One person responding to John Holt (American author and educator) beginning cello lessons at age 58, ruefully noted: "(I just took up the cello) but at age 62 I fully realize this will be my last attempt at learning to play a musical instrument."
"Last"? No other chance in life to take up an instrument? Why so? He did not explain.
I've heard or read about a number of people saying "I always wished I could play the piano." And then they never did anything about it. If so, they either
(1) don't mean it, which is fine (and inspired my below poem "Values") --
(2) or they do mean it, and then that becomes a tragedy. "Where there is a will -- there is a way."
I re-started piano lessons at age 76 -- and never looked back. It just came to me that I must do that, exactly then. I had no choice in the matter, same with writing poetry. Poetry writes me, just like music plays me.
It is that kind of intuitive, often instantaneous "knowing" and "feeling" of passion and the proper action to take that I most appreciate about being alive. I can't think of anything better (other than, perhaps, a hot shower!).
I wonder if life is long enough for us to wait and never discover what truly moves us, what emanates from the deepest core of who we know and think we are, what brings us the keenest pleasure? Sure, we sometimes or often set aside our desires in mid-life, and lucky is the person who finds true or constant pleasure in what they do to earn a living. But in later years when a "job" becomes less front-and-center, who then sets deadlines to take up the cello or piano? Who told us we could not do it, or would fail, or would never, ever have another chance?
And in any case, what is failure -- or success?
The best definition I've run into, concerning adult students, is William Westney's, that success boils down to just one key factor: adventurousness.
Yet and still, failure and success don't even seem to be relevant concepts if we do not play the piano to make a living, so why bother to define failure or success, or even think about them? Why can we not just live in the middle of an experience itself and acknowledge the wisdom of and pursue a deep intuition, and without applying labels to them?
I'm reading music teacher William Wesney's book "The Perfect Wrong Note" (recommended by a student colleague in Noa Kageyama's "Psych Essentials" class; thanks Rashmi!). I'm finding value, but even Wesney does not see the dangers of touting value judgments of "best." Westney cites with approval J.M Thorburn* who said about sharing our "mud-pies" (musical playing) with others, that "life is at its best."
I beg to differ.
Life is at its best -- precisely when there is no "best."
I don't want or need to share my music-making, because I play from the love of music and the pure personal pleasure of joining The Duchess to create and express my feelings and voice through sound and touch. I am supremely happy when I use my body and soul sitting on the piano bench making gorgeous sounds in harmony with The Duchess. When my partner, or a visiting friend, or even my kitties sit or lie down under my piano or next to me (Prince seems to enjoy it!) and find peace or beauty in the sounds I produce, that is only icing on my cake -- but not the cake.
Speaking of...that gorgeous cake pictured above being cut and about to be served at my fall birthday party, is the St. Honore's Italian wedding or birthday cake. Just before that I read my below poem "The Full Monte", most recently resonated to by personable, talented young singer, composer, and harpist Amy Ahn (pictured below after performing at a Groupmuse concert in December). She also resonated to my former blog on the creativity and likely insanity ("wheels hanging over the edge") of artists!
I only hope in a coming long, successful musical performance career that Amy never forgets first to delight in being in love with music, then making music -- and then in sharing music with others.
*I had to track down this quote to find the author; "J.M. Thorburn, as quoted by Susanne K. Langer, "Philosophy in a New Key "(1941)" cited here. I still do not know who Thorburn is, so if any reader can enlighten me, I would appreciate it.
VALUES (from Vol II "Poetical Musings")
What we value is what we do– it’s never what we say.
This I learned a long time ago, as sure as the light of day.
So when I read Gregerson’s book,* she got it wrong I knew,
to ask the question: what do you like that hasn’t been ruined by you?
For what we value (the same as love) is exactly how we behave.
Judge a person by how they treat a person from the trades,
and seldom listen to just the words that usually are just clack;
’tis only promise when we speak, but reality when we act.
*From Linda Gregerson’s poem “Not So Much an End as an Entangling,” in Canopy.
THE FULL MONTE (from Advance Readers Copy Vol III "Poetical Musings")
Don’t offer me a bone when I want a full steak.
Don’t give me some sprinkles when I ordered a cake.
Don’t grant me a nod or a sideways glance
when I want the "full Monte* if you’ll just take the chance.
Don’t dance me a pavanne then hold me at bay
when what I yearn for is a tango today.
I’ve little time left to dilly about,
and no time to waste in muffling my shout
not speaking my piece in fair weather or foul:
for outrageous fun I’m always on the prowl.
So join me–or not, it’s your choice to make --
but for the rest of my life? I’ll choose the whole cake !!
* The most common theory for the origin of this phrase is that a purchase
(especially that of a full three-piece suit) from Montague Maurice Burton.
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