I have often heard musicologists categorize composers into the traditionalists vs. the innovators. Brahms & Liszt are the classic pair. Old forms and purist ideals vs. new virtuosity and programmatic inspirations. I started thinking about how right now, during the pandemic, all of us musicians and creatives are forced to learn new ways to share our art forms. What is the motivating force that makes me, with all my past traumas of losing data, obstinate little frozen swirly upload circles, rabbit holes researching without clear results..., what makes me willing to innovate, to embrace Zoom meetings, to learn about video editing, to invest in tech gear, to face the anonymous scrutiny of an online public?
Recently I surprised myself by starting to schedule new content on my youtube channel, “Hsingayhsupianist”. Performances, concepts, listening tips, and interviews are now released in an orderly line-up on Thursdays at 2pmET. I like that I can control the pacing and it does not have to be a daily distraction, and that in the spirit of innovation, failed experiments (of which I'm certain there will be many) can be taken offline. This month's theme is Innovation For Continuity, and this week I talk about Beethoven's innovations and perform his last piano sonata, Op.111, in honor of his 250th birthday year.
My love of old forms and purist ideals, my desire to build community for lifelong learners, my interest in making mental/emotional/physical connections, these are a few of my favorite things... which compel me to find new platforms and new approaches in the context of our changing world.
Mentally speaking, I wonder at the tension of opposites between continuing what I have always done, and reaching further to explore new containers for our ideas and new delivery systems for communications.
Physically, I am making changes in order to maintain a level of creative functionality and a positive mood during this extended stressful time. Changes like increasing the length of my walks and family time, and decreasing the length of sitting and amount of sugar intake, may sound trite, but they seem to create a force field of protection. In January, I will introduce via Youtube how to breathe with music intentionally (beginner level), so that our lungs practice the agility to stay responsive even when our nerves freeze up.
Emotionally, I sift through past experiences with students and audiences to intuit what really matters to me. What characters, what concepts, what connections in this piece of music do I need to communicate, and how do I bring them to life from multiple angles? The continuity of intent from the composer to the performer to the commentator to the listener, naturally drives innovation.
In my own musical journey, I started out as a lifelong student who observes and copies, added on the role of a performer who takes action and lives in the moment, then became a teacher who shares knowledge with others, and finally a producer to expand audience interaction. Now I innovate to continue living out all my four identities, in spite of my fears of technology and change, to continue processing life through music.
Hsing-ay Hsu ©2021 April