Zen for Ten 16.5: bonus track

“Hello darkness, my old friend…” – Simon and Garfunkel, “The Sounds of Silence”

Today I had one of those mornings where I didn’t want my husband to leave for work, because I didn’t want to be alone with myself and my old frenemy, depression. I suppose it has to be a friend because it comes around so regularly and hangs out so often, raids my mental fridge and parks itself on my mental couch, and it and I know each other extremely well. I’d be glad, though, to slam the door in its face, change the locks, and never see it again.

One of the many frustrating things about depression is that it can be so hard to figure out why it decides to stop by. What set you off this time? I was doing so well. This past weekend was busy and productive. Yesterday I got up early, in a better mood than I’ve greeted any Monday with in recent memory, and spent the day checking things off my “to-do” list. And then this morning happened. For no good reason I could find, I just wanted to slump at the table, in my bathrobe, and stare out the window at the birdfeeder while the world went on without me.

Instead I got on Facebook, which is a terrific thing to do instead of doing anything. One of my friends, a fellow pianist, had re-posted a great blogpost he wrote a few years ago about the kinds of problems professional accompanists run into. Nervous soloists who wear too much makeup, crazy divas, students who show up for their grad school auditions in ballgowns and clouds of glitter. It made me laugh. It also got me thinking about my own recital coming up this Friday and how crappy the program felt when I practiced it yesterday. You chose stuff that’s too hard, Depression told me. You don’t have enough time to get it ready. It’s gonna suck.

I can’t always answer my frenemy back with a good loud “To hell with you.” A lot of the time it wins, at least for a while. This morning, though, thinking about my friend’s post, I thought also about not just how I had to sit down at my own piano for a while, but how I might be able to make someone else smile.

Maybe I’ve mentioned this in other blogposts, but making recordings of my own playing gets me super-nervous. This whole Zen for Ten blog project has pushed my boundaries in a big way. When I practiced yesterday, none of the pieces I’m going to play on Friday was ready to be recorded. Today I decided to push a little farther. Get a little beauty out in the world and maybe make someone smile.

That’s where today’s “bonus track” post came from. Both videos below feature music from this Friday’s program. In making them, I had to haul Depression off the couch and shove her out the front door. She’ll be back, because she always is, but it was a good thing for my brain to get rid of her for a while. Now I’d like to offer this music, which isn’t perfect but is definitely better than it would have been, and hopefully brighten up someone else’s day.

The first video features two short pieces by J.S. Bach, from the same collection as the ones in this past Thursday’s post.

The second video includes all four selections by Johannes Brahms that I’ll be playing on Friday.

Brahms is one of my favorite composers, not least because he was a fellow introvert. I love how his music is so often deeply personal and introspective. For this program, though, I chose a couple of pieces (the first and last in this video) that explore his more virtuosic side. They’re flashy and showy, and while I’ve been working on them, I’ve complained at Brahms plenty of times. Why did you write all those notes? You don’t need all those notes. Why are you showing off? And also, Yeah, okay, we all know you had hands the size of dinner plates. Most normal people don’t. (That’s actually true; Brahms had big hands. You can tell, because of how many notes he asks you to play at once, and how far apart they are on the keyboard.) When you play flashy Romantic-era music, very often it helps to remember that it’s not just about individual notes, but about the musical gesture: getting the drama and passion across. My thought process, though, was something like You want a gesture? I’ll give you a gesture [insert flipped bird here].

All complaining aside, I do love Brahms. If he wants to show off, he has a reason. My job is to figure out what that reason is, and bring it across so that the music comes to life the way he wanted. It’s not perfect (especially not in this clip 🙂 ) but it’s fun to try.

As always, thank you for visiting. I hope this music makes your day a little better. 🙂


8 thoughts on “Zen for Ten 16.5: bonus track

  1. I wanted to comment before I heard your lovely performances, Kris, because I know they are going to be beautiful. I hope you enjoy your performance on Friday. Thank you for writing this post. So many of us struggle with this difficult, demanding companion. It’s a relief and hopeful to know that others manage to get along and usher that friend through the door. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh dear Kris, I’m new to your blog and so sorry to learn that you’re a fellow traveler in and out of that dark pit. I’m 74 and have struggled with depression all my life, as my mother also did. At least I’ve had reasonably competent medical help and medication that she didn’t have, and I’m grateful for that. But no one “knows” it like those who actually wrestle with it. Yes, we must understand and support each other, and be waiting at the rim of that lonely pit to greet those who make their way to the daylight one more time. Gentle hugs to you, and thank you for sharing your gifts of music and writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Randi Anderson

    Thank you for coming back to this again and again, despite the difficulty! Your post reminds me very much of one I wrote last February (“How to Start Writing Again After Falling in the Ditch”), even down to depression raiding your fridge. It’s awful. But you’re doing the right thing…turning to beauty, in spite of the dark voices.

    Liked by 1 person

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