating. Yet, I can already look back and see what I've accomplished in just 4 weeks. Enough to know that even if I never quite get "there" as a cellist, I'll enjoy the process.

I want to talk with other cellists who are in the same situation as me, about starting later in life, working without a teacher, yet being enthused and willing to devote a lot of time and energy to learning.

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