On Wednesday we looked at Barbara Bishop's setting of "Sonnet 60," and I cautioned you that the computer's rendition of the piece was nowhere close to an adequate performance. I speak from personal experience, and it's a good lesson in ABANDONMENT.
Back at the Governor's Honors Program in 2009, my friend Maila Gutierrez Springfield, piano instructor at Valdosta State College, asked me to write her something to play when she toured with her husband David and another friend. Maila is a goddess. I remember being in the choral room rehearsing a Haydn mass and she hit a wrong note: the entire room gasped in shock because Maila never played wrong notes.
I proposed a suite of brief piano pieces called Six Preludes (no fugues) and she accepted. I am not a pianist myself (a fact not generally understood), so midway through the third prelude I became concerned that perhaps what I was working on was unplayable. Remember, the computer can play anything, but humans are limited by time and space.
I sent her a PDF of what I had and asked if it were problematic. Not at all, she replied, and so with eyebrows raised in awe I never looked back.
Finally I finished them, shipped them off to Maila, who premiered them at her faculty recital in 2011, the occasion of which I was unable to attend for reasons I truly do not recall. But she sent me a recording, and here's where our lesson in ABANDONMENT starts.
Here's what Finale, the music notation program, makes of it:
It's a lovely little piece, isn't it?
Here's what Maila Springfield makes of it:
I know, right? I had no clue that's what the music I wrote sounded like. None. It was a complete revelation.
This is why actually finishing a project and giving it an audience falls under ABANDONMENT: when the audience gets hold of it, it's no longer yours. Whether it's Maila Springfield breathing incredible life into your notes, or an actual audience laughing—or not—at your latest comedy, or someone with a plate of cheese and a glass of wine standing in front of your painting at the gallery opening, or your lovely first wife sipping your latest craft cocktail, your work as an artist is done.
That's the process. You've been given a gift. You give the gift, and the audience gives it back.
And sometimes, you get the gift of Maila Springfield.