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James

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This month's newsletter asks questions such as, "Is it possible for a person who is often filled with anger, envy, jealousy, and hatred to play beautiful music?"

We certainly want a world where there is justice. We don't want a world where an evil person can play beautiful music.

But the truth is, the one essential to become a great musician is to spend a lot of time practicing.  Sure, there are other things involved, but a ton of practice is necessary.  And what is practice?  It's spending time alone with your instrument.  It's basically an anti-social behavior.  It can also be escapist where you hide away and lose yourself in your music.  So you don't necessarily have to be kind and loving to become a skilled musician, but you definitely have to put in the time, yes?

Debussy was an outstanding pianist and possibly the greatest composer of his time.  By all accounts he was a nasty person, very critical of other musicians, and especially cruel to the women in his life.

Of course, performing is social, is connecting and sharing. You do an enormous amount of preparatory, solitary work, and then you play for people.  To perform well is to be very much in the moment, in a kind of zone, surrendering yourself.  And that is a tremendous kindness.  And a bringing together of people.

So a great performing musician must spend years developing alone and must also share with people in performance.

We see videos and listen to audio recordings of Ted now and marvel at how great he was at that.  But much of his life he performed very little.  He spent the majority of his time teaching.  And for that you absolutely must be a kind, good, loving person.  An evil teacher cannot be a good teacher.  Ted was enormously generous as a teacher.  And many of us who studied with him encouraged him to perform more.  For a long time he resisted.  And part of that was that he had very high standards for himself.  Later he performed much more and now we have the excellent recordings of that.

To me the question is not: Can a person filled with anger, envy, and hate be a great musician?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  To me, the issue is: Okay, I see violence and cruelty in this world.  And I look closer and realize I sometimes participate in that.  Maybe I'm not murdering or whatever.  But on some level I might treat someone with disrespect, or I might get annoyed with someone, or in some way I might spread around animosity.  Is that the world I want?  No.  So I must be aware.  I can't just be lost in my own mental concerns.  I have to quiet down my self-involved thoughts and pay attention to right here now.  Then perhaps, "I" cease to be and instead there is loving action.  Then there is sensitivity to reality.  And reality is not different than music.  Everything vibrates.  Either at the molecular level or in some way.  Everything is in vibration.  Everything is singing its song.  And there can only be discovery of that song, of that universal music, that everything is doing, when my own selfish interests and concerns are put aside.  "I" have to get out of the way of the music for it to truly be.
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