My laptop’s hard drive died this week. The data on the drive is unrecoverable. This is an incredible inconvenience, and one that many people face everyday. As we entrust more of our lives, our work and our memories to these technological marvels, we discover how dependent we become on them. And in those first few hours without my precious computer, I realized that the lessons I was learning about my relationship with my technology were lessons that could, and should, be applied to my musical life as well.
Lesson #1: Backup.A no-brainer in the computer world. We have to prepare for the probability that something will go wrong, as Murphy’s law reminds us. And so I will remember to backup my computer files.
Musical Lesson #1: Preparation is the key. Plan enough time to prepare before a performance, leaving margin for the unexpected interruptions that arise. Practice properly, using my time and resources to prepare for the stress of performance. Practicing even when I would rather do something else.
Lesson #2: Identify what is critical.Not all files are created equal. If I lose that cute cartoon that my friend emailed to me, that’s a shame. But if I lose my financial records for the year, that’s a serious problem. By identifying what is really critical, I can take extra precautions to keep serious problems at bay.
Musical Lesson #2: The lesson here is focus. Focus on trouble spots when I practice. Focus on my technique as I practice and play. Focus on the music, not just the notes. Clear my mind of clutter so I can do my best work every day.
Lesson #3: Review your systems. When and how often should I backup my files? Where do I store my backups? Are all my files in folders where I can be sure to find them when I want them? Do I need to schedule routine maintenance to protect me against future crashes? By creating strong systems, and adhering to them, I can achieve a measure of control and a feeling of security.
Musical Lesson #3: What are my musical systems that protect and strengthen my playing? Regular practice schedule and a well-rounded practice regimen, covering technique, musicianship and repertoire. Good tuning habits. A maintenance schedule for my instruments. Spending time with other harpists and musicians. Physical exercise to keep my body strong. Listening to and reading about music. My music is only as strong as my musical systems.
I may not be able to predict my next computer disaster. But I can learn my lessons from this one.