a new hope:
I started learning music at 6. I'm 36, so 30 years struggling with such a demanding passion. Unfortunately, I have recently realized how bad my teachers were and how bad I was as a student. Maybe both facts had a feedback loop. Something changed a few months ago. I went to a concert where Rudolf Buchbinder played the integral of the Beethoven Piano Concertos along with the OBC. It's not that I haven't seen other virtuosos before. The trascending thought was to realize that he was playing such difficult and extraordinary pieces with extreme ease. No affected gesticulation, no silly faces, no grimace. Just ease, almost playfulness. I thought that there couldn't be such a huge distance between our talents to justify my bad playing with effort and his incredible technique with ease. I also thought that maybe Beethoven composed his concerts with the same ease as Maestro Buchbinder played them in front of me. I understood that I have followed the difficult way, which in music is the wrong way. And it is all my classical piano teachers' blame. They probably were very mediocre as players, as teachers or maybe both. In any case I knew from that Sunday at l'Auditori that there has to be an easy way to play with masterful technique. Don't get me wrong, of course it has to be difficult to achieve and a lot of time and effort is needed but the outcome of such an effort is real mastery, while the output of my previous and awful method is simply an infinite wall. An unsurmountable wall in which you can spend your whole life hitting. 30 years to discover the most simple and basic thing in music. And the clue was always there, because what do you do with an instrument? You play it! Exactly, play! I should've learnt English before. In Spanish and Catalan, 'tocar' is just 'touch'. In Italian you would say 'suonare il pianoforte'. In German 'spiel das Piano', where spiel=game, play...
In Russian, 'играть' is play, toy... Italians make sound, germans and others play with it, but I had to be born in a place where despite all the catalan-spanish fights for who is better, both simply touch the piano. Isn't it a total disgrace?
As the world is full of extremely good virtuosos I know that I'm not saying anything new. It was new just for me, and being so old I already had all the good teachers, grants and door/opportunities closed. So I wondered whether I could figure out the easy way just by myself. I started thinking and experimenting until I discovered something amazing. As I have a dog, Urka, I spend a lot of time walking each day, especially at the mountain. One day, while I was regretting that so much walking drained my piano time I thought 'well, grab a little ball and do some finger exercices while walking. It was the first time I tried to play piano without a piano. In my youth I have seen some players trying to practise on a flat surface while waiting for an exam or just before a lesson. I found that very silly. And I don't know whether they were using that as a real technique or simply as a reflex act just for a few minutes. But that day, at the mountain, when away from any keyboard, something incredible started to happen. I couldn't hear the sound of any music, of course, and neither feel the action of the keyboard machine. But for the first time in my life my brain started to play music. It started to play it and to play with it!. Being a young student I was taught to analytically dissect a piece into little sections to be constantly repeated until played with fluency. But it was not the same. Of course my brain also worked to make my fingers and my piano play, but the brain was never playing. When I began to dissect pieces while walking, using just a plastic ball, which is soft and nice because it damps the impact on the articulations, I noticed that there was something new. There were some very basic movements that in a piano I would assume to master which in the ball I didn't master at all. I know it sounds weird and I can't really explain it better now. It's simply that when the brain was alone, with no instrument, it had to carry not only some finger action but had to fire the music itself. And I noticed that the neuron firing was pretty useless and clumsy when playing in the ball. I rapidly abandoned the study of complicated pieces and went to the most basic movements. My fingers were extremely clumsy, insecure, irregular, poorly trained. It was both sad and great. Sad for 30 years learning nothing. Great because I knew I was on the path of mastery, finally. I decided to relearn everything. I left every musical activity and every complex piece. I put all my scores back on the shelves. I took the Two Part Inventions by J.S. Bach as my only school. And my new music training began. This little pieces are intended for keyboard, not necessarily piano. My focus has moved to fingers instead of body, arm, wrist... wich are more romantic-piano-like. For now I'm happy to focus on the finger approach which is Baroque in its essence. If I'm able to master Bach, Handel... I'll be more than happy. And who knows, maybe one day I can approach to Mozart and Beethoven again, with a real technique. But back to Bach: those 15 two-voice inventions were and are perfect for a relearning program. Until now I have been experimenting with them but with no systematic program. In this log I will describe this process that begins right now.
The first task of this 'Bachallenge' is to memorize all 15 inventions, with separate hands, one for each voice. When I've tried to memorize them using the piano I rely on the sound too much. When played on the silent ball you find that it's way harder, but then you really memorize the music, your focus becomes sharper. The improvement is huge. Memorizing is a good place to also define a proper fingering for the piece. I begin this 2016 having memorized 1-8 already. The idea is to load all of them on my brain as soon as possible so I can begin to describe the real work that I have prepared. There is a long and fascinating journey ahead to be walked, never forgetting that it's all about playing.