My daughter’s piano teacher recently told me that my daughter has talent but won’t reach her potential unless she practices more. When I talked to my daughter about this she said that when she plays well it isn’t really her. She thinks she is visited by some sort of spirit and because she thinks it isn’t really her playing the piano she doesn’t see how practicing will make her any better. What can I do to make her practice?
It sounds very much to me like your daughter has a spark. By this, I mean that your daughter is not imagining these visits or making up silly stories to get out of practicing the piano, but that she probably really is a spark-receptive human being, and receives visits from one or more sparks who love to play music through her. No need for alarm. Musical sparks are usually quite harmless and nice to have around. The only real danger is when the human ego attempts to own the inspirational energy that the spark transmits. All sorts of problems arise when the human is seduced by the illusion that they are in fact a genius, when all they are is a receptor of spark energy who through their physical form, allows the spark to manifest a whim.
Your daughter appears to be aware of the true nature of these visits, which is often the case with children who are generally more perceptive of present-moment realities than adults are.
Addressing your question, you and your daughter’s music teacher are probably well aware that practice is an essential part of developing musical technique, as it is with almost any other creative, inventive, analytical or athletic activity. But technique is not everything. Music, like most creative outlets, requires the performer to have technique, feeling/passion, and inspiration to have much of an impact on the audience. All 3 elements are necessary and should complement each other. Too much or too little of any of them is the difference between mere technical capability, mad ravings, a good idea, or creative brilliance which occurs when the balance is right and the elements are working in harmony.
Technique, as you know, is the repetitive, disciplined element which the artist must develop for themselves through practice and finely tuned perception to detail. This discipline when directed into a creative channel is what gives the artist a perfectionistic edge. However when this discipline is not employed in a worthwhile passion, it can so easily become wasted on mundane obsessions. Then it becomes a nuisance and is often recognized as a social disorder such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Technique is the language used by artists to communicate with the audience. The more fluent the artist is technically, the clearer the voice, the better the communication, and the more likely the message is to be understood or to have an impact on more people.
Feeling or Passion is the intensity with which the artist feels what it is they are trying to express. The ability to feel and to let oneself be affected by pain, joy, fear, excitement etc, is mostly a genetic trait that a human may be born with, and is often considered, in general day to day life, to be a vulnerability which is best kept hidden. With creative outlets, however, passion communicates on a deeper level where it can reach people’s hidden vulnerabilities, and move an audience by stirring up their emotional (endorphin induced) responses. Passion, however, without technique, will come across as messy and confusing. Passionate, hypersensitive people are the most receptive to sparks.
Inspiration is the spark. It is the message, the idea, the concept or the experience planted by the spark into the fertile tissue of the imagination, which the artist then needs to capture. It is the moment of impact when things ‘click’ and make sense, or it may be a moment that hits deeply and needs to be expressed. Or it may be more mysterious than that. Like a vision, melody or poem that materializes out of nowhere. It could simply be an exclamation of joy at the discovery of something immensely beautiful, fascinating or captivating. It is the message that the artist receives or experiences and the inexplicable energy and momentum that takes over as the artist captures whatever it is that needs to be created.
Oh dear, I’m getting carried away. Examining the miracle of inspiration is the closest a spark can feel to emotion. If I had eyes, they would be weeping with joy.
Getting back to your daughter… I think it would be wise to explain to her the workings of the spark. Have a read first of Who Is The Spark on this blog’s homepage so you are better able to answer the questions that your daughter is sure to ask. It’s important that you warn her to keep her discovery quiet, since she can’t expect non spark-receptive humans to understand or believe that she has a spark. Telling people may cause her to be ridiculed and marginalized, and there is no need for anyone else to know.
Hopefully she has the discipline required to develop her musical voice technically, and you may need to remind her how crucial technique is to effectively communicate music, even if it may seem unimportant and boring when she is lost in the zone of creative bliss.
Would you like some advice from The Spark?