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Illusory Standards

I’ve lost count of how many times recently that I’ve stumbled back into my apartment past 2 am, dazed, tired, hungry, and with sore hands after a three- or five-hour session at the piano. For the last six months I’ve been playing nothing but Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, which makes it, by far, the biggest musical project of my life. Now, I can play it front-to-back from memory, but still I’m so vexed and worn down by this damned piece that frequently I think to myself: “I wish I had a different hobby.”

In its 22-minute expanse, I have an interminable list of details to refine: the smoothness of the cascading double-stops in Ondine, the constancy of the bell in Le gibet, the snappiness of chord pairs in Scarbo, so on. I’m resigned to the fact that I will never play Gaspard precisely no matter how much I practice — it’s just that hard — but now I start to wonder: with these diminishing returns, when should I stop? Continue reading Illusory Standards