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Why do I Music?

Joshua Iyer

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Published: October 26, 2015 at 6:56 PM [UTC]

Before I begin with this post proper, I just wanted to say that my first term in college (with finals next week) is coming to a close. I've certainly had ups and downs all term what with stress and whatnot, and I've been grappling a little with the tone of my violin a little bit... It's improving, and I've been getting inspired to really work at it... But right now, while I'm at a high time, I just wanted to write this post to hopefully inspire both myself in the Future at a "low" and, of course, all of you reading! This will also be a post like a couple times I've posted in the past.

I think a question I have always internally asked myself is, "Why Music?". Throughout these past ten weeks at college, I've analyzed it, memorized it, played it, performed it, composed it, fell in love with it, hated it, shared it with friends... But I've never really questioned WHY I do any of it. Why am I in the Augustana Symphony Orchestra? Well, in rehearsal Monday and Thursday evenings, after warming up in a practice room, I sit down, open my case, get out my violin, and begin warming up on some of the music we've been given. When 7:30pm hits, we begin working, and I'm sometimes so enthralled with getting the notes right in my part I don't really listen to the other instruments. Sometimes, I do listen, and hear the gloriousness of harp glissandos and horn moments, as I've mentioned in previous posts. (Hopefully I can hear all of that at tonight's rehearsal!) I keep telling myself how amazing this is, that I am part of the violin section in a full symphony orchestra. This may be an opportunity I will not have as I get older. But the question still stands: why do I do it?

Well, playing music should be first and foremost something fun. Should it, though? I've certainly spent many times slamming the piano out of frustration I couldn't get something right, or needing to pause and wonder why my violin is squeaking and scratching - where I just need to take a breath and focus on relaxing my bow arm. However, in the end, when you get out into the concert hall, playing something you've worked on for months, or even with my recent composition premieres I've had throughout the year of 2015 - and I'm playing my "Minuet for Piano" tomorrow evening - you are proud of the work you've put into the music. I love discussing all sorts of music in Musicianship class, as well as orchestra, and being exposed to new types of music I've never thought of before (we're currently studying Reich and minimalism, which is very fascinating). It's fun to just sit and listen to music for me, or, like I did yesterday morning, just compose something new for three hours on my walk. That's what truly made me feel very happy about music. Not practicing my instruments, but composing and listening. And I'm sure we all have a completely different aspect of music that we like - some may love the acoustics side, and the mathematical edge to how music is put together, or how the sine waves function in sound, as I have been looking at graphs for my math class. But some may be the opposite of me - they love the process of putting a piece together in terms of practicing, and they enjoy trying to make every little nuance better. I know that for me, practicing is just another thing I roll with, but maybe, if I were to just truly LISTEN, to analyze exactly what went wrong in my piano-playing, to see what incorrect string-crossing I made to make the violin squeak, maybe I'd feel better.

I was reading a Web page for my math class, and it was talking about a physicist who looked through a microscope at how the particles in the wood of the top plate of the violin responded - and the particles were excited! Your violin wants to sing beautifully before you even take it out of its case! Violinists can tell, then, when they miss days of practice, or even when they don't practice as well. The violin will sing beautifully... if you would just let it.

I realize I've digressed to a topic about practicing violin (I never really proofread this posts as I probably should for organization...), and should get back to the topic at hand: "Why Music?" It could be a Socrates question, something we want to get at answering. And this question must be answered by each individual, shouldn't it? For me, the way I view music, I think I spend more looking at how the ink on the page is done practically, rather than how it sounds. I'm more of an architect when I compose my own music, although I can get swells of emotion if I wrote down something I think is really beautiful, like I did this summer with a part of the third movement of my string quartet. I look at the sheet music in front of me - like Ravel's "Jeux d'eau" - and I wonder how it is put together. Only after do I listen again and hear the water trickling up and down the fountain. So why do I Music? I want to play my violin in the orchestra and discover when we're heading into a new section of the piece, and discover the different expectations by every composer we play. I want to Music because it's really an enjoyable experience not only to listen to a piece passively, but to enjoy the feeling of understanding why this chord resolved like that - or didn't. I want Music to surprise me. I want to be exposed to as much of it as I can - partly why I don't always like practicing, I don't always enjoy sitting still on one piece, although if it's a piece I absolutely love, of course I would practice it all night long. I Music because I love it. I love it because I love its sounds; the way it's been integrated into our culture; the wide variety of different styles I can play on my single object of my violin; the people who all hear it completely differently than me; how much I have yet to learn about it, and how much I will never learn about it; how it has taken over my life as my main passion; how it seems to seep into almost every aspect of what I do; how natural it can be, as if Nature herself provided us humans with the tool to make it; how I could talk about it for years and never ever get bored of it; and how easy it is to create it for me. I love being able to watch clips of the BBC Proms concerts every summer, with hopes to travel to London someday to listen myself. I love looking at the history of different composers, and hearing how music changes and collides with others on its way. For me, and probably for many of you as well, Music has become so much a passion in my life, regardless of how upset I may be at my instruments one day, or how much I may dislike a piece I wrote, all I have to do is take a beat, turn on a composer I absolutely love, and all is right in the world again. And I try again, never wanting to give up, never wanting to let the Music leave me. I know that Music will ALWAYS be a part of me. I just have to write it and play it so others can enjoy listening to it. Why do I Music? The question ought to be why do I Life!

Sorry for this long and crazy post. It took me about half an hour to write it, my goodness how the time flies! I do want it to be an inspiration to others, and if you have any reasons for why YOU Music (and I know my opinion of music will probably change throughout the coming years, this is only a snapshot of my life today!), write them in the comments! Until next time.

9:50pm UPDATE: And today during rehearsal, apart from some string crossing fingerings and tone ideas I haven't covered in my practice sessions yet, I just feel really happy as I put my small instrument up onto my shoulder, and I think I really did pull off a gorgeous tone for the Elgar Variations, especially in the IX. It was a lot of fun tonight, and our next rehearsal won't be until after our Fall Break.

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