Hans Christian Bræin meets Wassily Kandinsky

A few days ago, I was going through my old lesson book to revisit the wisdom of a teacher who is now retired and I came across the following poignant words. On November 30, 2011, after clearly being influenced by a lesson, I wrote:


You have experienced most of the emotions and feelings that life has to offer by the time you are twenty. As we get older, we tend not to express ourselves as we genuinely feel, but rather we let society’s expectations of us mediate how we act and even how we feel. When I play I need to tap into child-like impulses that are still there, but hidden beneath a more mature exterior. I need to express emotions as I first felt them. I must paint not with the muted tones of adulthood but rather with the raw, vivid palette of childhood. This is why it is so essential to lead a real life outside of the practice room. Children are very good at imitating the musicianship of great performers. But, as they get older and their audiences become more discerning, these imitations are exposed. The mature performer therefore needs to draw his inspiration from a reservoir of lived experiences. Loves lost, the excitement of a new journey, the power of friendship – these are felt most strongly when we are young, and they must be experienced for us to have any hope of producing something beautiful.

Our missions as musicians are twofold: to create a form expressed through time, but, even more importantly, to express meaningful and emotional content. Just as a painting is comprised both of colors (content) and how these are bounded, limited, and expressed in relation to one another (form), so is musical performance a combination of sounds that are beautiful (or angry, or full of despair) and the way that these sounds are organized into a coherent and meaningful whole. This is the duality of music : music must satisfy us aesthetically with its content as well as intellectually with its structure. Just as the musician must shape a phrase in such a way as to make its relation to the formal structure apparent, so must the musician ensure that the sound with the framework of form, the sound itself, is expressing something that is worth expressing.