Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shakespeare is my therapist

From the Mailbag

I just don't understand why some readers felt my last post, about the disintegration of voice technique, was exaggerated. In one quadrillion years -- no, one quintillion -- I would never admit to being an exaggerator.

Anyhow, onward ...


There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. -- Hamlet

In my opinion, there were three things that were lacking in my education, although only the first was actually available to me.

1. I wish I had learned to read all seven clefs, for ease of score reading and transposition (and reading those bloody Breitkopf & Härtel Bach scores). The conservatory did teach this skill in its more advanced solfège classes.

2. It should have been required -- required -- to speak German and French fluently. I mean fluently. The two most important languages for any musician, even moreso than Italian.

3. There should have been a required course that fully explained the greatest passages and one-liners of one William Shakespeare.

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Do you realize that roughly 99.5% of the world's problems would be solved if we all could grasp this?

Think about it: the events in your life that have bothered you, even scarred you -- were you hurt by the events themselves, or by how you felt about them? Is a man hurt by being short, or by being afraid that no one would ever want to marry a short man? Is a musician hurt by making music in a non-trendy way, or by the fear of alienation because of the music-making? Is a country hurt by being powerful, or by thinking that because it's powerful, it must act a certain way?

Looking back at my teenage years (when I knew everything), I positively refused to genuflect before the musical authority -- an authority racked with insecurity, with disingenuousness, with subservience to the mainstream managers, competitions, and recording labels. Today (no longer in command of the "everything" that I once knew), I wonder what would have happened if I made music the exact same way, not playing or writing even one note differently, but if simultaneously I befriended the more influential faculty members. By nature, conservatory professors are insecure -- for what eight-year-old kid ever said, "When I grow up, I don't want to play an instrument: I want to teach OTHERS how to!"? Had I only played on the insecurity of the department heads, starved for validation as they were, maybe other inroads would have opened up before me.

But then I think about my teens, and I realize: that is not the human being that I was. I am not that type of game-player. I am not that person. What point is there to wonder about what it would have been like to be another person? Why should a tall woman wonder about what it would be like to be short? Instead, all she has to do is to stop thinking about what her height means. A dog never asks, "What if I had been a cat?" That's why dogs don't have shrinks. They don't worry about whether or not they are "good."