The Power of Slow

Embracing time so you have more of it

The Slow Road to the Stage

Belief in one's ability can move mountains: One man's road to the stage.

Albert Einstein was considered to have an underdeveloped mind when he was a child. But he persevered to become one of the greatest thinkers of our time. Imagine if he had listened to his teachers as a child!

Another Albert, an American classical pianist who now resides in Vienna, Austria, made a similar discovery about his musical talent. His is a power of slow story, for the magical unfolding of his truest passion took years.

As a young boy, Albert Frantz's neighborhood piano teacher toId his mother to take her money every week and throw it in the garbage: "Albert will never be able to play the piano," the teacher declared, refusing to teach him.

At this point, you might assume that Albert immediately switched teachers, met his mentor and became a child prodigy. Instead he gave up piano altogether.

Later, when he was 13, his school took a field trip to the Pittsburgh Symphony-his first exposure to classical music. During Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony, a musical practical joke in which the musicians leave the stage one by one, he and his buddies also left the concert hall in protest.

In high school, Albert even remembers laughing at his English literature teacher for his love of classical music. "I literally did not know that there existed anyone in the world who still listened to classical music. I was totally uneducated about music then, which today is incredibly embarrassing," he admits.

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The very next year Albert discovered classical music in earnest. At the age of 17, he had another go of it and signed up for piano lessons with a highly trained opera singer. She immediately recognized his talent and later encouraged him to explore music theory and the basics on the piano. By his fourth semester in college, Albert had switched from an electrical and computer engineering major to majoring in music and philosophy.

"On the one hand, when I started playing, I immediately discovered a latent talent," Albert excitedly told me. "Superficially, I could play any Chopin or Liszt study within months of starting playing. On the other hand, I was all fingers, and very uncontrolled ones at that-naturally unbeknownst to me at the time. I was still untrained in the other areas of music-rhythm, harmony, counterpoint, music theory, how to shape a phrase, etc. These are the elements that are so necessary to being a musician, the ones that truly count. I learned only later-very much to my detriment!-that all the elements of musicianship need to be in balance with one another."

Later, a spine injury prevented him from performing for a number of years. Forced by his physical circumstances to slow down, he didn't know whether he would ever be able to perform again.

"What the experience taught me is that you simply can't fight your body," he said. "I did a lot of physical therapy (ultimately Bikram Yoga helped me the most), dealt with a series of doctors, fortunately avoided surgery, and ultimately I was able to recover and play again."

Yet another power of slow aspect of Albert's journey was his discovery that classical art requires time to mature. "We live in a culture that celebrates youth. Sex sells in classical music as well. Record labels, marketers and concert promoters are perpetually looking for fresh faces, the latest young person to market as a prodigy. Yet the simple truth about any classical art is that you need a lot of time to mature. Before you can express mature, artistic ideas, you need time and life experience."

Albert insists that music is an expression of our deepest selves. We simply need to time to develop our personalities. He believes that artists know intuitively that there is an ineluctable way in which life's experiences, both positive and negative, translate themselves into art, and that great art can give people deeply emotional experiences they cannot otherwise have.

Albert's power of slow advice? "Don't multitask when listening to good music. It requires your full attention. It's an activity... which means it should be done actively!"

Here is a sample of Albert's playing Alkan. Here are other selections, too. But listener beware. You're going to hunger for more. And if you do, you can have it by visiting www.key-notes.com.

 

Christine Louise Hohlbaum is the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World.

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