The Best Choices Come From Knowing

Even though most of us are still learning.

Here is your piano work-showing for this week — and this week, it’s back to Bach:

What I find interesting about my piano work at the moment — I mean, I find at least a billion aspects of my piano practice interesting, but what I find particularly interesting at the moment is the way my ability to make specific musical choices is 100% correlated with the extent to which I know the music.

Chopin Nocturne in E minor? Specific, original choices throughout (and I know the piece so well that I have the capacity to make new choices every time I play it).

Stravinsky Five Fingers? Same deal.

Mozart K332? Getting there, especially with the first two movements. There are still some sections in the third movement where I don’t really know what I’m doing, and because of that the piece sounds less like music and more like a struggle towards music.

Which is also what you hear with the Bach Ricercar a 6. I start out making specific interpretive choices, and then my playing starts to slip from musical to metronymic as I begin thinking more about “what notes come next” than “how to play them,” and at a certain point you see me thinking very, very hard, working and guessing and getting things wrong because I don’t know what I’m doing yet.

Which is fine. The only thing that would be un-fine is if I stopped there and said “it’s good enough” or “this is all the good it’s going to be.”

It’s the same thing with the novel draft, really. If you read yesterday’s Bonus Substack in which I analyze the first chapter of my book, you can see all the places where I (correctly) identify that I’m guessing instead of knowing. Which is fine! I only finished the first draft last week, and I didn’t know half of what I needed to know about the book until I got to the end of that process!

But it is interesting to look at all of the choices that don’t quite fit, in that first draft, and think “ah, those are the spots where I’m unsure of what I’m doing, and guessing at what might work.”

And then, with the Bach and the novel and everything else in my life — social awkwardness, for example, which often derives from being unsure of what I’m doing and guessing at what might work — asking myself what I need to do to put myself in the position to make a better, more informed choice. ❤️

Where I got published this week

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Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

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