by The Dreamer


life is full of great paradoxes, and i guess that we are all in some way, a living, breathing form of them. recently i’ve been observing the several jarring juxtapositions in my life.

i love music, and i love playing it. i love the feeling of immersing myself in the music piece, especially when surrounded by the entire ensemble and there is a whirlwind of unison notes of varying tempo and dynamics being strummed, being plucked. when the pulse of the music is so strong that it propels you into a elusive, enigmatic stream of musical consciousness,  your soul either uplifted or grounded depending on the gravity of the music – sometimes you are so enthralled that you can’t help but sway, and then you open your eyes and you realise everyone around you is swaying together, as a collective. recently i could be playing, attempting to hit the correct notes, when some odd warm feeling rushes up my oesophagus and veins, and i am momentarily stunned by this visceral reaction. i am really feeling the emotions of the music – it is gut-wrenching, urgent, sublime and ethereal. a few times tears well up in my eyes and i struggle to blink them away so that my scores do not become merely a blur.

and then the contradiction kicks in: i am not good at what i do. i play two guitars in my ensemble – the prime guitar and the special Nibori Alto Cembelo, and they are both instruments exquisite in nature, and yet i am unable to convey their voices in a desired manner. i stumble, i press the wrong notes, i lag, i cannot catch up, i ruin the beauty of the song. and it frustrates me – because i am essentially wrecking the cohesion and musicality of the ensemble. i understand that for whatever i am lacking in talent, i should make it up for hard work. but my many hours dedicated to playing the pieces do not seem to pay off, because stage fright paralyses me, and once i have to play in front of even just the ensemble, i am completely floored with fear. my hands turn clammy, my fingers jam up, my mind turns blank, and i tremble so much that it is impossible to sit upright. how – in these circumstances – can i perform in the concert?

i am so afraid of messing up. and i ask myself everyday: is it possible to love doing something that you are not good at?

months of practice and of running my fingers up and down the neck of the guitars for hours on end has made my fingers stiff and body lethargic. i sleep early and force myself to rise early just to cram some studying in my otherwise occupied (by guitar practice) schedule.

nevertheless, i am still saddened by the thought that by two weeks, when the curtains descend, it will truly be my last time in an ensemble. it will be the last time playing music with this big group of 43 passionate individuals that make such climatic and sonorous music. i will miss my prime section, who has proved themselves to be kind and understanding and fun-loving, and make the most fatiguing of the days slightly lighter and brighter for me. they are the pats on my backs when i pull off a certain running note well, they are also the comforting rubs on my shoulder when i get criticised. i love pulsing in a synchronized manner with them, i love the lazy moments during break where we simply jam to music and playing the guitar becomes fun instead of a chore. or when we search up the back story behind the music piece that we’re playing, sobbing a little when it is tragic, and getting pumped up when it is a lively tune, and channeling such newfound emotions into the tips of our fingers.

however, i will  heed my instructor’s advice: strive to play the correct notes, but do not purely focus on being correct. play with your heart.

jean x x

钧 x x