Thursday, July 18, 2013

Washing Away The Dust

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." -Berthold Auerbach

I can't remember exactly where or when I first heard this quote. I had forgotten all about it until recently when I pulled out a notecard from an old journal and was reacquainted with these words, written in my own handwriting. I think I must have written this quote down when I was in college and put it up on my bulletin board. I do that only with quotes that are meaningful enough to have a real effect on me every time I look at them.

And this one surely fits that bill. When I was feeling drowned in the stress and anxiety that always comes my way as I prepare for major performances, this quote would remind me why I was doing this. It would give me strength and force me to keep my perspective open and wide, to remember the joy that comes from making myself vulnerable and sharing my music (sharing my heart and soul, really).

This quote is true for me. And I've been re-discovering that in an entirely new way over the past few weeks. I had been feeling lost, musically, to be quite frank about it. I'm a year out of graduate school and there's been a nagging feeling in the back of mind--feelings of guilt (am I doing enough?) and doubt (how can I fit into the very real, very competitive world of classical piano?) and fear (that old fear, the anxiety, the discomfort I've never been able to shake when it comes to my playing). I've been feeling lost because, for the first time in 6 years, I haven't been surrounded by other musicians, other students pursuing the same hard path. It's isolating to live in a place where your art isn't well understood, yet I realize that I need to become better at forging my own way despite it all.

But over the last few weeks I've felt so reinvigorated. I still don't know any other classical musicians in our area, I haven't totally swallowed those doubts and fears, but I have my music, and it's been doing wonders for me. I'm playing Bach, every day, an exquisite arrangement of one of his most cherished pieces, and not just playing but practicing. It doesn't matter, right now, that I'm not working on it for a specific performance. It's washing away the dust.

I'm working on a Schubert Sonata, one of the ones that poured from his fingertips in the last months of his too-short life, one that wasn't even published until a decade after he died. Yesterday I was sight-reading Chopin Preludes, and decided this one would be a perfect new piece for one of my students. I've been moving my fingers, I've been absorbing sound, I've been relishing in the joy that comes from being able to pick up a score and just play. What Patrick Dunne, in his piece that I recently shared, describes as "doing what the composer once did at the height of his creative genius, thinking what he thought, feeling what he felt, knowing what he knew, moving as he moved, breathing as he breathed, creating what he created."

I still have a long way to go on this path to figuring out my life in music. But for now, these magical works have been joyfully washing away the dust and cleansing my soul, and I couldn't be more thankful.

p.s. Today's the last day! Leave a comment on this post to enter my Favorite Things Giveaway. The winner will be announced tomorrow morning. Thank you all!


  1. This is lovely, Kate! Studying music is certainly not an experience that others can relate to. It's a world of its own, but a beautiful one! The most interesting thing to me is that studying music can sometimes make it less enjoyable. I am jealous that you are at a point where you can play for YOU and be reminded why you love it in the first place. Even if nobody else around you understands, you can fill your heart with something that is yours alone!

  2. It's true, I'm learning not to be so hard on myself in terms of "figuring out" what to do with my music and simply enjoy this time and freedom to play and study whatever I like, for my own enrichment and joy. You'll get there too!

  3. This was lovely to read. May you have many more music making days.

  4. I wish I could hear you play! I know that's not the point, but I wish I could.

    Also, I'm going to see this show at the National Gallery in London when I go back in a few weeks - I'll bring back a brochure for you :)

  5. Thanks you so much Mikhai, what a kind comment. I appreciate you stopping by!

  6. Oh oh oh!!! What an awesome exhibit, that looks fantastic. And aren't you sweet--would love to see the brochure.

    Maybe one of these days I'll post a recording of myself playing. Maybe....I might need some convincing! :)

  7. Kristyn @ Milk + CrownJuly 24, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    How beautiful. I love that quote :) I used to play piano pretty seriously, which is why I admire your talent so much. I'm so glad you are feeling more inspired and secure in your music! That's wonderful. When you live from your heart like that, good things are bound to come your way :)

  8. Oh neat! I love it when other pianists follow and read along. And it's true--I think being a creative person in general means that your life is really tied to inspiration (which ebbs and flows)...I've been so thankful for the last few weeks. Thanks for your sweet words :)


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