Sometimes you need to go into nature, get away from the phones, the cars, and even other people. As I head into the Maine woods for two weeks for a conducting retreat, I'm excited to focus on music--generally divorced from the non-musical aspects that can consume us. I went once before into the Maine woods and returned invigorated and recharged. Some alone time with Brahms, Beethoven, or whatever music might be on your mind helps melt away the layers of jade and shade that accumulates.
When you see someone who has been truly touched by a musical experience, music moves into a realm beyond strategy, business, and artisanship. It becomes something so tenderly human and personally unique because the listener has started attaching personal memories and feelings to it. The music is just a vehicle for those evokations and emotions. Creating the best vehicle requires us to play our best, for us to invest ourselves in it. The mixture of ourselves with the listener makes the music nothing less than distilled humanity. It’s perhaps the opposite of divine--but attains deep meaning to both musicians and audience.
There’s a lot of work we avoid--the stuff that’s hard, annoying, tedious for sure. But also the stuff that’s meaningful to us, the things we’re afraid to get wrong. We avoid both of these to our-and the world’s detriment. The annoying, tedious work helps us build patience. The meaningful work--we know why it matters, which is why it’s meaningful. In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz talks about when he started to do boxing. His teacher told him that instead of avoiding the hits, he had to learn to love getting hit. It seems like this is true across life.
Does your ensemble move something deep within you? If not, it’s an opportunity to search for and do something that does deeply move you--and your audience. Music’s deep roots in human culture makes anything less a shame.
I’ve just recently come off of an extended touring season with a few organizations. It doesn’t seem to matter what field you’re in--military musicians, high-end classical musicians, and even kids seem to go after that difficult-to-describe high point of performance where true music connects with real audiences. We don’t always achieve it, but we strive for it.
Becoming jaded means that we’ve become frustrated with that search for more--maybe we don’t think it’s possibly anymore. Or maybe we are having a hard time connecting with others. Overcoming this might mean that we have to go back to basics and think about why we perform in the first place--and doing a performance that matters to both us and an audience (whoever that might be).