Thursday, April 05, 2007

Busman's Holiday

"It's a busman's holiday tonight," he observed, and the phrase flew into my head and fluttered around for the rest of the week. I liked the sound of it, the retro feel of it, and its meaning was certainly not lost on me. When people ask me what I do for fun, I tend to respond automatically: I play the piano. Doing the same thing for play or recreation as for work? I shrug: doesn't it make perfect sense?

In February, a good friend visited, and though he was technically here on business, I tried to orchestrate an ideal bay area vacation for him. I dragged him to important local haunts and temples and comped him a great seat to a "new performance work" ... that I played ... that I created ... that I programmed. Oops. I somehow forgot to separate the work from the play. Melding the two for T created a unique but true perspective on living here, one with a more contemporary focus than the ubiquitous guidebook sights and sees perhaps, but not lacking historical and social contexts. The picture was complete and integrated and, I hope, indelibly memorable.

Blurring the distinction between projects and dreams, work and endeavor makes things feel very 3+ dimensional. I never know what might inform or inspire or revise the next composition or dance step or thorny passage in a piano piece I'm learning. I muddle it all together, with the result that what matters most to me is kept in constant and immediate focus. (My behavior confuses others, however. Are you taking class or playing class? Fifty percent of the time no one knows for sure, not the desk staff or the ballet instructor or the other students. I keep 'em all guessing.) This intertwining of work and play smoothes the edges of a multi-faceted life and keeps me quite satisfied.

I do not suggest that the let's-play-where-we-work attitude is always ideal; if artistic projects are not coming together, I'll slink glumly about town. By contrast, I have long admired a certain fabulous pianist for her ability to disengage from her art (her work?) now and then. She and her husband (also a classical musician) retreat to the Sierra foothills for a few weeks every summer and enjoy exotic vacations: they've gone on safari in Africa, climbed ruins in Mexico, and wined and dined their way around the Italian countryside. I never hear her fret or worry about "not practicing" or "missing rehearsals" during these vacations. She is able to separate her piano-self from her tourist-self, and thus her life seems composed as a very beautiful card catalog, with each experience kept in a separate drawer. The aesthetic is clean and definite, and not at all knotty and entangled like mine.

Or, mine of the moment. It is spring, and entanglements are fun, and lately I'm finding all kinds of new ideas and positive critical feedback when I take the equivalent of a busman's holiday. So, all I have to say is: I'm off to the barre!


Heather, I have been meaning to say two things for at least a week now: the first is Kudos! for playing for Paul Taylor et al. -- as a fellow dance accompanist I think I can identify with the frisson of excitement at playing for big boys who happen to be passing through town. Very cool on your part and I hope it went well. The second is that I was out of line back in February when I went on a rampage and left an overly critical comment posted on your blog; not enough vodka? too much caffeine? Who can say, but going back and re-reading it I can't see why I felt so compelled to speak against you. Cyberspace does not always seem real enough to apologize to someone one has never seen, met or spoken to, but wrongs ought to be righted whenever possible, I suppose. Please accept apologies and carry on with this wonderful blog...


By Blogger Heather, at 7:01 PM  

Mmm... another Cosmopolitan, please. Sounds good to me!

By Blogger Heather, at 7:02 PM  

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