Back to the wild

Immature American Robin

I’ve been trying to go through some of the older tapes, recorded when I was still able to play for wild birds. But it is the wild birds that beckon, making it hard to sit for hours at the computer when fall migration is underway outside, and the weather has been beautiful the last two days, so I have been out in the forest preserves searching for migrants. I was hearing the invention from the Bach A Minor English Suite in my head yesterday and every bird I listened to seemed to be in key with it. However this morning I was less aware of any particular musical background, perhaps due to the weather change; we had dropped 10 degrees or more. And the chill winds were keeping the birds from singing too; I don’t remember hearing much more than chip notes today.

One thing recording the birds has done for my playing, such as it is, is it taught me how to listen. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to listen, or pay attention, to yourself when you’re playing, but it often seems you might as well be doing something else. I don’t think I heard half of what I was playing until I started taping the practice sessions. Then it became impossible to not listen back to my playing as well as the singing of the birds. Usually I’m listening for a painful faux pas, to the point where I can often anticipate it, but I have also gained a lot of insight into a piece and where I wanted to go with it. And because I was doing all this with the purpose of listening to the birds and not obsessing about my playing, I’d like to think I could approach listening with a more open mind, if you will, rather than with the crippling criticism of a perfectionist. I imagine the birds have given me license to play imperfectly but as musically as possible. I would like to play as sweetly as they sound.

In the attached recording the birds are unfortunately a bit far away. This is Mozart’s C Major Sonata K 309, and a robin starts singing toward the end of the Adagio and into the third movement, and he sounds rather ethereal. The hardest thing about playing music for birds is that I want to listen to them instead of to what I’m playing. So listening has become a circular dilemma after all.

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