I’m not a sports person. Skinny and hollow chested, I was much more at home behind the music stand practicing horn in high school than doing anything athletic. Now that I’m older I appreciate not having the knee and hip problems that many of my more physically active peers have, but I regret having to get into an exercising habit at an older age for health reasons. I wish that I had developed more of a physically active habit earlier in life.
That being said, the problem with sports is that they simplify life; there is a winner and a loser and that’s that.
Ok, it’s a little more complicated than that, but not much. Teamwork, strategy, tactics blah blah, the end result is the same, you want to win by an objective standard (score, clock, set of judges) and if you don’t win, you loose. Yes, second place in the olympics is not bad, but nobody will say it’s as good as gold. Sports of course have their merits, but essentially looking at life through the lens of a sports background removes much of the subtlety.
Of course I’m prejudiced. The arts make different demands; exploring ones own ability to understand and express emotions, the exploration of some of the greatest minds of civilization, the opening of the soul to worlds beyond words, time clocks and scoreboards. But the world has a hard time with this lack of objectivity. Just look at the proliferation of piano competitions. People want somebody to tell them who is best and since a panel of judges works for the olympics, why can’t it work in music?
The purpose of this post is not to dissect the problems with piano competitions. There is another point I want to make.
Recently a prominent dealer sent a piano in to a venue for a performance of a prominent pianist, one known to have enthusiasm for the particular make of piano being sent in. But, after trying both instruments, the pianist chose another “house” piano. There was no problem with the piano sent in, it is just that the other one fit the artistic requirements a little better. It was an artistic choice, not a political one ( I know because I am very good friends with the pianist involved and am very aware of his view of such things).
However, the dealer was shocked, dismayed and deeply disappointed. He felt he had “lost” and the other company, who actually did nothing since the other piano just happened to be a particularly nice, particularly well maintained house piano, “won”. This reaction not only ruined his night and weekend and raised his blood pressure, it clouded his ability to understand the situation and therefore be more effective in the future.
Building a concert stage presence when one is not the industry monopolist is much more like building the pyramids than running a race. Building a pyramid is a very long, slow and difficult process that more than anything rewards perseverance. Sure, a huge block is going to fall off the ramp occasionally, possibly killing a number of the slaves working to get it up there. But the loss of one block needs to be taken in context of the complete construction. The loss of one block did not suddenly mean that all the other blocks in place were lost or had no value. No, it means “damn, now we’ve got to get another block up there”.
Looking at the world through the eyes of a sports “winner and looser” clouds the vision. It’s easy, sure, but nothing in the arts world is about easy. It’s about something much deeper and more human than just “easy”.