If we are willing to listen, learn, and practice, everything that happens can be rehearsal for a better performance the next time. Musicians know this. We should all recognize it.
Being perfect isn’t the goal. Even being exactly the same each time isn’t it. Mechanically identical reproduction of an event or a feeling or an occasion is for machines; life is messier and more complicated and more artful than that and means we have to be ready to use all that we’ve learned in all of our rehearsals, combined in whatever way gets us the best result in the present moment. It means, too, that what is the best solution for that moment may not be reproducible or even desirable next time. A CD is a lovely evocation of memory but the live performance takes hold of us down to the soul in a very different way.
I want to become better at whatever I am. Some of the betterment may come fairly easily as I recognize more clearly what I am, as I grow older and have more experiences and find my way through more of my life’s journey, picking up clews as I go. More of it will happen, if at all, because I work hard to improve myself in one way and another.
There’s no guarantee that any given moment or event will find me at my best, or even that I will become the best version of myself that I am capable of being no matter how long I live. But I’ll certainly have a better shot at any of that if I commit to practicing.
Time was when I had a record player, a car radio, and a portable radio that all got cranked up pretty loudly. I’m sure my parents and co-workers and friends might have thought I’d gone deaf from listening to my favorite stuff at top volume, and possibly, mad from thinking of doing such a thing with even the most subtle and silky classical music. I think perhaps I did deafen myself a little, but that more likely was [ahem] situational deafness, the kind that causes young persons to lose the ability to hear and understand their parents, co-workers and friends, never mind their bosses. Even at my most ridiculous, I don’t think I managed to blast my records and radio devices as loudly as many of my peers did theirs.
Here I am, antique as I’ve grown, and very glad indeed that after all of that I can still hear the subtle and silky pianissimos of great singers and players, and yet I still do love to get my socks knocked off from time to time. What can be more exciting and energizing than a loud yet magically tuneful phrase belted out by a skillful symphony chorale or fabulous gospel choir when the text demands such dynamics? I can sit in the back of the rehearsal hall and just plain hug myself for happiness when the whole group gets to that gorgeous blastissimo peak of the piece. I love to hear that pulsing, pounding joy when a pianist or organist puts the pedal to the proverbial and actual metal for the topmost moment of a blues riff, a prelude and fugue, a smashing concerto. If it peels back my scalp just a little, who am I to complain when the music is so potent! A few paltry hairs off my head are small sacrifice for the great pleasures of blessedly blasting music.As long as it’s good, well executed, and thrilling, loudness is not such a bad thing. It might even drown out some of the sadder sounds of the day if we let it. Children who have not yet learned the meaning of the phrase ‘indoor voice’ can exhaust us, but at times in their own boisterous ways they can simply fill us up with welling gladness by chirping to test the sound of their own voices in a large empty space, by squealing with amazement at beauties we’ve forgotten to appreciate, by shouting our names too loudly because we are all the way across the room and they love us so. How can we not love, too, the sounds of finely honed music in all of its patterns and rhythms and tones when they spin into vortices of loud celebration!