Musical Resolutions

It used to be my wont around this time of the year to think of my musical misdeeds and resolve to engage in behaviours that would counter my deficiencies of the previous twelve months over the subsequent 365 days.

I would resolve to practice longer. Mastering more repertoire. In a more focussed fashion.

I would resolve to put musical pen to manuscript paper for a set period of time per day.

I would resolve to listen to more music; to become more than a passing acquaintance with the orchestral canon, the operatic oeuvre, the chamber music catalogue; to attend more live performances.

I would resolve to work my way through recordings of famous jazz pianists, jazz trios, jazz quartets and quintets and big band ensembles.  Learn to play the hundreds of standards I still didn’t know.

I would resolve to get to grips with world music just a little [more than before]; to learn how to compose for hurdy-gurdy, how to notate banjo music, the difference between a ehru and a rebab, what the aesthetic of gamelan really was all about, maybe even try to play a taiko drum or a mbira or the uilleann pipes.

Hell, I’d even resolve to learn western orchestral instruments: I was keen on the oboe, and felt that my lack of hands-on experience with the brass family was quite an impediment.  And then there was the annual wish-resolution to find a way to buy myself a cello.

Most of these resolutions will never find their way from the half-life of desire to the real life of accomplishment; there just isn’t time in three lifetimes for that. Or at least I tell myself that.

The fact is that as voracious as my appetite for things musical might be I am equally hungry for all manner of other skills and experiences as well: studying law, mastering Arabic, learning to figure-skate, finally figuring out how to check the pressure in my tyres, the list could literally go on for a lifetime. Besides all this, having a fundamental resolution to lead a balanced life, involving exercise, great nutrition, excellent interpersonal relationships, a disciplined approach to my finances, and enough time to go shopping.

How can one hope to succeed?

This year I am adding some new items to the list: coming to grips with musical iPhone apps as well as creating ringtones from my more popular educational piano pieces, really coming to terms with how to teach very young piano students (in time for my now two-and-three-quarters year-old son to start lessons later in the year), and tracking down ‘Babies Proms’-style concerts and other interesting (as compared to vacuous) musical experiences to which I can take my son.

And I resolve to do at least 15 minutes of daily practice on the piano. Unbelievably inadequate.  But seeing as I managed only 12.5 minutes per day (on average) in 2009, I will be thrilled if I manage such a statistically significant (20%) improvement in the year ahead.

3 thoughts on “Musical Resolutions

  1. A postscript from the end of 2010: I did succeed in improving my practice – I averaged 32 minutes a day, far exceeding my modest goal of 15 minutes!

    And I have spent a lot of time thinking about how young children learn and how they might learn the piano, and I’ve watched in fascination as my son (now 3 and 3 quarters) increases his engagement with the instrument. We’ve not begun anything resembling formal lessons, but he knows the names of many of the notes, and recognises pitches we’ve played with frequently. It’s an education observing his explorations.

    The creation of ringtones never made it to the top of my list, but that’s what this year is for!

  2. Speaking of the hundreds of awesome standards still to ‘check out’ – have you looked up ‘Elm’ (Richie Beirach) or ‘Quiet Now’ (Bill Evans) or ‘Country’ (Keith Jarrett)? They are just some of my favourite tunes that I discovered while exploring random jazz standards. They are so harmonically beautiful that you can play with inner melodic voice leading in a creative way to outline the changes…

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