Friday, October 12, 2007
I'm at a point in my life where I shouldn't really have to do anything I don't want to. At least I no longer have to get up and drive all those miles to a job I detest. I really don't have to answer to anyone (except the tax man, of course), anymore.
After a lifetime of subservience in one fashion or another - to bosses, corporations, creditors, advertisers, "the man", and so on - I don't think I've been able to fully let go of that sense of obligation (or maybe it's guilt). I still get up every morning at 5:30 to slog away on the treadmill before getting Z off to school. In fact I wore out my old treadmill and had to buy a new one last week. I still have to try to control what I eat (not too successful with this one).
But my real subservience is to that cello. Why do I subject myself to this daily humiliation of trying to do something so impossibly difficult, and doing it so badly that it sometimes even hurts to listen?
I suppose I'm getting better, of course, but this process of improving involves listening daily to that screech on those upbow Es and Fs, or that howl when I get close to that wolf, or those flubbed shifts, or those fingers that refuse to go where I tell them to or to land in their proper sequence - even after weeks of slow repetitive practice.
I came off the concert last weekend feeling somewhat adequate, if not completely pleased with my performance. More than once since that night though, I've wondered what made me think I was ready to sit down in front of 275 of our most avid local musical aficionados - and show them just how poorly I play the cello. In reality we didn't do that badly for a trio that included two novices, but I *know* where I messed up...
I've still got more than 8,500 hours of practice to go before I reach that magical 10,000 hour goal, another 12 years. I suppose that somewhere along the way, I'll cross some threshold and at least begin to appreciate my own sound.
What's puzzling is that I've never really done anything before where I felt so inadequate - incompetent, really.
In school, I knew I was fully capable of making A's, and if/when I didn't it was due to laziness, not incompetence. Same thing with work. All those years, I always felt more than competent - quite confident actually - to do whatever I was doing. Of course there were scary moments, such as when I had to give a presentation to a crowd of more than 100 experts in my field and persuade them to support my cause (whatever it was at the time). But even that was nothing compared to this...
Oh, yeah, there was also that first day I walked into the offices of that Argentine oil company to start my new assignment as one of their local managers, when I didn't know a word of their language. Obviously, I had to learn Spanish pretty darn quickly. But even then, I was confident that I could pull it off. (Just as I did begin to succeed in that challenge, the price of oil dropped so low that our joint-venture project was canceled, and I had to come home.)
Back to the present, though...
It's just another temporary low point - I know - as before. Earlier this week, I was feeling pretty good about my cello's sound. I was playing through my pieces pretty smoothly. I was isolating and practicing the tough parts and making progress.
Then this morning our first snow fell; only an inch, but.... I detest winter, so this was not a good day.
When I sat down to play, all that satisfaction from earlier this week was gone. **cringing, even now, remembering the power of that elusive wolf** Nevertheless, I slogged away, playing slowly and trying to focus on the issues, trying to overlook the quality of the sound. I did have some success working on the Scherzo...
Afterwards, I took off the Jargar A and replaced it with the Larsen A that I had used briefly this summer. It's not supposed to be as bright as the Jargar, and I'm hoping it will be play a little easier tomorrow.
Despite the negativity today, I do know how fine that cello can sound. I also know that there are days (not enough) when I can make it sing and I know that all the masochism and humiliation are worth it. Someday these good days will outnumber the bad ones.
You might be surprised just how many really talented musicians I know that have no self-esteem. It seems silly to a lot of people since I've reached a relatively high level after 14 years, the last 4 of which I've done nothing but cello, but I still feel incompetent. Every lesson leaves humbled, especially since my current teacher was principal in a major orchestra when he was 23. So you aren't alone. :)
I have never worked so hard at something and still feel so inadequate. It's humbling but I've come to think that maybe the things I've tried in life weren't that hard. I had expectations when I started...and generally, they were met if I tried to live up to them.
With the cello - no. I am a slave this thing!
Here are some things my teacher have said that has helped:
1) Keep expectations in check. As you improve, so will your ear so even though you have made great strides, you may not hear it because you expecting so much more.
2) This stuff takes HOURS. When we hear musicians, we rarely hear about the number of hours they have devoted to creating the music.
3) This stuff is not about daily improvements. You will make strides in months, sometimes years.
We are behind the cello because we have a love for the instrument and the sound. Keep that in mind!!
Sorry for the long comment but I have just started to seeing some light after feeling weeks of frustration with my practice as well....hope this helps you a bit.
PS - You know where you messed up in your performance but I bet you the audience did not. You gave them good music! End of story :)
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