I have a music problem.
You see, I have studied music for quite a long time. I’ve spent more time in music lessons than with my own mother. My music stand knows me better than my boyfriend. And a single sliver of wood from my clarinet likely carries enough of my genetic material to create my own clone.
But for all of that, I have never created my own music.
Now, that isn’t such a surprising thing. In a post-Mendelssohn society, with its primary focus on music reproduction rather than production, it should not come as a shock that a large number of musicians are not composers. Technique reigns supreme. Dissertations and theses on improvisational techniques, proper embouchure, acceptable phrasing, and valid musical interpretation abounds. Music accepted into the lexicon places its composer before all: all must bow before his wishes (whatever they were to begin with).
To get ahead musically, you must do so in the proper way. You must sound just so. You must play just so. You must perform just so. Everything is predetermined, nothing left to chance. (By the way, could you make that Ab a shade less staccatissimo? And you’re also way, way sharp. Is your reed too hard/soft/new/old/chipped/dry/wet?)
I love music. Anyone who knows me knows how often I break out into song. Every moment is another sound. A simple word or cadence spins off into symphonies.
And yet I have never created music. Somewhere along the way, I felt I wasn’t good enough. Not good enough to write. Not good enough to create. Not good enough to even have my own interpretation.
The anxiety is overwhelming. I hold my clarinet in my hands, and the storm begins: Am I holding it right? How is my embouchure? That was a lousy breath. Oh, what a cruddy sound. So flat. Ugh. I didn’t even articulate properly. How am I going to play anything? Oh, just flubbed that arpeggio. Told ya. Can’t do it. Nope.
More often than not, the paralysis begins before I even hold the horn. I won’t be able to do this. Not today. Not ever.
How can anyone create within such suffocation?
The other day, I took in my hand likely the simplest (and understated) instrument on the market: the ukulele. Yes, start making fun of me now. I still can’t play much more than a handful of chords. And anything more complicated than that? Out of the question!
… but strangely enough, the music has started coming. Unfamiliar frets underneath my hands, I feverishly try to pen out chords and melodies. There is no fear. There is no apprehension. There is nothing but curiosity. What once was barred, is now free. I can write. I can sing. I can create.
I am free.