Many years ago I was a violinist. I’d spent many, many years practicing. Not at the level of James Ehnes, who had a work ethic like I’ve never seen, but I was practicing for two hours every day starting at the age of six. Two hours daily, one hour each morning and one hour each evening. My day started and ended with the violin. Music was the core of my life, my Alpha and Omega.
When I was 20, Konstantin Krechler put a piece on my music stand. It was by a composer I’d never heard of named Ysaÿe. It was truly hard. Ysaye was the 20th century’s Paganini, the violin god of the turn of the last century. Played in a Beer Hall Orchestra. A Legend. In many ways, the story of modern violin playing is HIS story.
The piece is called the Ballade. And there is only one reference point to this playing of Ysaye and that’s Oscar Shumsky. Its a bit old fashioned by today’s standards, and the recent recording by James Ehnes is superb, but here is the Shumsky anyways.
For three weeks I brought him the first page. at the end of week three he said ”learn the piece or I’m getting a gun.”
So I did.
I practiced every day for 6 hours a day. 42 hours later, I knew the piece. I brought it to him. Played it for him. He was happy with my work. But then…
Then I went to the practice room the next week and realized that I didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t want to spend many hours a day with just the instrument and the music for company.
I realized that, to maintain that level of playing and work consistently, I needed to keep doing that. 42 hours a week. Every week.
I didn’t want that sort of lonely life for myself. I left the violin behind about 2 months later.
So when I listen to Bo Burnham sing this :
I can’t help but remember those days and think ”are we really just practicing surfing at this point?” Is that what has become of us? Because we are all on it for HOURS at a time.
So I’m taking a break from consumption of the internet. I’ll be practicing (like always), and I might need the internet to help me practice, but for the next month I’ll only be here to think my thoughts and offer encouragement and suggestions. Know what I won’t be here for?
Anything and everything all of the time. There’s been enough of that, thanks.
Instead, I’ll be in the vast nothingness of an unplugged experience. The richness of life without the internet. I have no idea what that looks like, but I have an idea that I’ll be bored for a while and then I’ll fill the boredom with other things.
See you soon.