Never Cry For Pain (Always Cry For Love)
by HeartStrings, Sabine Gonelli, 30/06/2016
I went to the circus yesterday. From jugglers to trapeze acts and clowns – everything a circus needs was there. It was very entertaining.
Every time I am part of the circus experience I wish the performers the very best, but in secret I hope that something small will go wrong. Something not dangerous of course. Just something that requires repeating to be perfect.
It is in these moments of flaw that I truly begin to understand how difficult these performances are. I also like how the audience changes from being mere spectators to becoming emotionally engaged recipients. It suddenly feels like we close ranks behind our heroes of this night and give them the support they need. The flaw turns into a secret we now share with the artists like confidants. More or less on the edge of our seats, we keep our fingers crossed and are relieved the next minute when everything works according to everyone's expectation. A sigh of relieve and the biggest applause of the night is guaranteed. I am overjoyed with mankind in these moments.
It says about us, the audience, that we wish everyone well who is daring enough to put themselves out there to entertain us. It is now that we appreciate the maximum vulnerability of one of us. We, the audience, can be so nice.
After the show or concert we go home, talk a little about what we have seen or heard and what we liked best but we leave those artists behind. They may have changed our life but they disappear in the hole of anonymity.
Could I make myself invisible and stay with them what would I see the next day? I would see them practice their art for many many hours each and every day. I would see their frustration about things that keep going wrong and need even more practice to meet their standards.
Without doubt would I also meet the constant
accompanist of excellence: pain.
In the case of musicians, pain is usually due to chronic overuse injury. Although daily practice of several hours is necessary to be at the very top in the music world, pain is also a big threat to a musician's career. It is not only the pain itself that can become unbearable. Pain in musicians is often closely related to anxiety and depression. It is the way we connect to the world and express our feelings. The thought that pain takes music away from a musician is deeply scary. This is probably why pain is a taboo topic, especially among musicians.
In the pop world, we mourn the passing of the unrivalled phenomenon Prince, who died from his pain, through the accidental overdose of painkillers.
In the realm of solo violinists, this is what I found:
Maxim Vengerov had to pause for four years due to a shoulder injury.
Hillary Hahn had to stop for four months due to inflamed muscles.
David Garrett had to deal with pain in his arm as an adolescent due to his long hours of violin practice with parents who ignored his pain. How lucky are we that he didn't have to stop playing altogether.
Why are these super gifted stars who have dedicated their whole life to music in so much pain? Do we really want to put these extraordinary individuals among us under this kind of pressure? Where is this coming from? Why is this their fate?
David Garrett once said in an interview that he has spent more time playing the violin than he has spent being asleep. But what do they actually play? What is this expectation they need to comply with?
I can't analyse all “standard repertoire” pieces that are demanded from conservatory level violinists here, but I want to exemplary focus on the violin virtuoso and composer Paganini (1782-1840). His music is part of the expected repertoire for every first class violinist today.
Niccolo Paganini was the world's first performing superstar. His virtuosity was so extraordinary that he was also called "the Devil's Violinist". Paganini was able to play 1000 notes per minute. There was something unique about his hands: He could wrench his thumb across the back of his hand to touch the little finger. His fingers were extremely long and also incredibly strong.
Paganini wrote music that was unheard of. Nobody else could play it. With this latest research we now know why:
The reason for the unmatched dexterity of his fingers was most probably a genetic disorder: the Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an illness that prevents the production of collagen. Collagen gives ligaments and tendons their rigidity. Paganini got the most out of it but on the flip-side his illness lead to weak lungs, muscle fatigue, poor eyesight and knee and back pain.
Paganini's fame lasted until his early 30s. Then his body gave up on him and he became a chronic invalid, living the rest of his life in immense pain.
So Paganini's illness greatly contributed to his virtuoso fame.
But why on earth do we think it is normal and “to be expected” for a violinist of excellence to play Paganini pieces for us today? Isn't it quite obvious that playing something as impossible as Paganini compositions must cause injury to "normal" hands? I'm not saying to those who can play Paganini's pieces that they have to stop. I can only bow in humble adoration. But we, the audience, need to educate ourselves more and really understand how mind-blowing it is that we still get to hear these pieces in live performances. This musical experience is far from "normal" and performances or recordings should not be compared and criticized.
Perfection is something special, out of the norm, breathtaking. We must stop thinking that we have the right to perfection all the time.
I opt for a more humane treatment of all those who lift our life out of the ordinary and make it worth living. I want the flaws to be as celebrated as the moments of complete perfection. I want all those who have dedicated their lives to be perfect to have the right to be imperfect. I want to give them the right back to be human, not machines of repetitive flawlessness.
Let us, the audience, become more emotionally engaged recipients not mere spectators, always ready to turn into criticizing, unenchanted monsters. Nobody in the audience can do what they do for us so let's be a lot more grateful and show our appreciation.
More frenetic applause – less criticism. Less crave for perfection and more love, please. For the sake of our musicians, The Beautiful Ones, who have chosen pain to speak to us and touch us through their art. They never cry for pain in public but they always cry for our love.
Let's give back as much as we can.
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