Tag Archives: music


Maybe music allows for such a shriveled, spontaneous, fractured personality. Maybe music benefits from it. Maybe music requires it. The arts. Larger than life. Your problems, your passions, your dreams, your dips.

It’s nuts. I somehow latched on to one of the few things that flourishes in my insanity. It’s built in to our society. We allow for it.

Maybe I had a perfect childhood. Maybe I pick up everything, good and bod, so it could seem I had it bad. Maybe I am hazy because that’s the way I am.

That’s been my working theory for a long time now. That’s the beauty of theorizing. It is not fact, but it can be your version of fact until a better one trumps it.


Ok, so I found a loophole or two.

And there are parallels.

There is the question of quality. Distinguishing between my passions for playing and absorbing music has to also include the quality of the music in question. I have a different soul reaction to different grades of music. I imagine there is also a difference depending on the format and instrumentation, too. Playing duos with Daniela can’t be equivalently comparable to playing Pops with Jack, nor is it the same as playing Masterworks with Andrey. They are all distinct. Maybe I have to acknowledge that somewhere along the way before I get to the stage.

A similar thing holds true for food. I may have a variety of cravings throughout a day, but are they all worthy of my energies? I must distinguish. I can’t go on autopilot. I actually have to start distinguishing between what ought to be considered my food passions and other inferior gastronomic propensities. My lower brain stem really, really doesn’t want me to bother with this. But look what happens! I need to be haughtier. Like P’Mew. Haughty. Snobby. I am for some reason resistant to do this. The reasons will become clearer after the fact, as they tend to. For now, maybe I’ll just have to stick with the theory that my lower brain faculties would like to have their way with me, and I’m going to have to call them on it.

I could extrapolate and say this theory also applies to a variety of other things – like exercise styles. I must distinguish those too.


Finding a reason to teach is a lot more straightforward that a reason to perform. Of course, what would you teach if you were an unskilled, uninspired performer? They go together. I seem to forget that. And things like that. I guess I get super focused on one thing at the expense of everything else. That is my gift, as well as my curse.

I am holding on the idea that if I understand my passion, everything will fall into place. I am not normally one to analyze my passions. Or am I. I may have two opposing tendencies. They hate each other. I hate myself. I am always dealing with contradictions within myself. Thomas Moore wrote that that is in our nature. The nature of our souls. Our minds are not in favor of this. But our souls demand it, require it. That was one of the things I loved so much about his books. I haven’t read them in many years. But they remain in my being.

I have contradictions in religion, self-care, discipline, self analysis, emotionality, embracing of naiveté, etc. You name it. T Moore is okay with that. I suspect so is J Foster. Okay to the extent that you learn what happens next. When your head and your heart are at odds.


I kind of decided enough was enough tonight. It’s not worth the pain. It’s not sensible or necessary. So then I really, seriously thought about the possibility of quitting. No more. Zip.

Then I thought, do I have a reason to be a cellist? Or to continue being one? An answer wasn’t immediately coming to mind. I guess I don’t really think deeply about that question. I just kind of do it. Maybe moreso in my old age? But I think I couldn’t even begin to address that question when I was younger and more naive. Life has given me some wherewithal to engage in productive contemplation.

So the meat of this thought process was occurring during the Brahms first piano concerto, with Grimaud and Andrey.

You see, last night’s concert found me in a different place at that moment. I was absolutely connected, in a semi state of nirvana, musically. I was in my typical state of discomfort cellistically, but I was soaking every bit of the Brahms into my pores. I don’t know if that gave me something in particular to draw on tonight. But I had been thinking this week about how I have spent much of my life as a listener to music, with the week’s program of the Brahms and the Schumann 4th Symphony as two of my favorites for cranking on the stereo. During the parts of the Brahms that the cellos rest, I was able to go into that state of immersion that I do when I listen off stage. I actually meditated to exactly that slow movement when I was in high school, during lunch period I think. I would lie down on the grass out in front with my walkman, and let Ashkenazy’s endless lines wash over me.

I wondered if the reason I am in this field is actually an extension of my love of listening to beautiful music, not really because I adore participating in its creation. This love has many physical and emotional side effects, mostly positive, but some negative, and I have frequently wondered if they are always an asset for the purpose of performing. Tonight I may have found a way through that question. It’s about passion. Finding my true passionate nature. It seems to be possible that my passion for letting music wash through me in fact touches a different part of my soul than the art of playing.

