Well Aged

Jour­ney­ing through life, make room for mu­sic

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - STAY TUNED - BY ERIK ENT WISTLE Pian­ist, in­struc­tor and mu­si­col­o­gist Erik En­twistle re­ceived an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in mu­sic from Dart­mouth Col­lege. He earned a post-grad­u­ate de­gree in pi­ano per­for­mance at Washington Univer­sity in St. Louis. He earned his doc­tor­ate

My teenage son re­cently de­cided to take up the gui­tar again―and I couldn’t be hap­pier. He switched from elec­tric to acous­tic gui­tar and is tak­ing lessons and prac­tic­ing. I hope it works out bet­ter than the first time around, when a bro­ken fin­ger tem­porar­ily put him out of com­mis­sion and the gui­tar ended up gath­er­ing dust while other in­ter­ests took hold. No mat­ter if he doesn’t wind up as an An­dres Segovia or Chet Atkins, he can choose, just as they did, to bring his gui­tar along with him on his life’s jour­ney, and have his fa­vorite in­stru­ment be­come a con­stant com­pan­ion. What a won­der­ful choice to be able to make!

Which brings me to the point: Have you no­ticed that mu­si­cians never seem to vol­un­tar­ily re­tire from their ca­reers? They go on prac­tic­ing, teach­ing, record­ing, com­pos­ing and per­form­ing un­til they are no longer able. While there are doubt­less many fac­tors, I sus­pect it boils down to an ob­ser­va­tion made in 1943 by the Czech com­poser Bo­huslav Mart­inu, who wrote that “the cre­ative im­pulse is iden­ti­cal with the wish to live, to feel alive.” Mart­inu had ar­rived in Amer­ica as a refugee from war-torn Europe and wrote this state­ment at the height of the S econd World War. With this as­ser­tion, Mart­inu was in a sense re­mind­ing him­self and other fel­low artists to con­tinue ex­press­ing them­selves cre­atively de­spite the uncer­tainty, fear and de­pri­va­tion brought about by a world that seemed to be tear­ing it­self apart.

The life of one of Mart­inu’s friends, the Pol­ish pian­ist Mieczys­law Horszowski, per­fectly il­lus­trates Mart­inu’s quote. Horszowski had also fled Europe for the United States, where he con­tin­ued a re­mark­able per­form­ing ca­reer that would prove to be one of the long­est in the his­tory of the per­form­ing arts. He was al­ready in his late 90s when I had the priv­i­lege to hear him in recital in Bos­ton some 25 years ago. While the first thing I no­ticed was his slow, de­lib­er­ate shuf­fle to­wards the pi­ano, what I re­mem­ber most is the ra­di­ant sound of the in­stru­ment. It was as if he poured a life­time of ex­pe­ri­ence into the notes pro­duced by his frag­ile, but still ag­ile, fin­gers. On that night Horszowski gave his au­di­ence a re­mark­able gift, an aware­ness and grat­i­tude for

be­ing alive that still strongly res­onates for me a quar­ter-cen­tury later.

To­day we are for­tu­nate that the cur­rent con­cert scene is re­plete with sea­soned artists who have en­joyed long ca­reers and who con­tinue to in­spire au­di­ences de­spite (or, rather, thanks to) their ad­vanc­ing age. While there will al­ways be new and ex­cit­ing tal­ents to ap­pre­ci­ate, our mu­si­cal veter­ans, both liv­ing and no longer with us, re­mind us that life and cre­ativ­ity are in­sep­a­ra­ble― just as Mart­inu’s state­ment en­cour­ages us to re­flect on how we might re­al­ize our own cre­ative im­pulses as we pur­sue a mean­ing­ful and ful­fill­ing life.

It is com­fort­ing to re­al­ize that as far as mu­sic is con­cerned, whether one is a pro­fes­sional or ded­i­cated am­a­teur, the word “re­tire­ment” needs never ap­ply.


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