musicians finding inspiration through other musicians

26 Jul

Yesterday, sitting at the back of the church congregation, I noticed two pianos positioned adjacent to each other. This certainly looked peculiar and fascinating, as I was curiously anticipating the musical feature. Already, I imagined a musical piece ready to take me off, up into the air towards the stairway of music heaven. In my mind, I thought of those child prodigies I once saw in a video. In that video, there was this family and all the children knew how to play the piano. In fact, they played on what I believe to be four pianos at once, periodically switching from piano to piano. Because once you see two pianos together, two musicians playing a duet, you expect hearing something similar to those child prodigies.

The two pianists played a familiar tune I’ve heard before, although I can’t recall the name or the composer of the song. By the end of the first two pages, I sat there minimally awed. I lost interest in hearing the song altogether. From the angle and the distance I sat from the stage, it looked as if one of the pianists would play until the page ended, stop, flip the page, while the other pianist took over by continuing the melodic sequence.  Once the pianist turned the page, the pianist would resume playing. The two pianists appeared to switch off and alternate on this play-while-I turn-the-page game. An illusion might have occurred for leading me to believe all this. From what I heard with my ears though, I didn’t think my eyes were deceiving me. And overall, this tune I recognized sounded more dissonant than I had remembered. Wrong notes from both pianists must have been played.

While I might be a critic reviewing the musical performance of these two pianists, God knows I have no place to judge these musicians. Much less, I have no place to judge another neighbour. I’ve had my own struggles of publicly performing in front of an audience. I’ve had my fair share of leading an entire church ensemble/orchestra off beat, playing wrong notes and doing almost everything possible for a musician to disgrace any song. As a new comer chorister for the church, I have no idea how to lead a hymn in 6/8 time. It seems I have less than a responsibility for learning 6/8 time, since I’m not playing the music and nobody in our church relies or pays much attention to the chorister. In leading 6/8 time, I had my hands waved in small and insecure circles, attempting to hide behind a hymn book. If there were any musically educated souls watching me (I think my previous piano teacher in the audience noticed my out of sync, off rhythm hands), they would have thought I’m the least musically inclined, talentless and offbeat simpleton with no musical training. And to me, that is falling beyond all words of disgrace. I am no one to judge.

My only expectations from the musical performance was to hear something brilliant, incredible, astonishing and life changing. There are musicians with a record deal, musicians performing live on stage and even street performing musicians who have quite literally blown me away to another dimension. These musicians have a musical talent, a radiance emitting from them that speak to me in whispers and joyously jumping shouts. After seeing and listening to these awe inspiring musicians, I am more motivated and determined. I am driven to practice my musical talents. It’s musicians like these that encourage me to continue practicing piano, guitar and singing. To me, this is what an amazing musician sounds like. The awakening call that maddens you to work harder musically and become some type or offset of amazing yourself.

Why there are such few musicians that make me feel this way is a question beyond my scope. I can’t seem to figure this one out yet. Is this a mind set I have set myself up for? Or is it true that there really are such few musicians left that leave other musicians hungry for more tunes, more meaning in music and constantly searching for a musical hero. What I do know is that I learn from every musician I personally know or have observed. I have indeed noticed that there is a lot of talent out there, both widely known and undiscovered. I have rejoiced in recognizing musicians who take me to the highest state of elation and wanting to become like them.

On such a rainy gray day like today, I listened to Elliott Smith. His song ‘L.A.’ sounds unconventionally happy for an Elliott Smith song in the first twelve seconds. And of course, he surprises his listeners by distorting the mood shortly by changing to a set of musingly unique, funky chords. Elliott Smith has always had a way for distinguishing himself with a certain eloquent sound, while also mastering an entire range of diversifying sounds. For now, I can’t collectively answer why there are such few musicians that take me to a higher level in another universe. I can, however have a sense of gratitude that for today, Elliott Smith has been my source of inspiration; he always has been and always will be my inspiration.

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