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Starting from scratch

"I have been listening to your CD," my teacher said to me at my first lesson. "Your piano was out of tune. The pieces - what 36 of them? They all sound the same. Why do you confine yourself to so few possibilities? Your vocabulary for music is too small."

"Indeed, I have been blissful in my ignorance," I humbly confessed. "I was comfortable knowing only so much and yet be admired by my non-musician friends and colleagues for my music."

A month ago I wouldn't be able to take this downpour of negative comments about my music. I composed out of the need to -- and most of all, out of love. How can anyone criticise my love?

For almost two years now, I have been bathing in positive feedback from my CD and my live performances. I have received so many wonderful and encouraging e-mails from my website visitors. All I wanted to do next was to make each of the 36 short pieces longer. And my initial intention to do a composition course was to find out how.

But how could I improve without first seeing my blind spots? People are too nice. If they don't like my music, they keep quiet. I will never know how I can advance my musical frontier unless I'm open to constructive criticism and venture into foreign territory.

"Forget what you wrote," my teacher said. "I want you to start from scratch. Write me 20 themes. Start with a new melody. Keep writing until you can't think of anything. Stop. Start another. We'll work on how to develop these themes next time."

Okay. Start from scratch. That sounds like decluttering. Letting go of the past. Making a clearing. That's what I've been trying to do with my house and my life. I should be an expert at letting go of the past by now.

"Oh, and one more thing. Don't go to concerts. Don't listen to anything. Don't read anything," he said.

What? Not get my weekly dose of inspiration? I've been going to at least one concert a week if not more. I have Classic FM radio on all day long. Could that be why I haven't composed?

Likewise, I've been reading so many how-to books that I've become an expert at theorising and methodising (discussing or coming up with the method of) how to do something without actually doing anything.

I left the conservatory in a daze. Start with nothing. Don't go out and acquire books about the subject --- the old way of learning something new.

What is left then?

Myself. My new music - waiting to be born.

14 January 2004 Wednesday

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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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