When I was ten I noticed a book on my
brother's shelf called Sophie's World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder. I thought, 'cool, a book with my name in the title, I should read it', obviously without any idea that it was to forever change the way I think, and ultimately the way I live. In chapter two, Albert Knox tells Sophie that most humans are buried in the fur of a (presumably elephantine) white rabbit which has just been pulled out of a hat by a magician. Philosophers are those who climb up the rabbit's hairs to stare into the magician's eyes and try to understand the workings of the 'trick'. Since reading that I've always tried to maintain perspective and to question life as if atop the hairs aboard the great rabbit of life(!)... This blog is a home for the (life-permitting) daily overspill of (copied, contradictory, inconclusive) thoughts, many related to music and being INFP and some decidedly not, from one little furry journey. Click here for the blog-warming post from Jan 1 2010, or 'follow' me below (and left a bit).

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Hit pause on 'perfection'

A music-specific continuation from Jan 26 ('The problems of an ideal rabbit'):

For me and many others, one of the main and eternal aspirations of a musician is to break down the physical and mental barriers to genuine expression. Last night, listening to my friends perform as I'm often lucky enough to do, I had a thought as to what one of these mental barriers might be.

When we play music, we have in our head a concept of the performance we want to create. To put this roughly in terms of Platonic idealism, we have a concept of the 'ideal' form of a piece which we then strive to reproduce in our material world of change. But too often I think live performance remains only a faint shadow of our ideal interpretation, because the latter plays in our mind in sync with and more loudly than the sounds we actually produce. And this is why listening back to our own recordings can be so illuminating and so disappointing; suddenly we're stripped of the comfort blanket that is the illusion that we're doing justice to our sound concept, and we're left naked with only the inferior product of this concept in the externally audible world.

So, aims for the next time I pick up my cello: 1. Turn down the volume or even hit pause on the 'ideal' performance in my head in order to truly listen to the living sound. 2. Be reassured that, in music, there are infinite versions of the ideal (so a work of music, as a concept abstract in the material world, can't strictly exist in Plato's world of ideas anyway). 3. Play loudly enough to be heard in Indonesia; surely one culture will find my tuning 'system' ideal.


  1. Bogmoose likes this very much.

    But he thinks we should be selective about turning down the volume so as not to lose sight of an (ever-changing) ideal too much, because we must still strive to play more beautifully and truthfully than we are humanly capable of.

    But yes, it is amazing how possible it is to think you really know how to listen to yourself, only to realise years later that there were always so many barriers in the way. Bogmoose fights the barriers with hearty determination and a large moose-stick.

  2. I focused on aim no. 1 playing Bach last night and suddenly started breathing more evenly and deeply. Result! Food for further posts I think.