Saturday, March 13, 2010

Method to the madness

So, back in high school, my Ancient History teacher said that all brilliance had something to do with madness--the gods would give someone great talent and a little craziness to go along with it. I think I agree with this.

See, I'm a musician and a writer. Both require a kind of masochism. See, I ws listening to Murry Peraiha's recording of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 and I was reflecting on all of the fantastic things about music and making music. There's this one part right before the cadenza that's the pianist doing passagework in parallel 10ths leading to scales, and then this beautiful, insane trill. I call that part of the piece my pipe dream. But really, the whole appeal for me in music is making something that's never been heard before. Really, musicianship is deeply personal because it reflects so much of your own personality. It's why I never get tired of hearing things played in concerts.

Writing is the same way. No matter the familiarity of a plotline or a type of character, it is something that has never been read before, experienced before. And, like music, the difficulty is in making it WORTH experiencing. That's where the craziness comes in.

I remember vividly my seating audition for my last year at the NEC orchestras. I walked in with my viola and Melba Sandberg, my conductor, turned to the other conductor holding the audition and said "This is Kathryn Olsen, one of our violists. You'll never know if you can expect something wonderful or ridiculous from her." Twice I've auditioned for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and gotten rejected. I've flubbed orchestra auditions. In my sophomore recital, I was 90% of the way through the Bach Double Concerto when I lost my place and almost botched the ending of the third movement. I've had great peer reviews, but I also have broken down in tears when told how bad my writing used to be.

So many things in life are only rewarding after a lot of humiliation. I'm sure that some time, I will have a reader or a friend or an agent or whatever tell someone else, "This is Kathryn Olsen, one of our writers. You'll never know if you can expect something wonderful or ridiculous from her." In music and in writing, my two greatest passions, a lot of humility and vulnerability is required. And you never know if it'll be personally worth it.

Like I said, genius requires a little bit of madness, so I must be Einstein.

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