My perspective is informed by the art I make, the books I’ve read, the therapy I’ve done, and the science I’ve learned. It seems to me that the good stuff all says the same thing: the things that stave off the quiet desperation are 1.) paying attention to what you do while you do it, and 2.)  observing pain with love, without judgement.

Dan Siegel says it in… well, pretty much everything he writes, but most particularly in Interpersonal Neurobiology. It’s in Mindful Way Through Depression. It’s all over Jung.

Grove‘s article on music psychology summarizes characteristic personality traits of trained musicians. Grove does not describe idiosyncrasies of conductors, just instrumentalists (by orchestral section) and singers, then composers. noting that:

The finding that composers exhibit less anxiety than performers may be accounted for in psychoanalytical terms: by engaging in creative processes, people bring resolution to tensions within themselves and develop new integrations. By extension, it might be thought that creative activity would attract those with severe mental health problems (Post, 1994; Kemp, 1996); this is perhaps borne out by the biographies of Berlioz, Bruckner, Musorgsky, Puccini, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Wagner and other composers.

In other words, composers work out their crazy through the processing their feelings through their music. So, maybe crazy people become composers as a way to cope. There’s evidence that the same thing works with reflective writing–journaling, really. Here’s a study, though it’s not the only one. The important thing, they studies say, is that people who make sense of their experiences through the process of writing tend to heal from trauma more efficiently.

The same could be true of authors, as observed by Craig Ferguson on The Late, Late Show, when he said that the authors of the darkest fiction tend to be his sanest guests: Lawrence Block and Stephen King, for example. And it seems to me that the best writers describe experiences in observant detail without cringing away from them, maybe even without judgement. They understand experience well enough to write so compellingly about it in fiction because they have spent the time observing it in real life. Maybe it’s judgement that keeps other writers from allowing their characters to go to those dark places. And maybe readers love those dark places so much because the authors portray them with such insight and accuracy, allowing all the judgement to happen (or not) in the reader’s mind.

The science, the art, and the lives of great leaders all seem to tell this same story over and over: loving awareness saves the day. This probably means it’s true.

This perspective flavors my approach to score analysis, rehearsal prep, teaching… everything.

The same story, over and over. Until we start understanding it, I suppose.

So… always?

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