It’s What You Do Right

… and yikes, do I ever need to work on some of the orchestra stuff. Once again, it’s the Broadway medley giving me grief. I know how the Les Miserables themes go, backwards and forwards. Maybe that’s part of the problem; this is an arrangement, and so it’s not exactly what I remember. Also, key changes from A flat major to F major to E flat major to B flat major to D flat major (probably B flat minor, now that I think about it) back to B flat major to D major to F major again to finally return to and end in A flat major are more than enough to reduce me to a desperate wittering fool. Particularly when it all has to be played in a sprightly, dissonant, or expressive mode.

I just have to play it over and over. And trust myself in the higher registers, as the celli play in the encore we’re working on. It’s hard to feel good about a beautiful piece when you’re massacring it the first time you play it through in rehearsal.

Scott and I were trading reassurances about our musical ears and playing skills yesterday, with support and reality checks from t! thrown in as well, and I thought of the subject again when I read this post from Matociquala this morning:

Book report #42: Richard Restak, MD; Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot

This is all right for what it is, I guess. I am more interested in the mechanisms of neuroplasticity than self-help books on how to be smarter, but hey, it did give me this little passage:

First, avoid playing over negative scenarios in your mind in which all of your worst fears are realized. As Freud pointed out in 1925 in an insufficiently appreciated paper, “On Negation,” the brain doesn’t deal well with negatives. If you concentrate on ways of avoiding a bad outcome rather than bringing about a good one, your brain will lock onto the negative. As every tennis player knows, the surest way of coming up with a bad serve results from energy wasted on avoiding gaffes rather than concentrating on the intended ace. Concentrate on your ideas and your goals rather than focusing on the bad things that could happen, or on how nervous you’re feeling.

Or in other words, it’s not what you don’t do wrong. It’s what you do right.

It’s what you do right. It’s so easy to say. But it’s hard to look at a piece of writing, or listen to a recording of a musical performance, or look at a drawing, and see what you did right in it, because we look for the errors in order to improve upon them. And that’s not a bad thing. What’s bad and self-destructive is when we can’t see the good things at all, or stress too much about the mistakes. Why do we expect perfection? The only entity who can manage perfection is God, and I’m not at all certain the Divine doesn’t fall short a lot of the time too. Why do we beat ourselves up over what could have been done better instead of celebrating the much larger percentage of what we did right?

It’s ironic, too, that we notice errors more when things are going well, because they jar us out of a sense of security and comfort. And why is it that as soon as you think, “Hey, this is going pretty well”, you trip? How can it be hubris to allow yourself to cautiously appreciate something you are creating?

Did I mention that the gig was fabulous, by the way?

One thought on “It’s What You Do Right

  1. l'exclamation, parbleu

    > And why is it that as soon as you think, “Hey, this is going pretty well”, you trip?

    Because it’s magic, and as soon as you look at the ground, you don’t miss it.


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