Thursday, September 15, 2011

Balancing, blending, and controlling thin air

                As I sit in my room, surrounded by binders filled with handouts on the Renaissance, scribbled notes on geometry, a biology textbook, and dressed in a volleyball shirt I was too lazy to change out of, I remember how important balance is. Blogging in the summer and spring, when my afterschool life isn’t occupied by a sport, is a frequent thing. I’m grateful for this. Now, it’s definitely more difficult to find an adequate gap of time to update. We’re truly living in the 21st century when an article posted a month ago seems severely in the past.
                Balance, in society, is often sought through the different aspects of life. We go to school, we have jobs, we play sports, we have friends and family, we have hobbies and the things that keep us going. Often, we are encouraged to separate these. We don’t have work interfering with family, we don’t have our hobbies interfering with work. There are definitely moments where we have to combine the aspects of our life, but that usually doesn’t happen—we have certain realms that we reside in, and those stay separate a lot of the time. But a different, and often very refreshing, thing about music is the singular aspects of a piece all have to be merged into one collective idea. Sure, we can feel relief when we organize things into different categories. But sometimes, when I’m sitting at the piano, figuring out how to merge the notes on the page with the overwhelming story of the piece, it’s revitalizing.
                I’m currently learning Ravel’s “Alborada del Gracioso,” and it’s obvious where the separate “subjects” come in. I have to learn the notes. I have to work on the accents. I have to work on the overall playfulness of the piece. In a separate realm, I have to see how Ravel meant for “Alborada” to fit into the rest of “Miroirs” and how the first note will relate with the last. But, unlike a lot of society demands, music is a time when it’s imperative to mix different worlds into one cohesive thing. I’m not only practicing a part to make my skills better, or to gain a better understanding of the piece. Without the one part I could be practicing at any given time, the piece would not be itself. This vast dependency on each musical characteristic of a piece makes the result—the entire, working piece—seem like magic, only we know exactly what’s going on. A piece of music and life might not be the exact same thing (that could be debatable), but having control over the balance of an infinite number of small nuances is a triumphant feeling.
                The perspective on the cohesiveness of music can be shifted as well. When we play music, or even just listen to it, there is a sense that it has a mind of its own, that it resides in the air around us and is simply lifted to recognizable registers by the artists. This feeling also requires a sort of balance and blending. To see some pieces of music in this way, one has to feel a sense of balance with the sound. When music seems to exist naturally, that’s when separate worlds that humans are involved in disappear, in a sense.
                Tomorrow, I’ll go to school. Then I’ll go to volleyball practice. I’ll come home, do some homework, and maybe go out with friends. In society, those are all different worlds that we have been taught to separate in our brains and not intersect. But perhaps I’ll come home and play some Ravel. The markings that he made on the page will show me how to intersect all the worlds that he has created with his piece. And, if I can let these worlds meet, the sound waves that Ravel set out into the world will surface, partially from my fingers, partially from thin air. 

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