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18. Prelude and Fugue in G sharp minor from Book 1




                    Try speaking this in the rhythm of the opening of the Fugue subject!

Good teaching conveys presence and commands attention. it brings life, energy, clarity to the task in hand, the present moment. In the case of the piano it brings a sense of adventure, of risk, but with the support of sound technique. Like rock climbing with proper equipment and a balanced mind. (or should that be sound mind. Sound technique, sound mind, sounds good….) I remember very clearly once struggling climbing up a scree slope on a modest hill in Lanzarote. Struggling because I was trying too hard, because I was end-gaining, wanting to be at the top already instead of staying with the process, because I was labelling the experience as one I would rather not be having. My partner, who was scampering easily ahead as usual, came back down to me. ‘Imagine the challenge’ she said ‘as a run of demisemiquavers on the piano’. Immediately my attention went to the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in A flat, Op 110. I felt the relaxed focussed energy needed to play that hand-swapping section in flowing demisemiquavers. The climb became easy - nothing externally had changed, but my internal landscape was transformed by virtue of the inner hearing of a piece of music. Good teaching demands good self-awareness. As a Reiki or other alternative practitioner will protect their boundaries before giving a treatment, the good teacher will protect him/herself from being too affected by the pupil’s own inner demons. Demons that make endless excuses, that are harsh critics, that sabotage the joy of being present with the sound now with a fear of making a mistake in the future. The good self-awareness that the piano teacher can offer in a lesson is like the ‘holding the space’ that a meditation teacher will give to a group sitting in silence. But paradoxically this ‘good’ self-awareness means developing an ability to let go of self-awareness altogether! The negative inner stream of thought in some lessons is very familiar - how can this person be so slow/so disinterested/so rude/so unable to hear/so unaware of the sound etc. etc. Don’t they realise I’m giving them MY time?!! This is indeed self-awareness - with a vengeance. But it can be turned around as quickly as my experience on the hillside in Lanzarote. If the internal change of intention can happen so quickly for the teacher then of course it can also happen for the pupil. For example, the pupil is getting flustered about getting a passage wrong repeatedly. Check out what is happening physically as a result of the mental anxiety. Get their eyes off the music. In fact, get them back into a simple awareness of their body in terms of the rhythm of breathing with the eyes shut. From this place, get them to play the passage in question really slowly with real attention to the sound. Sound technique, sound mind, sounds good…… Relaxed mind means relaxed body; tense mind means tense body. It is no more possible to play the piano well with excessive tension than it is to do rock climbing.