Friday, May 24, 2013

A unique perspective

I started playing the piano when I was six, and for as long as I played, memorization was required. By the time I entered conservatory at 17, memorization was a pretty basic skill--although, that early on, I didn't have much of a grasp of how I was doing it. Indeed, I was probably just working from tactile memory.

In 1992, when I switched from being a "piano major" to a "harpsichord major," I no longer had to memorize. My piano teacher, Michael Ruiz, while very disappointed that I wasn't going to pursue the piano any more, seemed even more upset that I was going to lose the memorization techniques that we had worked so hard to build. 

Thus, I gave up memorization when I was 20, and I came back to it at age 38.

This has given me a unique perspective! When I started trying to memorize nearly twenty years later, I was amazed by what was different from so many years earlier. For instance:
  • my ear was much, much better;
  • I understood musical form;
  • I had a firm grasp of harmony and compositional practices;
  • I had an infinitely better technique;
  • I had far more confidence as a musician;
and, very importantly,
  • I had about twenty years of performing under my belt.
You know that fantasy of being able to go back to elementary or high school with the brain and wisdom of an adult? Well, this was a little bit like that!

But this is not at all to imply that this has been an easy path.