Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Words Worth Reading

Books-and-MusicI started piano lessons at five and thus found one of my great loves. Music has given shape to my life. But I have a great love that precedes even those lessons: words. Books, essays, poetry, lyrics: I love them all.

So what could I love more than words about music?

Well, cookies, of course. But since I’m trying to limit sugar, I have found some wonderful words to share with you all.

Sting’s Commencement Address at the Berklee College of Music

In 1994, Sting gave the commencement address at Berklee. He talks about his first memories, how he became a musician, the power of music, as well as the power of silence within music. One of my favorite passages:

“When you watch a musician play—when he enters that private musical world—you often see a child at play, innocent and curious, full of wonder at what can only be adequately described as a mystery—a sacred mystery even. Something deep. Something strange. Both joyous and sad. Something impossible to explain in words. I mean what could possible keep us playing scales and arpeggios hour after hour, day after day, year after year? Is it some vague promise of glory, money, or fame? Or is it something deeper?”

Beethoven’s Shadow, Jonathan Biss

This is, unfortunately, not an essay somewhere to be found on the internet. It is a Kindle Single (a short book/long essay form written to be sold on that I purchased a few years back. Biss describes working on Beethoven’s Op. 109 sonata, which I happened to be learning at the time. It is a wonderful essay. One of the many thought-provoking quotes:

“The quest for perfection in music may not only be of secondary importance, but the very enemy of curiosity, love, humor, imagination, open-heartedness – the qualities that I most want to cultivate in my own playing and hear in other people’s, that determine which pieces I choose to play, that make music music.”

(Don’t you just love that? If you have a way to read books from the Kindle store and you love classical music, pay the $1.99 and read it.)

Why I Hate the ‘Goldberg Variations’

One of the funniest classical music blog posts I have ever read. (No. You’re right. Most classical music blog posts are not funny, so there may not be an enormous amount of competition.) I admit it, I love the Goldberg Variations. Like really really love. It’s one of my top ten (along with the Beethoven Op. 109 sonata previously discussed,) so I’m inclined to really like a blog post about a piece I really like. You might like it, too, even if you aren’t passionate about the piece. In fact, you might like it especially if you aren’t passionate about the piece:

“The first flaw of this masterpiece is a doozy. The piece is eighty minutes long, and mostly in G major. Just think about that for a minute. Then (without a bathroom break) think very similar thoughts for 79 more minutes, winding around the same basic themes, and then you will have some idea of what it’s like to experience—you might even say survive—the Goldbergs. ”

Piano Lessons, Billy Collins

I love this poem. That is all. I can’t really even choose a favorite line, but here is a great line, which pretty much sums up much of my life:

“Even when I am not playing, I think about the piano.”


Do you have any wonderful words about music that you would like to pass along? Please share!


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