On a recent trip to New York City, I saw a wonderful exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the drawings and etchings entitled, “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer". I couldn't help but be reminded that artists, as a class, work in very similar ways to prepare to do their work. This includes all types of art - music, dance, visual art, architecture, performance art, and many others. One doesn't simply declare that they are “an artist”, and immediately crank out works that are mature, and meaningful. In this exhibit, you could see Michelangelo’s meticulous process, similar to what we do as musicians.
Young musicians, often collaborating with a master in the field, spend hour upon hour in the practice room perfecting our art, learning to shape the instrument into our vision. This can take years. No, really - years! Brass players, for example, often start around age 8, and it takes them 15-20 years to gain the proficiency required to work in the field. Sometimes we’ll work on a phrase over and over again until we get it just the way that we want it to sound. Maybe an articulation is elusive, or there is a pitch issue that we’ve been trying to sort out. Our focus could be tone quality, or dynamics - really anything could take our attention for hours.
Visual artists do this as well, often spending hours working out the details before they create the final work. For them, it can take years as well. I remember visiting the Museu Picasso in Barcelona – it displays art by Picasso from his formative years. Much of the work displayed was portraits, which is how he made his living early in his career. It took him years to establish the style that made him famous later in life. Below are some of his famous earlier works - Science and Charity (1897), Man in Beret (1895), and Self-Portrait (1896). They are definitely not a part of his cubist period, which began in 1909.
On an oddly related note, the Beatles had been preparing for years when they appeared live on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. They had spent 2 years (August 1960 to December 1962) honing their craft in Hamburg, Germany, and continued to concertize in Europe before coming to the US.
But I digress. At the Met exhibit, they showed us Michelangelo's process as he worked it out. Below, for example, he is studying how to draw a torso and an arm for his, "Studies for The Last Judgement".
Or his study for Cleopatra (1533-1534)
All artists do this repetitive, painstaking work to attain mastery of their medium. I can only speak for myself, but those many hours in the practice room early in my career were some of the happiest, most joyful hours of my life – second only to the hours spent sharing the final artwork with an appreciative audience.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
As a conductor, your worst fear is that you won't be able to move one or both of your arms. With my upper left arm currently broken in three places, there is definitely some concern about that. Granted, it could become a glorified page-turning device, but that doesn't seem like a very good use of a left arm.
Today, I met with a new surgeon and he was confident that without surgery, the arm would heal to 100%. The problem with surgery is that you could get scar tissue that would limit your range of motion, possibly permanently. We took X-Rays today for the third time and the fractures have not moved at all since the initial scans right after the trauma. I'll go back in in three weeks to make sure the fractures haven't moved. If there is no change, the sling comes off, PT begins, and full recovery is only a few months away. In the meantime, he says to leave the sling on most of the time. Its prime purpose is to warn others not to hit me in the arm.
My job is clear: don't fall on the ice, don't get bumped on the T, protect the shoulder while walking on Newbury St, don't pick fights with strangers, and skiing is out of the question until next season. I can do this.
The next three months hold some very exciting concerts that I'm pleased will go on as scheduled. Two concerts at school, one with the dance division and one with the brass ensemble, and the final gala performance of our 10th season with Symphony Nova. They will all happen now as planned.
Cue happy dance.
CT Scan view is from above, looking down on the left shoulder. All three fractures are still attached to the bone and therefore should heal on their own.
Saturday, January 6, 2018
They say bad things happen in threes. Well, I trashed my computer on January 1st when I spilled Diet Coke all over it it and then had a vacation delayed by four days due to the storm on January 4th. This is the third thing and hopefully the last, but it never should have happened.
Yes, the day was very cold at -7 degrees, but I was warm enough and skiing well. The runs are wide up at Okemo Mountain leaving plenty of room to carve turns and feel in control. And then I felt something odd. I looked down and one of my skis had come off and I was still upright! But not for long. I took a nosedive like I never have before. It happened so fast that I didn't even put my hands out in front of me. My shoulder took the entire fall. And it wasn't good. I rolled over onto my back, and lay there for a few moments to assess what had happened. Many people stopped quickly and ski patrol was on me within just a few minutes. I knew my shoulder was not good, but at the moment I just needed to get off the mountain. Remember it was freezing cold.
I could not have asked for a better ski patrol team. They stabilized me quickly, got me onto a sled, and one of them sat on top of me the whole way down to stabilize my arm. It was probably forty minutes from the time I fell until I was at the rescue lodge. They were able to quickly assess that I had dislocated my left shoulder, and possibly fractured the shoulder the as well. One of the ski patrol members was able to get my arm mostly back into the socket and stabilized me for the trip to the hospital.
Thirty minutes later, after a bumpy ambulance ride, we arrived at the Springfield Hospital in VT. I was quickly taken into the x-ray for some of the most painful pictures I have ever had taken, but they did get what they needed and could clearly see that I had a fracture in my left humerus and that it might still be slightly dislocated.
The plan going forward is to see my orthopedic surgeon soon to discuss options. I have never had a dislocated shoulder, or a broken bone in my body for that matter, so I am looking forward to learning more about the recovery process. And as a conductor, I'm curious what the short and long-term affects of this type of injury might be.
Hopefully it's the third and the last bit of excitement in my life for awhile! Stay tuned for updates.