Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

Mastering a craft


I thought to share my musical journey within the pages of this blog. I can’t say that I shall do this regularly; I strikes me in doing so that several stones are killed with one bird. I get to develop my writings skills, it helps reinforce what I am learning, doing; it makes real the process itself, and, who knows, may inspire or encourage others. And, as the title of the post notes, I don’t think this is restricted to music, for those of you who look for relevance in them, the posts, which will be the topic of these posts.

I cannot promise that I will not be repetitive, redundant. Nowhere, I tell people around me, does it say in my contract as a human being that I have to be perfect, nor will I even try. Rather, the effort is to master the craft. Besides, few readers will have, or will follow every post on this subject. And so such imperfections will help bridge the gap between one of their readings and another. Or they might.

Again, the detectives among you who have, with eye glass in hand, followed with patience the strivings of this writer to write with clarity and precision, and often failing along the way, will recall that in South Africa, where I lived from January 1973, actually the first, until May of 1984 at which point I came to this benighted country to join a brother, that I studies music in its various forms; piano, singing, theory, history, at a time in my life when I was deeply depressed. This meant, as previously noted, that I failed to make any progress. 

But, and here is the rub. I retain all I learnt. Naturally, the knowledge and skills lie within me and have to be brought out of the closet and practiced brushed up.

To that end I am studying How to … Read Music by Mark Phillips. I have gobbled up the contents. it is all of 77 pages. I have Rudiments of Music on order from Brazos, my favourite bookshop, but that will take some time to arrive.

I never, ever make notes in the books I read – a story as to why told perhaps at another time. But with this book I am scribbling all over it. At a furious pace.

So I thought to share with you what I wrote on the title page inside a box I drew there. Actually I wandered out of the box, but that is the nature of the artist is it not.

What I wrote is:

At the end of the day, or its beginning, it is the  bond that is formed between the keyboard and the player that matters most, No knowledge or playing ability is a substitute for this. Without this bond, the playing will be lifeless and ultimately unlistenable to.

It follows, therefore, that bad playing, missed notes, hesitations in rhythm, will be forgiven and might even add charm to the performance. No audience for whatever form of music wishes it to be perfect. What, I think matters to them, is the passion and concentration the player brings to the playing, and a deep feeling for the music being played. That surely will have the audience leave having enjoyed the perromance and feeling that the concert or performance was well worthwhile attending. And might even have them wish to attend at a future date a performance by the same player.

Now, as I have previously said elsewhere, I have no pretentious of being a performer. To think for one moment that I can master the requirements of playing the piano, my preferred and favourite instrument, is beyond any realistic goal. The practice alone removes any possibility of that. And that is not what I am pursuing; my pursuit rather is to master the craft and gain more than enough knowledge required to compose in a manner sufficient at least to allow those who review my work and pronounce on it, and those who are tasked or choose to perform it, to understand the Dickens it is that I am saying in musical form.

And all these words, all this knowledge gained ,will be utterly useless should I not have the musical ability to at least match my ambitions. But such a thing is in God’s hand. I come with as little or as much as I have. It is for me to turn that ability into something which gives others pleasure. It matters not whether the results be simple or highly acclamed. Simple is what most people remember best of a piece of music. Complex, it seems to me, is reserved for resident composers on a sinecure at some campus somewhere.

Going back to the question of the relationship of the performer to the keyboard, and the audiences tolerance for infelicities, there is no substitute for rehearsal. For you had better know what you are doing. You cannot mix a cake in front of an audience, when you have promised, and they have paid, to watch you bake it.

So it is with a composer. It surely behoves the composer to present his work in a sufficiently form that the intended plays understand what it is he or she is trying to convey. That is the rehearsal required of those who step onto this path. The finished score must be what these pages are not,  letter perfect.

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 14 August, 2017

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Filed under: Arts, Media, Memoir, Music, poetry, songs, stories

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