At the moment when these ideas streamed through my consciousness, something changed. It’s ironic, because the thought of quitting opened up something in myself that was trapped when I was supposedly sustaining my level of dedication, feeling I would never quit.

I have been trying to raise the bar on my overall level of well-being and happiness. Tonight was one of those nights where I felt the price was too high. The pain outweighed the pleasure. It’s possible that having now experienced the musical differentiation described here, I may find a way to live in tenuous balance with this art and craft.


All the self-medicating will inevitably kill me at a younger age. I am putting my body through the wringer.

The reason why you write is that there are words to be written and arranged. Once the words evolved through history, all future generations were required and honored and fortunate enough to utilize them. You can’t unlearn their existence. Once you know the difference between there, their and they’re, you feel an irresistible need to use them in their respective places, and not mix them up. There is a special kind of human clarity that is caused and experienced by the use of words and phrases. Once that is achieved, not making use of it is forever a form of devolution. Somewhere inside (and outside) of yourself, a price is paid for losing or squandering that clarity and expression.

The same holds true for music and music-making. Now that we have Bach and Mozart and Schumann, silencing opportunities for performing them has the effect of choking the human spirit. If you are a performer, you will forever be elevated by the act of performing great music, however that is defined. If you are a concertgoer, ending your exposure to live music-making removes an important outlet that enables emotional wherewithal.

I self-medicate for reasons related to this journal entry. I am not taking advantage of my humanness in some way. I am backtracking to my animalistic side. Maybe that is one definition of religion – elevation. Anything that elevates you taps into a spirituality. I do wonder if there are certain common experiences we can point to that would be able to be characterized as elevating – once they have been introduced to a society. The humanists would accuse me of making a false parallel from lofty human experiences to deities. Isn’t God just a word, though? Can’t I use it if I feel it fits the feeling? It’s a lot more succinct than a power greater than myself. My shrink would make reference to the chemicals swirling around inside us, that cause all sorts of feelings, and that you can invent magical explanations for.

Another question is, is it my responsibility to deny or apologize for my spirituality just because there are a bunch of assholes throwing around their God or Gods to rationalize their assholeness? I just want to be lofty. Not stuck in the mud. Can I please?

Why does it have to be one extreme or the other? Adam’s religion does not require such extremes. I don’t feel guilty for INTERPRETING the Bible. Not believing in it verbatim, nor completely dismissing its worth. It’s allowed to be an historic fable that moves me and helps me to find MY God. If my version of God happens to fall in line with many millions of others’, I still want to call it God. A God that I can connect with on my own. Or sometimes when I’m with others, too.

I feel like my only hope for not being a sheep is a path towards my truth. Maybe that’s redundant. But if it is, it doesn’t seem to be very popular.

35, and counting

Being my birthday, it seems timely enough for a blogaroonie. I will quote from yesterday’s “feelings journal” entry.
Right now I’m a little tight, tightly wound. I spent the last few hours at home, alone, watching Clerks and taking a nap, eating tortilla chips and orange juice. I was entertained but still immersed in solitude. I was feeling okay, as far as I was aware. But I was also kind of walled in. I guess I chose to be in that isolated place. It feels familiar and safe. But it also tightens me. Now I’m aware of the tightness. Now that I’m sitting in the library at the Phil, writing, and in the vicinity of others, other warm bodies, warm personalities.

Then later I wrote this:

I finished the concert – it was a proud experience some of the time. I wore my earplugs to preserve my hearing, which was a comfort. At some point I guess a fragrance wafted to my nose which reminded me of my dear friend Rosalie S. The reminiscence was probably enhanced by the fact we were playing a Brahms symphony, one of her favorites. So for a few seconds I had that good feeling, good association. I actually tried to retain it, but it dispersed. I spent the later part of the concert partially beating myself up about my left hand tension. Perhaps ironic. Perhaps self-defeating.

