On reading Karl Paulnack’s welcome address at Boston Conservatory, I am reminded of the reasons why I stopped my income-producing career midway to enroll in full-time music education for four years. Those were some of the best years of my life. — the passionate pursuit of beauty and perfection, art for art’s sake only, long hours of practice, insane obsession with finishing a composition, weekly lessons with multi-lingual teachers well versed in their art, …. living and breathing music 24/7.
Karl Paulnack recalls the Greeks seeing music as the study of the relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. “Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us.”
Indeed music has a way of drawing out our emotions and soothing our souls. When I was sent to work in Houston in 1996, I rented a piano for my loft apartment. At first I merely wanted to play piano after a long day of number crunching. But something else happened. The memory of a dying friend triggered me to write. I felt the urge to compose. When I did, I couldn’t stop.
And then came a yearning. I wanted to know why, all of a sudden, I was composing. I sought out a composition teacher at Vanderbilt University when I was visiting Nashville, Tennessee in 1997. As I sat outside his office waiting for my turn, I struck up a conversation with a lady my age. I asked if she was also enquiring about admissions to study music. She replied yes and asked how old my child was. Until then it had not occurred to me that I might be too old to study music.
Dr Michael Rose was kind to meet me. I was confused and needed direction. He looked at my piano solo composition “St Valentine” which I dedicated to my friend Hiroko who had passed away in December 1996. He suggested that I listen to a C# minor prelude of J.S. Bach. He then proceeded to tell me that a musician is a doctor of souls.
Karl Paulnack’s welcome speech reminded me of that visit to Dr Michael Rose’s office in 1997. Two years later, on my first trip to Maui, I saw a woman dance to my impromptu piano playing at one of the hotels. She burst into tears when I stopped playing.
Indeed I have seen how live music affects the listener. It is ever so powerful when it connects the invisible, internal, hidden objects — things you did not know existed or had meaning or significance. Somehow music summarises it all.
But my own music has stopped. Like the chef in “Eat Drink Man Woman” who lost his sense of taste, I have lost that yearning to compose. Yet I must not forget my own journey to find myself in the music within. And this is why it does not make sense to question the economics of music making.