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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001037.txt from 2000/07

From: Neil Leupold <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Listening for what's wrong
Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2000 22:27:36 -0400

--- wrote:

> Does anybody here ever get "Hey, woo-hoo, I'm better than I
> thought!" surprises?

Nearly every time, yes. Not that the entire performance was better than
I expected it to be -- I'm always disappointed with the overall final pro-
duct, but only because certain weaknesses (yet to be fully overcome) are
apparent throughout. I have magical moments, though...phrases, even un-
expectedly gorgeous individual notes, which were not apparent to me while
producing them. When hearing a recording of myself afterward, I realize
that I experience flashes of brilliance while playing, where my tone be-
came remarkably clear and centered, or I play a particular phrase with
such spontaneous and advanced musicality that I'm stunned to admit that
it's me. Things like that.

This phenomenon is actually quite instructive, because these moments of
"inconsistent excellence" occur when? Actually when I'm distracted from
my own intensity and have momentarily forgotten to concentrate on what
I'm doing. During those moments when I "accidentally" let go, my brain
and body are allowed to relax and work in concert with each other, to gen-
erate the optimum context for musical creation. Instrumentalists in gen-
eral are so focused on all aspects of proper technique, many of them nev-
er in their lifetimes cross the boundary between conscious control and
the zen-like state, where the act of breathing automatically and quite
unconsciously activates all other areas in tandem, where one is free to
let go and experience nothing but the soulful making of music. The point
behind spending hours and hours, focusing and concentrating and sweating
in the practice room while earning that undergraduate degree, is to so
thoroughly program in the correct means for sound production and manipu-
lation that one is ultimately able to do these things without paying
conscious attention to them. The goal is to create music. The clarinet
is just an instrument (in the objective sense of that word) -- a tool.
Or as one former teacher put it, "Neil, this thing (thrusting his clarinet
toward me in a fist) is a SHOVEL." He didn't elaborate, which left me
quite befuddled for a day or two, but then I remembered that being really
really good at digging holes is nothing terribly admirable. It's the act
of making something beautiful grow in the space that you've cleared with
your shovel that makes the hard work all worthwhile. At some point, you
have to forget that you're holding a shovel at all.


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