I already wrote that I taught the undergraduate choral conducting class at UConn last spring by using the tools and resources which I had found most useful for myself as a student. So, I required the undergrads to read Zen in the Art of Archery.
Yes, I suggested Monday that preparation is a way to compensate for the skills towards which one lacks a natural inclination. Preparation is a way to get good at anything, really.
Talent with practice is the best combination. But if you’ve got to pick one or the other, practice without talent trumps talent without practice every day of the week. Ten thousand hours, they say, equals expertise. Spend ten thousand hours working on anything, and you will be an expert at it. And maybe that only can be called expert because so few people will dedicate that much time to any single endeavor that those few will be the high water mark for expertise. Because the more you work on something, the more you realize just how much there is to it, and how little you really know about it, right?
Anyway, the Zen in the Art of Archery perspective seems to me to suggest that preparation results in learning not to do. You learn to get out of the way and let “it” do through you. You don’t practice aiming so you get good at aiming, you practice shooting so that “it” shoots through you.
Dr. Buck told me that studies have shown that experts use different parts of their brains when they work than novices. Maybe this is a scientific insight into the sensation of “it” doing through us. We aren’t doing anymore, because we’re nothing thinking “now I have to cut off the T on the and of four, and then I have to breathe on beat two…” Instead, we just live the music and the cutoffs and breaths just happen.
That is my experience of preparation. And I remember it when I read Zen in the Art of Archery. I remember to trust my teachers, the composers, the time I spend with the score. Everything new I learn about how to prepare represents, to me, just one more way to spend time, to get to know it. Just like getting to know a person, the way you get to know it depends on what’s in it, what its characteristics are, what its requirements are. The important thing is to spend the time. And to trust that understanding will come.