When I was 13, my piano teacher made me play Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathetique” at a recital. I wasn’t ready and I butchered it, ever after convinced I’d reduced it to Sonata Pathetic.
Recently I took out the piece — just to see. To say I played it would be using the term rather loosely, but I did persist. And as I persisted some life lessons came to mind.
1. You can’t butcher Beethoven. When something is as beautiful and profound as his music, it takes a lot more than mistakes to ruin it. The same goes for other beautiful and profound things, such as courage, compassion and truthfulness.
2. Work it out or let it go. There were passages where I had to laboriously pick out the notes one by one to figure it out. Other times, it only worked if I just let go and let it happen. With piano playing, bike riding and such this is called implicit memory. But there are also other times in life where we can’t make it happen, we can only let it happen.
3. Flats and sharps each have a place in the score. There are people who would rather take it down a notch than up a notch, and there are people who are just the opposite. Both play well in the end.
4. Be adaptable. I confess there were passages I just couldn’t get, so I sang them. Even Tom Chapin hasn’t gotten around to putting words to “Sonata Pathetique,” but it didn’t seem to matter. There are times in life when we’ve just gotta sing, even when there aren’t any words.
Donnelly, S. (2012). Piano Lessons. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/06/08/piano-lessons/