I was listening to Seth Godin’s podcast on Wabi-Sabi and Quality and Right Effort, and I was moved by it.
Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese term for the beauty of imperfection. For the natural facts of impermanence, of incompleteness, of imperfection and decay. The art is in accepting and embracing the beauty of flawed reality.
What could be a better metaphor for my entire career?
Performing on the oboe is special and magical BECAUSE the oboe is not your friend. There’s always SOMETHING that goes wrong with an oboe – water, sticking keys, REEDS. The reed is made from organic material with a mind of its own. Even the very best, most beautiful sounding, most effortlessly responsive reed has flaws. It’s really never going to be as perfect as you want it to be, and the barrier is not just the oboe or the reed but also the humanity of the performer. What you see in a live oboe performance is the eternal struggle of human against a resistant inanimate object, and when things go well there’s an element of miraculousness to it.
I know in my heart that live performance is different than recording a CD. I know that live performance is never perfect, and could always be better if only the performer was less fallible, less human. And still I felt a little bit guilty and terrible when I left the stage, and when I first heard the recording that was made of my Mendelssohn Concerto performance. Since then, and since listening to Seth, and since talking it out with some colleagues, I’m coming around to the principles of Wabi-Sabi.
I am really really proud of the work I did on my Mendelssohn OBOE Concerto and of my performance with the Lake Shore Symphony Orchestra. It was so exciting. The orchestra, the conductor, and I were so well in synch, feeling the piece so well together, and I just loved my experience. It was not perfect, though, and things happened.
But I AM proud of myself, and the orchestra, and this performance. In this spirit, and now that you have read my full disclaimer, I’m going to share it.
Here’s the “highlight reel” – ten minutes of the parts I don’t have to cringe about when people see. I’m sharing this unabashedly all over the place.
Here’s the full performance. If you would like to watch 30 minutes of mostly very good playing, with a missed high A and some water problems and a couple of finger-fumbles and a little bit of fatigue towards the end, I am proud to have you watch it. Because the imperfections are what makes it human, right? The flaws are part of the whole, and part of the beauty.
Please be kind.