3 Strings & Beginner's Ear
Updated: May 29
Found somewhere amidst the silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic are the unexpected lessons that descend upon us at seemingly random, yet perfect, times. One such moment was when I received a text message from my friend, Tom, on May 18th at 11:49 a.m., with a link to a YouTube video and only the words, "A touching and inspirational story."
I made a mental note to return to the message when I had more time (2 minutes, 27 seconds, to be exact). When a friend sends me something like that, I prefer to wait until I have enough time to actually "pay attention." Two days later, I returned to the link...
If you've read a few of my posts, you may see certain themes in the tapestry of El Cap, one of which is a search for personal growth, meaning and betterment. I can always tell when something affects me-- whether it be a movie, interaction, person, gesture, nature, art , or moment in time-- it could be anything, really, when it stays with me and takes up permanent residence somewhere in my mind. The message from the link that Tom sent is one such example. Some of the best things in life are the ones we pass on to others, I theorize, and it is in this light that I share this link with you.
Here's to "...making magical music with what remains..."
Perusing The New York Times on a recent Sunday (one of my favorite indulgences), I came across a piece in the Arts section entitled, "Does Knowing What You're Hearing Matter?"
The author described a scene of confusion in the main concert stage at Carnegie Hall, during a piano recital performed by Yuja Wang, a world renowned pianist. Many in the audience squirmed uncomfortably when Ms. Wang announced that she would not necessarily follow the program of works as listed on their playbills:
"I firmly believe every program should have its own life, and be a representation of how I feel at the moment...I want to let the music surprise me. Please experience the concert with all of your senses and an open mind, and enjoy the ride.”
Imagine?! Somehow I don't think, "Cool! I'm down with that!" was a typical reaction in the audience. The author of the article describes his own experience as he decided to go with it and embrace Ms. Wang's avant-garde approach. He was rewarded in his decision, "hearing fresh resonances" that otherwise would escape him. Not all members of the audience shared that feeling, suffice to say. The author, a pianist himself, then relates the experience to a program created by one of his colleagues. In a program called "Beginner's Ear," the music program is based on a Zen concept of "Beginner's Mind":
"...an ideal in Zen that denotes a state of opening to the present moment, not encumbered by any mental construct, thinking, experience, preference or memories — things that can get in the way of us really, really engaging.”
Whether 'Beginner's Ear' or 'Beginner's Mind,' the concept is similar in music or in life, I think. Less is more, or at least less can be more, and that is part of the lesson. Perhaps the art of a life well-lived has to do with knowing the difference?
[The Times piece is here, and if you have a few minutes to listen and watch Ms. Wang's fingers float and dance across the piano's keys, I think you'll find her creations magical. And maybe you'll think, as one man did after Wang's recital, "Well, I didn’t know what she was playing, but it was all beautiful...”]