Saturday, February 17, 2007

Working with Music

It’s funny how you learn little things about yourself sometimes. Little things that kind of seem obvious, to you, or to anybody else, maybe, after learning them. But we can only muddle through life at whatever pace the combination of mind, matter and luck give us. I learned a little something about myself this week, and I hope the preceding sentences haven’t implied that this is something momentous or of great import. Or of any interest to anybody.

This little mundane thing I learned is that I work better to music. Not all jobs in all situations, of course, but jobs that require me to plow through something, where I’m in my own space, not interacting with others, not too creative but possibly challenging or intellectual…The reason this is interesting to me is because of my distractable, ADD’ish nature – you might think that having music on would be quite distracting, and I always thought so too. But I underestimated the power of distraction. I find that if I’m sitting at my desk slowly working through some kind of project that is not exactly a thrill a minute, my mind goes kind of crazy looking for input, some kind of stimulation, so I get up and pretend to do something else, try and think of questions to ask a co-worker, muse endlessly on what I want for dinner, look something up on the internet, goof off, and so I work in fits and starts. I work quickly and well when I apply myself, so I do get things done. But if I put music on…then there’s that little input, stimulation, there, present, for me to dip into for a few moments, to occupy that unused back portion of my brain as I move through the pages…so yes, the music distracts me, but I stay at my desk. Giving me the chance to be mildly distracted in kind of an ongoing, ambient manner allows me to keep myself from the greater distractions resulting from utter boredom and the need to fill a silent void, and I get more done.

Does this make sense? I don’t know. I’m mostly speaking of my experience of the last few weeks when I’ve been working on a large task of a repetitive nature involving hundreds of pieces of paper, shuffling them and writing things down on them, then transferring those thoughts to some sort of numerical/inventory computer jobbie. I started bringing in CD’s, mostly classical chamber works, and it’s been a lifesaver.

Okay, enough of this rambling. Have I told you I love my new violin? I really do, and I love feeling motivated to practice, and to listen and understand new music. I’ve been listening to Bartok’s 44 Duos for two violins, written in large measure as a pedagogical work, starting from simple and moving to difficult, covering many types of rhythms and melodies, tempos and forms. Many of these duos are under a minute, and few are longer than two minutes. Despite their teaching purpose, these are wonderful character works, covering an immensely wide expressive range, and compressing wonderfully developed musical thoughts and emotions into these incredible little snapshots. Furthermore, listening to them has not only inspired me to play them, it has inspired me to venture again into a bit of composition. Works like these would be a great place to start and experiment. I know the violin, duos would give me greater range, small pieces would allow me to experiment with an easier sense of commitment, trial and error, and I’ve always wanted to explore ‘real’ new music for students and amateurs, a niche extremely undeveloped in the twentieth-century plus world of classical music.

Okay, I’m moving on now. These are just some idle thoughts on a Saturday night. For those who have enjoyed my bird postings in the past, my apologies. I haven’t done much birding recently, but will certainly do some again. Maybe I’ll head up to Plum Island this weekend.

Then again, maybe I’ll stay home and practice my violin.

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