Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Beautiful Mistakes

These days, my eldest boy is learning a Latin alphabet, A to Z (just in case you’re wondering why I didn’t say “the Latin alphabet,” there are multiple Latin alphabets. Go figure). Almost always, he can’t (or I guess he never tries to) hide his excitement when he spells out “Aeee, Beee, Ceee, ….” Sometimes he points to a letter and spells it incorrectly, like pointing to “U” and saying “Veee.” But he is quick to correct himself.

Alphabet; Photo by teresiaI looked back to the times when I started learning music by playing the pianica that I believed was bought somewhere in Saudi Arabia. It was exciting, and later I got excited playing electronic organs, and got excited again when my aunty taught me to play notes on my grampa’s piano.

Fast forwarding, my parents got me a beautiful (in both look and sound) upright Yamaha piano and I started taking piano lessons. The first few lessons were fine. I learned about basic fingering, the pedal, and the basic necessary things. But after a while, things became very different. Suddenly I hated playing the piano. I hated everything by Bach, Mozart, Chopin, and all those geniuses. They were too hard to play. I got about 9 out of 10 notes wrong when I was lucky. I made so many mistakes. I couldn’t enjoy playing the piano anymore.

Somehow, I hung in there. For years. Years! I don’t remember whether it was because my parents pushed me or I was too chicken to tell them “I quit.” And suddenly, I loved playing the piano again. And I could play hours non-stop. I don’t know if that was caused by puberty hormones or anything else, but what mattered was that I loved playing it again. And I started composing songs independently.

As all music players do, I made mistakes, and I still do. Up to now. Also for the skill that my son is now trying to acquire, I still make reading mistakes even though I have known A to Z since …, um, … I can’t even remember since when! And lots of people still make the same kind of mistakes.

One night, I had met this guy called Sulaiman Duffond. Out of nowhere, he just had knocked at my door and asked for my parents’ permission to play our piano, and also asked me to play some of my songs. He had come some other days again, and he had invited me to perform at his community centre on a certain date. I came at the time he mentioned, and I did perform. He noticed that I made small mistakes, but he noticed something that even I didn’t notice: I reacted to them smoothly so that the mistakes that didn’t sound like mistakes. Oh my, I had never really been aware of that!

I remember this up to this day, and I always try to have this awareness. I’ve made some mistakes in Visions that got left unedited. This time, I mean mistakes as sound that I hadn’t listened ahead. But because I felt they weren’t terribly annoying, I felt OK leaving them recorded. (Actually, during the recording session, there were a total of 12 songs recorded, but they had somewhat annoying mistakes, and hence didn’t deserve a place in the album.)

So, let us not be afraid of making mistakes. What’s important is recovering from them, possibly turning our performance even better than what we have planned!

[Photo by teresia]

  • Kamal Advani

    Not exactly what you're talking about (though very much in a similar vein methinks) but sometimes so-called mistakes become detours that lead to very unexpected discoveries. I read somewhere, I forgot whom – and this corroborates my own experience in software development – that some of the most valuable understanding comes when we search for something, and then 'by mistake' detour into something else not entirely related. As an example of a more extreme case, you have 3M Post-It Notes that were supposedly a 'failed attempt' at making powerful adhesives.

    Taking another detour, I have found more and more, that in software, and in life, that it is okay to have mistakes, so long as you learn and correct them, and try very hard not to repeat them. And that uncertainty is a fact, and is okay; not having all the answers right now is alright, and normal. On a slightly more spiritual level, of course, that calm is a direct result of faith in the Divine, so it would be silly of me to say that I am calm of 'my' own accord.

  • Songie

    hello hello~~ bumped into your entry for the first time. Boy, yes do we make mistakes, and in piano playing, so many of em sometimes! But you're right, it is how we learn from the mistakes and learn to correct them, and try not to repeat them. Mistakes as sounds I haven't heard ahead? lol….boy, that's a way to describe! Cheers, Song