So, the fact is I have been writing a fair amount, but privately. I don’t allot myself enough time to do that and blog. It requires a different mindset. It’s similar to playing the cello with or without an audience. I also feel different depending where I am when I write. Maybe I should try to relish all these differences instead of having my good ol’ buddy inside my head criticize my circumstances every step of the way.

originally published on 10/29/06


I sit in orchestra and watch people. Or observe is a better word, due to my feeling of non-belonging. I see all sorts of bizarre movements and expressions that are solely a result of an individual’s idiosyncrasies. They are unrelated to the essence of the music being played. They are their egos. That is actually fine if they prefer to do things that way. My dilemma is that I cannot seem to get away with even the slightest departure from total discipline in body and mind without everything unraveling at the seams. All these other people appear to be humming along perfectly contentedly. And I have in fact asked people or alluded to the possibility that they are suffering from any of my same physical or mental symptomology, and almost always it is not the case. This is one reason why I have spent much time trying to look for answers to my cellistic issues outside the musical realm – I keep hitting a brick wall when I address it directly.
One other aspect to this is the question of whether others are striving for the same kinds of things I aspire to. If generally they are not, then it may be perfectly logical that they have none of the same problems I do. I assume people are on my page. I strongly wish that they are. It’s painful for me to even write that there’s a possibility that they aren’t. I despise being different, separate, and in the end isolated. I cannot believe the way people take all these human differences and/or commonalities in stride. I freeze up when I become aware of these things. And I freeze up if I try not to be aware. Maybe the only thing I can attempt to do is take my inability to take things in stride, in stride. That’s only once removed from other people, right? Not too bad.

originally published on 9/3/08

Why, oh why

The cello is a way for me to exhibit me, both to my own eyes and to others. I’m equally unpredictable musically as in real life. I am now surmising that most everything is equivalent. I was not trained to think that. But that doesn’t make it irrelevant.
When I play the cello I am thinking about and feeling the same series of ideas and sensations as in regular life. Why shouldn’t I be? Any energy I am exerting to heal myself is just as easily directed to music-making. And anything misdirected in real life also falls short on the cello. I have always suspected that but I have never received solid confirmation from outside myself, so I couldn’t take it seriously due to my difficulty individuating myself from others. Are some things the problem and the solution simultaneously? I can’t individuate, but I must.

The important aspect of this is how I apply this learning theory to my music. I need to be sensitive to how my feelings reflect in my performance. It’s all in there if I listen for it. If I am feeling unfulfilled, for instance, I will create music in a stifled way. But it’s not even that simple. Because like life, the music is in flux. The emotional journey and processes are more reflective than a momentary mood swing. It is trickier and subtler than what I might consider my surface state of mind.

originally published on 12/19/06


I took a nap before the concert tonight, and it gave me an ease at the outset of the performance that I don’t often feel without a great deal of concentration and (non)effort. Last summer I blogged about trying to play with utter looseness, a la Perlman. I felt it oddly unnatural and unsatisfying to not exert much effort, perhaps due to the contrast from what I am accustomed to. Tonight I remembered another phase I went through – Krishnamurti immersion. He frequently talks about non-effort, non-conflict, non-worry and non-thinking. They are tantalizing concepts, but the last time I perused one of his books I was less than taken by his philosophizing.
I like the idea of extending the technical issues I have on the cello out to the rest of my existence. That’s of course been a great quest and fantasy of mine for decades.

As the concert progressed, I gradually lost that pleasurable ease. It tends to be fleeting like that. It’s as though I like to have something to butt up against. I like friction, resistance. I need them, more to the point. I realized that I also like to hear other performers with some of that taste for friction. I am unmoved by totally comfortable, unperturbed players. It’s like watching a piece of cardboard play music.

originally published on 1/26/08


Here is some of my journaling from today: I got worked up in rehearsal. I always get worked up at rehearsals. I start out okay, if I’m lucky. Then I start losing myself. My true self. Then my fighting, venting, passive-aggressive self begins to take over. Then it’s over. It’s just a question of how rapid the descent.
I guess it’s hard for me to think about the future when I am secretly (even to myself) ruminating over past events. I would obviously like to be able to plan future events. It would be more fun to have an idea of how my life might blossom and grow, or even just scheduling a nice vacation trip. I guess I feel lucky to make it one day at a time due to the burden weighing on me from unresolved relation(ships).

I’m back. Actually the rehearsal was a positive experience for me. I started out in quite a different place than my usual work/musician mindset. And there’s really only one possible explanation. Self discovery. I know for a fact that my self-awareness and wisdom directly affect music-making. It ain’t no theory.

originally published on 3/19/08