Several articles from around the blogosphere have provided food for thought, and I don't just mean Classical Music Humor or Occupy the Practice Room on Facebook, nor Jeremy Denk's #OccupytheProgramNote (even though it was somewhat preposterous for the unfortunate program note author to have called K. 415 an "odd bird").
Aaron Gervais' Why Composers Should Drop Out of University (and What They Should Be Learning) is a wake-up call for all those who have been lulled into thinking that academia is the center of the musical universe. What he says about the composition industry could equally apply to performance field as well:
Even at the best of times, the relationship between academia and the creative arts (composing, filmmaking, literature, choreography, visual arts, etc.) has been problematic. Today, it’s even more so—many schools have an overt interest in producing unsuccessful artists. It’s not that there’s some nefarious grand agenda, it’s just that the economics of art and of art school are very complicated, and well-meaning educators haven’t found a better solution. The many “failures” end up subsidizing the few superstars. From the perspective of the student, it’s a bad deal, but maybe it’s the best deal there is. When they realize this, most students become disillusioned and cynical and choose one of three paths: (1) drop out of music altogether; (2) carve out their own bunker within academia; (3) look for alternative ways to make music.Part 2 of the article is also worth the read, and offers some solutions.
I've been talking about ornamentation a lot recently, and Nicholas Phan's The Rules provides a useful perspective on keeping your head in the right place when dealing with the often conflicting needs of historical authenticity, tradition, and artistic license:
A few years ago, I was rehearsing with a pianist for an upcoming concert, and I couldn’t remember what the rule was regarding whether to approach a trill from above or directly on the note when singing a certain composer’s music. I asked her if she remembered the rule, and she said to me, “I don’t do rules.”So maybe you don't have to worry so much about these guys coming after you when rendering those upper mordents.
While her response seemed hilariously rebellious at first, I came to see a lot of logic to her point. Much like Italian cuisine, which varies so much from region to region, so do people’s ideas of “rules” in music. Encounter an Italian from one region of Italy, they will tell you that unequivocally you do not use garlic when preparing a certain sauce. Travel just an hour south, and ask an Italian from that region about said sauce, and they will tell you unequivocally that you MUST use garlic when preparing that sauce. Both are equally convinced that they are telling you the rules, despite the fact that they are telling you the opposite.
Because at the end of the day, it's what you're comfortable with. Even if you would prefer to be called an accompanist. Even if you need to change direction when the need arises. Because just beneath the surface, your brain knows more than you realize.