Sunday, October 31, 2010


 In some pieces of music (specifically those with a sonata-allegro structure), the themes from the beginning return later on after a time of "development".  This return is called the recapitulation, and it marks a very dramatic moment in the music.  It's similar to hearing a jazz piece in which the soloist introduces the melody, and then improvises for a while, going as far afield as he dares from that original tune.  When he returns to the melody again, it is a striking moment that (hopefully) ties all of his improvisatory development back to the foundation of the piece.  The same thing can happen in Indian ragas, and in fact many other musical styles.  The moment of return to the familiar is poignant.

But the music is never quite the same the second time around.  Even if it held the exact same notes, we would still hear the recapitulation differently than the first iteration of those themes.  The development that leads up to the moment of return fills our ears with many different possibilities, regardless of the style.  The music at that moment of return could be identical to what we heard before, but we are different.  We may be excited or satisfied when the music gets back to that familiar melody, even though we hear it through a filter of information we didn't have before. 

The development helps us to appreciate the original melodies more fully by wandering away from the full blown themes of a piece and using bits and pieces of those ideas for musical meandering.  The development can be exciting, but almost always has an unstable feeling.  To our ears, it's restless, in motion.  The return to the integrity of the initial themes of a piece feel like a destination after all of the development's instability.  The recapitulation seems stable.  Emotionally, it's a clear sense of arrival.

Life does that, too.  As I have been looking at applying for a college teaching position after a few years of development, I have a comfortable sense of familiarity, and yet I am different from the person I was the last time I lived this theme.  My path has certainly held direction and purpose, but there honestly has been some instability in pushing against my own perceived limitations.  Covering new ground is exciting, but it can also be frighteningly uncertain.  Returning to the idea of teaching music at a university not only has familiarity, though.  I have greater clarity about that theme because of the time in between.

Having taken the time to discern what has greatest value in my life, I can approach the familiar decision differently than I did in the final months of my doctorate degree.  I know now how much I love being in the classroom and teaching performers the keys to getting beyond the notes and creating engaging music.  I'm aware of how valuable it is to me to nurture my own creativity, and I have a greater appreciation for organizational dynamics.  Essentially, I guess I'm more mature than I was the first time I started applying for teaching positions, although I wasn't altogether immature before.  I've been through a development section, and sending out letters of application and a revised Curriculum Vitae feels like a recapitulation--an arrival point at someplace familiar I can now see in a new way.

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