Thursday, 6 February 2014

A Cautionary Tale...

Many years ago, much against my better judgement, I was persuaded to do a public performance, supposedly showing off my "skills" on the piano.

This mostly appeared to consist of demonstrating my ability to listen to a sonata or concerto, and then repeat it.   I was very concerned about doing this right from the off as, to me, I felt as though I was being paraded in a performing monkey sense and I would have preferred to play the pieces I'd worked on and struggled hard to understand and express, but the powers-that-be weren't too interested in my "normal playing" as they called it.  They wanted a demonstration of my freak powers!

I should say that I would NEVER agree to this now, but then I was young and easily bullied and so I somehow allowed this thing to go ahead.

It was soul destroying.   Really it was.  Most people came along I suspect, in much the same way as they might have gone along to a circus side-show in the old days to see the proverbial bearded lady!  Yes, I was the bearded lady and, apparently, it was more politically correct for them to come and stare at me in a concert hall, than behind bars in a circus!  To me, it seemed that the two things weren't very far apart.

The performance went off OK, people seemed happy with me and I was relieved it was all over but the thing I remember most about it were the comments I received afterwards and, in particular, the critical reviews which I saw about it.  This WAS many years ago remember and so perhaps people were less discerning in those days, I'm not sure but it certainly separated the metaphorical men from the boys (hope that's the right metaphor) in a reviewer sense, in my own mind.

Many said how marvellous it all was, how brilliant I was going to be, and what a great "find" I was (I hadn't been hiding anywhere incidentally!)  but some, and these are the ones I truly admired, made the point that I showed no particular ability of my own, I merely mimicked what others had done and, although this was clever in one sense, it wasn't particularly "brilliant" in another.  A one trick pony is, I think, how one person described me.   And he was right .... in a way.  At least, he was right about THAT particular performance.

As the years have gone by, I've learned to lay down rules about what I will and will not do performance-wise.  I'm actually not an over-keen performer as I have severe sensory integration disorder and this means that someone in the audience only has to move their arm about unexpectedly, or cough, and I get distracted (and quite angry!) but I no longer do the "party trick", I refuse to do it, even for friends. I do not wish to be a performing monkey for ANYONE.

I have certain affinities with certain composers and, in particular, love J S Bach and play a great deal of his work.  I also compose and I believe that I HAVE finally gotten to the point in my life where I very much hope that my autism and the abilities it has given me, are a side-issue, and NOT the main point.  I write this blog really with the intention of trying to point out some of the difficulties for those born with such a abilities - it can create all kinds of problems along the way and trying to explain to non-musicians, that the ability to listen and repeat things is NOT a particularly fine musical talent, is often very hard!

One line, written by a very observant and (in my opinion) accurate critic, after that first performance, will always stick with me.    He wrote :

"This girl will go far, but I pity the person who has to go with her"!