Measure for Measure – Being right where I am

I had a recital last weekend. We played the first movement of the Schubert Cello Quintet.  It’s a monster of a piece. Intricate, with interwoven lines, each part rife with technical difficulties. And it’s 15 minutes long–if you don’t take the repeat.

The real challenge of the Schubert Quintet is focus. You have to be present in the music, every single measure.  There is no looking ahead, or mulling over past mistakes. You have to be exactly where you are, because if you’re not, your ensemble is toast.

I’m a worrier. I worry about my kid. I worry I won’t publish my novel. I have always been this way. I worried about my job. I worried about my grades. I probably had my own copy of “What to expect” as a baby and checked my progress against expected milestones to make sure I was on track.

To no one’s surprise, I was worried about the recital.

The beauty of chamber music is that you aren’t alone. I have a group, and I trust that group more than I trust myself.  I know they are there and will be there for me at every point. It’s mutual. So I did what I had to do. I ceded control to the music.

I’m not going to say the performance was magical. Nor was it the best we’ve ever played. It was, however, the calmest I have ever been before, during, and after a performance. Why? Because I had no choice.

Usually, my focus is only 1/3 on the present. 1/3 is kicking myself over stuff I can’t change, and 1/3 is worrying about the mistakes I haven’t made yet.  The Schubert has no room for it. It demands 100%.

What would life be like if it was more like the Schubert? If I didn’t brace myself for every screw up, prepared to defend myself afterwards. If I acted more than I evaluated or anticipated? I don’t know if I’d get more writing done, or play more in tune, but I’d sleep better. I really like sleeping.

So thanks, Franz. It’s one heck of a mantra. Hope you won’t mind if I skip the repeat.

p.s. The link is not my quintet. It is the Kontras quintet, and unlike their first violin, I am not a dude.It’s what we sound like in my memory. I have a vivid imagination

Words by J. B. Everett

Music – Schubert String Quintet in C Major – Kontras Quintet

8 comments on “Measure for Measure – Being right where I am

  1. Joda Coolidge says:

    Well done and very inspirational for others to live by. I trust that many, if not all can relate to the message. hugs!

  2. Chris Saip says:

    If you don’t prepare for every screwup, and act more than evaluate or anticipate, you’d be….well, ME~! At least a younger me!

  3. Veronica Roth says:

    I love, LOVE Schubert, especially Trio in E flat. It’s my go to calm music. You know, I’d make the best audience because I can’t hear notes so can’t tell musical mistakes, (unless they’re those tone-def performers on American Idol, but that’s not hard). But I know about your worry gland. I have one too. My emotional side is waaayyy too dominant for anyone’s good. I wrote a post about that back in April and figured something out: when the intelectual side of my brain meets the emotional, in…say…painting, they cancel each other out and I find that ballance point that I guess you find when you play Schubert.

  4. Just lovely — writing and music. I sat with my eyes closed while listening. (Opened them to read!)

  5. Lara Britt says:

    “It’s what we sound like in my memory. I have a vivid imagination”…What a coincidence! Because that’s exactly how you sound in my imagination. Thank you for that!

  6. elissa field says:

    Beautifully said! You cracked me up with the What to Expect line — what a perfect picture of a worrier. The music is lovely — I’ve had a post-divorce craving to learn to play the cello, so your words and the music were a vicarious pleasure!

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