Archive | June 2012

Beauty Break: Taking the Time to Listen

Photo credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco

I’ve been stalking Simone Dinnerstein for about a year now, since I heard this interview with her on NPR last year when she spoke about her unique interpretation of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and her new album Strange Beauty. I was captivated by her presence in the interview and her unique perspective on Bach’s music, which is unlike anything I’d ever heard.

Funny how God listens — we think we aren’t being heard and then suddenly a wish to satisfy the soul’s longing for beauty comes true. I’d wanted to hear Ms. Dinnerstein since I heard her on the radio and then suddenly news came through the local symphony that she’d be playing in a recital for the Corona del Mar Baroque Festival, right in my own back yard. I had to go.

Last night, I was not only able to finally purchase Strange Beauty, but was able to hear Ms. Dinnerstein play live at the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. A true beauty break. I simply floated away, eyes closed, on a cloud of baroque dreams. Since I’d had an uber-busy day, I was very aware of how uptight I felt when I arrived at the concert. But as Ms. Dinnerstein began to play, I gradually felt the tension, fatigue, and anxiety of the day melt away as my breathing slowed and became more regular and I just closed my eyes and gave myself over to the music, entranced, relaxed, at peace.

Something about the way her fingers flitted along the gleaming white piano keys like a dragonfly over a water-lily . . . Something about the diaphanous way she coaxed Bach’s fluted flurry of notes lightly out of the keys . . . She at once gave voice to his compositions for clavichord and harpsichord while at the same time making them her own.

A few things occurred to me while I was listening to and watching this gifted musician. She’d memorized each of the four extremely complex pieces she chose to play for this recital. This is simply amazing to me. I know a little — very little — about the difficulty of what I saw her doing with her hands, and the timing of the pieces she shared, to appreciate the delicate and complex beauty of her choices and her approach to expressing them.

Another thing I noticed was the depth of her gift and how long and hard she certainly has had to work to cultivate such mastery of her art. She makes it look easy, effortless, but I know this is an illusion. For myself as a writer, Ms. Dinnerstein is an apt role model. Writing should have rhythm and order, structure and beauty. Good writing, beautiful writing, should be musical at its very heart. Ms. Dinnerstein approaches music something like a painter or a writer — perhaps because her father is an artist — and is acutely aware of her “voice” as a musician, what she brings to a piece that makes it uniquely her own. I desire to have such fluidity in the practice of my craft and its end results and ultimately such an awareness of a signature voice in my own work.

Finally, the experience of slowing down after a rat-race day just made me more aware of how much more of a concerted effort I need to make to reduce the clutter in my life and make a place for slow beauty. Taking my time, trying to live more in the present moment will enable me to be more open to whatever gift the moment holds. There can be a “strange beauty” even in the difficult times and Ms. Dinnerstein’s perspective on Bach reminds me to try to pay attention to that.

Curious to know more about this brilliant artist? Need an extra special beauty break?  Take a few minutes to check out the links here, or simply sit back, relax for a moment, and enjoy this gorgeous video.

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Take Back Your Time

The Head of Nimue, by Edward Burne-Jones

“In terms of taking back our time, the first essential tool is saying no. No to our own greed and self-importance. No to the extra work we carry home. No to hearing without listening, looking without seeing; no, above all, to the insistent voice of advertising, which thrives on our restlessness and dissatisfaction, and does everything it can to exacerbate them. A Brobdingnagian NO to all those things makes space for an even more gigantic YES.

My private code for this is to refuse and choose.

We . . . can refuse to participate in the ‘mad race of time.’ We can choose to talk face to face with our friends instead of via email or on the telephone; we can play with our children, now, this very afternoon; we can go off for long walks across the hills. We can turn off the television once and for all. In short, we can rejoice in being one of the elite who actually does have the privilege of choice instead of complaining endlessly about our lack of time.

The Red Studio, by Henri Matisse

Of course it can feel difficult to drop out of the rat race: to stand at the side of the road¬†while our friends and colleagues race on across the horizon. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. In Matisse’s painting, “The Red Studio,” the clock has no hands. We need to find a ‘red studio’ of our own, the studio of our own insistent heart, perhaps, in which to set up an easel or a writing desk, or pull a dreaming daybed towards a broad, wide-open window. It sounds so simple — almost too simple to be worth saying — but slowing down can be a tremendous source of joy.” (Excerpted from World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down, by Christian McEwan, pp.30-31)

What would you do if you had more time? Find one thing, and then find the time and make it happen.