Playing What Is

A musician sits practicing alone in his room, as he has done most of his life. He is a beloved performer, respected and revered by many. He is concentrated and fearless in his focus. Time passes effortlessly here. Time stops.

The light in his room dims. He looks up from the piece he is playing, the solo part from the slow movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. Above his music stand, there hovers a soft violet glow. He hears a chorus murmuring.

(voices of listeners from all time):You play the music in our hearts. You play things we feel. You are deep and wise.

(performer): No, I play what I am told to play. I play what I know you will feel. But I do not feel what you do. I am not wise.

This saddens us. You are not what you seem. Tell us why.

I think and feel as you do, but I am empty. I fill myself with things which give the impression I am full. I show you yourself.

But how can you show us so much knowing so little?

I feel my pain with doubt. I question everything. I challenge reality. But the structure of the music gives me strength. It quells my doubt.

But you do not feel what we feel, if you doubt your pain and question everything.

I feel what you feel in my own way. When I lay my head on the breast of my mother and weep from joy and gratitude at the gift of life she gave me, I feel what you feel when I play the music. But I do not feel the music as you do.

What do you feel when you play?

I see patterns of structure, puzzles laid out by the composer, shapes and form, lines and colors. I see how I must fit into that puzzle. I have many choices, but only a few good ones. I struggle to play effortlessly. I am a machine, a thinking machine, adjusting constantly to fit into the puzzle and become nothing but the composers dream.

But what do you feel?

I do not feel. I calculate, I listen, I sense. But I am not there to feel. If I feel, then I am lost.

Then why do we feel what you do not?

You feel what I do not because I do not allow myself to feel it. I give up my feeling so you may have it.

(the voices recede. the violet light fades above his stand. he is alone. he continues his practice, shaping the perfect phrases of Mozart's perfect music. he is content.)

Inspired by the poem-
The Man with the Blue Guitar
by Wallace Stevens

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1 comment for “Playing What Is

  1. Emily
    January 22, 2010 at

    Is this what a good musician supposed to do?


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