Last fall I decided I needed a real challenge - not a race to see how many emails I could write in three hours - but an actual physical/mental/emotional challenge. I decided to backpack 100 miles along the coast of Wales.
Backpacking is a test of endurance not only for the body, but for the mind. The mind is either your best friend, or your worst enemy, and in either case it becomes very simple and clear.
I ended up with two mantras that looped endlessly as I went up and down the cliffs along the coast:
1) It's just pain. (pain is just a sensation) 2) It's fun!
By the end of the trip, I was exhausted beyond belief, but also felt like I could do anything.
The day after I finished my 'walk' I headed up to Classical Revolution Manchester for a show. I was planning on playing a string quintet with their local musicians, but as the rain from the worst September storm to hit the UK in the last thirty years poured down, the string players bailed on the outdoor show. I was handed what they called 'the charity viola' and shown into a room to warmup.
There was only one option: Bach.
As I warmed up and pulled the notes from the G Major Cello Suite from the back of my head I realized how effective my mantras were for performing Bach....
It's just pain - Mr. Bach exposes all of your weaknesses, no matter how technically or musically strong you are, there is something in his music that will kick your ass.
It's fun! - The reward is the self satisfaction that comes from being able to pull off one of his pieces with conviction. And just like backpacking, after you perform Bach the way you hear it in your head, you feel like you can play anything.
Last week we had our 6th Annual Bachxing Day celebration at the Someday Lounge. I could not have been more proud of all of the musicians who stepped up to the challenge of publicly performing Bach. Here is the SF Classical Voice review of the show.
Bach is endlessly challenging. Just like the walk I took, there isn't a definite starting or ending point. There will always be something more you can do with his music, and though that challenge can be painful, I can't think of any challenge that is more delightful.