Saturday, November 03, 2007

Conquering the Disease

Ever hear of that hidden disease that can thrive for years in musicians' brains? It can become well entrenched in time, and very cleverly avoids detection by its carrier. The smoke screen is, "Don't think too much or you'll come down with an acute case of paralysis-through-analysis." We soon become convinced that trying to perfect minute details is a waste of time. Too much attention to all of those tiny specifics just might kill the spirit of our performance. Don't distract me with things I don't hear. Besides, it takes time and it's fatiguing. I'm just going to breathe, blow, and try to get through it, we claim.

Some truth lies in that argument. After all, the big picture is our concept of the forest, not the leaves. Maybe the don't-bother-me-with-details approach works for the one-in-a-thousand who is so gifted and instinctive that he never needs to work out problems. But it's likely that such a cavalier nonchalant trumpet player never existed, although we are supposed to convince ourselves and the audience otherwise. Carefree playing demands a lot of careful work.

To think that great trumpet playing will just eventually happen is like thinking that skyscrapers will just appear. Every polished product was first a work in progress. The building of a Petroushka, a Pictures, or a Mahler 5 is like a construction job site. Every piece must be cut, crafted, and fitted exactly according to the blue-print. Enjoying the finished product depends upon precision. Quality control must happen at all stages en route to performance. Everywhere you turn, labor over details happened. The building of effortless, accurate trumpet playing doesn't develop over night. Each facet takes time, and requires the effort of a detail guy, you.

Assembling a nice ballerina's dance requires that each phrase be perfected. It is possible. There aren't that many notes, only 163 to be exact. We just lack the mindset to break it apart, clean it up, and begin the slow process of putting it together. If hard-hat guys in construction can do it, why can't trumpet players?

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