Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Voice of Competition

Okay, back on this mind trail again.  I am sitting here with Brahms Requiem playing via Youtube, trying to imagine I am part of this choir singing into the empty room with no other sound except the odd buzz of a car drive past outside.  Unlike real rehearsal, I sound timid and unsure, wait, maybe I sound that way in real rehearsal as well, oh right.  Well, not quite as pathetic as right now, I hope.  Anyways, as I am doing my practicing all alone here, it occurred to me how very different it feels to be alone trying to deliver in German and in tune, and in time, all those important things I am supposed to do as my responsibility as another spoke  in the singing wheel.  Even though I have the mechanical sound guiding me, I am all alone.  Without the lifting guidance of other live voices around me I am nothing, and alone.  A concept that gave me a big "aaaaaa HA"  once again, the concept of what competition really means.

I have wondered if I was putting off friends who are artists with my non-stop self teachings on competition, I really am only judging on my own psyche, what others do is their business.  Competition happens in all areas of life, not just art, everything we do.  Be it a job, a social group, the neighbourhood, family status, all around us is this personal push to measure up.  It is most often our own inner voice telling us to buck up and do better, not others.  Well, maybe a teacher, someone who we expect to guide us into being better.  But let's face it, our peers almost never tell us to do better.  That's a very personal demand we put on ourselves.  And (speaking about my own inner voice) when there is uncertainty and insecurity, blame can be pointed else where to excuse our own lack of ability in accomplishing what we commit to.

Success is a scary thing when it happens within a group. It can lead to abandonment of those who want to be better than us.  The most secure in themselves will not be jealous, or resentful of our success.  But what would success be if there was no one there singing along with us?  My life has taken many graduate studies on this concept of human beings' needs for competing.  We learn quickly as children what it means to be compared to others.  We aren't stuck by ourselves in a room with books to get educated.  We gather into groups and learn together.  It's imperative to co-exist in a world of learning with others.  But we also must learn to discipline ourselves on what it all means.

So here I am back on this psychological avenue again of self awareness.  For me, going from things I do all by myself to things I do with lots of people, I find my mind again telling me these needs are built in us as the creatures of life that we are.  I am pretty sure music was invented as a group endeavor, doubt it was one person all by themselves who everyone else copied. I bet it was a gathering of energetic dreamers who made sounds together, an activity that built on itself out of pure delight. An energy that took on it's own life, so much so, someone gave it a name, called it music.  Same with visual art, everyone jumped in and created something beautiful with the rest.  Instinctively the human race joined in with others.  Was that competition?  I think so.  I know, I know, I could read up on this, but sometimes it's more fun just to wonder.

Competition is not a problem, it's how we react to things within it that can be a problem.  While I type away here with the incredible beauty of Brahms filling the air space around me, I know this particular self competition was made for me.  Am I good at singing this composition??  Hell no.  But is it rewarding for me?  That yes goes beyond the simple "yes" .  When our director, Peter Butterfield, asked us the other night if we felt we could sing one piece better, my immediate response was of course, I always know I could do better.  In fact, I never think I have done THE best.  It may be the best that I can do at that particular moment, I accept that.  But what I am striving for is always there, do it better.  Within that mission there are so many other things that I will learn along the way.  Like the painting that takes on it's own life of all consuming creative magic, so can learning to sing in a choir.  The songs create a blank canvas for us to fill.  Unexpected moments of singing with encompassing love instead of struggle begin to happen more and more often.  My fear and lack of connection to Brahms's music has come from distant confusion to incredible delight in the beauty it brings to all of my senses.

Without each other, we are nothing.

Have a peaceful and all encompassing weekend....and...

Thank you and Bless you, Johanne Brahms.

Mary Ann

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