Late-Night Kitchen Recitals // Who Do You Play For?


On Sunday night, we had a late-night visit from two friends of my host family.

One of them went to school for music and is now working in insurance.

My host mentioned that I am a musician, and at 11 pm said, "Go get your flute!"

I played some C.P.E. Bach in a kitchen recital while my roommate was making Muddy Buddies, (known in this house as 'puppy chow.')

The musician in my audience of five was an interesting person to talk to. At first, he didn't say much, but I could he was really thinking. He asked to see my score.

He started asking me questions. The first was, "which part is the hardest for you?"

I pointed out a section in the third movement of the Concerto in D Minor, and explained that it was so difficult because there wasn't a place to breathe. He asked me to play it for him, and he was interested to see how I would handle the passage.

He complimented my technical ability, and then proceeded to analyze my score while I snacked on Muddy Buddies.

He then explained to me and my roommate that he once had a professor tell him, "choosing a major is simply choosing a point of view." Choosing what you study in college influences how you view and interpret the rest of your life. He chose music. So did I. He "views the world in harmonies," and admits that he is influenced by music in his work with insurance. Interesting thought.

Looking at my score again, he asked me if I enjoyed the music I was playing. I was quick to say yes, but he had a different angle in mind. He showed me what he meant by asking me to play one phrase from the Concerto. He asked me to cut the tempo in half. Then again. "Watch this, it's going to feel like a lullaby," he said. He pointed out that there is SO MUCH in that one phrase that needs to be enjoyed. At full speed, most of it gets tossed away. There are complex harmonies in the movement that need to be appreciated.

I read the recent article about slow practice from the Bulletproof Musician the day before, so the idea was on my mind. I told him that I try to practice slowly, but it's mindless. I'm usually just trying to get the notes. The idea of enjoying it, however, was really encouraging. Slow practice is about discovery.

He later asked me, "who do you play for?" I could tell that he was challenging me with a deep and personal question. First I said, "myself." He then led me to answer, "People who appreciate it...People that do this, too." He respected my answer, and told me that I do have a choice.

I recalled the most exciting performances that I've given, and they're the ones in which I was playing for other musicians or a room full of flute players. That might be selfish, but it's honest.

Though I've thought about what I want to do when I graduate, I haven't thought of it in a "choose your audience" kind of way. Music is about communicating with people. Who do you want to communicate with? This is an interesting question to grapple with.

Who do you play for?