Mastery and Pace

A man, a pianist named Sviatoslav Richter plays Frédérick Chopin’s Etude op10 no4 at an insurmountable speed. His hands move faster than the poor framerate of the video through which I see this performance. He is a master. And I am in wonder. Is speed mastery only in the sense of works we reproduce through repetition or is it always the case that it is? It is, of course, in the case of his playing this song, there is no doubt of it. 

Playing a song you've played before a 100 times is different from composing a new song. Is one necessarily better than the other? But to compose a piece as fast as he has played this song… Wouldn’t that also be mastery? Is that more masterful than a song that takes a composer longer? Is it a sign of poor intellect, perhaps a hindrance in the brain caused by some chemical imbalance that creates the necessity for more time? It wouldn’t be a factor if there were equal allotments of time for everyone, because then time would not matter. The projects would all get done and the ones that took longer, well, it would simply be like playing a record at half-speed. A life lived on a slower pace. But that is not the case. Not in reality. In reality, in time, as we collectively know it, we only have so much, and it varies per person, as you and I both know all too well. We are going to die at different times and some of us will get to do more than others.

But that aside, with the supposition that we have the same amount of time to complete a task: Is the faster person better? Only if he is learning. If you already know how to do what you are doing, then to complete a work with more intricate attention would mean a better work. If kept at the same pace. Not necessarily the same pace of action but the same pace of thought. Perhaps. No. That’s wrong. That can’t be the case because the pace with which one thinks creates the pace of the piece itself. That is to say, the pace something is written is the pace the reader naturally attempts to reach, if not surpass, but always within a tolerable threshold so that it is still relatively within the same sense of speed. A slower, more deliberate work would cause the reader to slowly work their way through it. Like walking in sand, trudging through the specks whose clarity is as uncertain and shape-shifting as liquid, whereas a faster piece is like sprinting on wooden boards. They’re panels of words separated by paragraphs versus the fine grains of poetry.

So then, if they create two different experiences, the one that is desirable is the better of the two. The question then becomes which is desirable? And to whom? And is it always desirable for them? Is it always desirable for the one creating it as well, or performing it, if that’s the case— That’s just as important, if not more so. The desire of the audience would naturally be inclined to that of the author, otherwise, they wouldn’t engage with it (unless of course, they have to engage with the work for some external pressure). But the desire of the author does not have to match the desire of the— No, to make something that has a powerful effect, the author has to have a desire for it to be exceptional. Otherwise they would not pay enough attention to it. The exception is if they were discouraged. They would still desire to make it work, but, lacking the belief that it is doable, any subsequent thought of the work would only cause them pain and misery.

Barring the exceptions, then: The desire of the audience has to align with the author and the desire of the author has to align with the audience. All of this being indirect. Though not always the case. If there is a personal connection between the audience and the author (whether imagined or not) then that could become a direct intent, but more often then not the desires align similarly by way of their mutual connection: The work itself. Without the work, there is no common ground, no connection, no desire. What is the work?

I know what it is when I am working on it. But how do I recognize a work someone else is making? How do I understand it? I can’t. I can’t understand them. I can’t understand their works so I make my own. I make my own for myself because I know no one else that would understand. Or that would desire to understand. No. Scratch that. It’s all wrong. I’m wrong. If I’m not understandable then I must be wrong for you. What is the right work? The one easily understood? Easily followed? A preyful piece? Or a work that is as incomprehensible as I find others to be? Which is better?

And this goes beyond pace, because an incomprehensible work could be too quick to be understood, just as a work can be too gargantuan, thereby becoming too slow-to-progress and convoluted to be comprehended. 

Which is better? The easily understood or the unduly complex? And which is better at what hour? 

It depends on the needs of the audience and the needs of the author. Again, we are brought back to the unifying connection of the work itself, which stands in the middle between them: The audience on one side and the author on the other. Change one factor and the rest of the model changes. For a complex audience, a complex work, and a complex author. A simple audience for a simple work and a simple author. Can a complex author make a simple work? Yes. But in that mode of creation, the author would be simple. The same goes for the audience, that goes without saying, but I state it here for absolute clarity.

Is that really what I am after? To simplify? Clarity is a mode of simplification. Am I trying to find a simpler audience? 

I believe they are too complex, so I try to make myself more understandable to try to search for a more understandable audience. Am I simpleminded for it? But I am failing. Always, in every case. Is my failure a sign of… Have I not gone far enough with the simplification? Or have I gone too far? Or have I not gone at all? Have I completely failed in my simplification process? Again I am brought back to my mind being faulty. Surely humanity was not meant to be so incomprehensible- By that I mean, it would not survive like this. My desire for self-destruction, then, stems from a social awareness of failure and a lack of connection to an audience. 

I have no audience, therefore I have no purpose, because I am so tied to my work. Without the work there is no me and no you. If I stop making this… Or if you stop reading this prematurely…

Then there’s nothing.

Why now? There’s no time left. Why am I only realizing this now? It’s done. It’s all done and I’ll be gone and there’s nothing I can do now. There is nothing I can change. These words are dead. Funny to think the only liberty I’ve known is from the responsibility fate takes from my shoulders. 

…But I’m not dead. I’m still writing this write now. And you’re still reading this. In this moment, neither of us are dead, albeit on different sides. I am in the past, alive, and you are in the future, alive. We are alive. We are here, in the work, intermingling. You hear me and I see you listening attentively. Thank you, by the way. I’m glad I’m not alone.

I’m supposing there is someone here now. I hope you’re there, whoever you are. Because if you’re reading this and following along, then… You might not understand but you certainly know there is something between us, and that is the work itself. That is why this is so important to me, and to you as well. Maybe I shouldn’t assume it is for you. Maybe it’s not as important to you. How can I know that it is? It’s important to me. I know that much. But how do I know it is important to you? I don’t. The channels of communication are one-way. I can’t hear you. I hope it is. Should I act under the pretense of a hope? If I did, would you give me the benefit of the doubt? I have never been given the benefit of the doubt so how can I believe in you? 

Who would think to show mercy to the executioner?