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Keep taking the tablets ... the latest advice from
classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

My problem in that I'm disorganised. I start practising piano, then think, 'Oh no, the oven needs cleaning,' and stop practising. After the oven is spotless, I'm back on the Schubert and then I think 'Oh God, haven't written that cheque yet,' and I'm off again. It's not that I want to stop playing, but I just feel compelled to, because of all the worries lurking in the back of my mind. Yet my teacher still thinks there's a chance of being a concert pianist. With all this stupid muddle-headedness, can he be right?

Despairing in San Francisco

Dear S F,

Of course he can be right.

Dealing with interruptions (sorry, but I just had to break off in order to wipe my daughter's nose, season my husband's dinner, do a quick spot of editing and put new water in the fishtank) are part of everyone's life. Someone depressingly concluded that the average Briton 'wastes' several days every year brushing his/her teeth, and that statistic is absolutely dwarfed by the statistics on sleep which takes up several of all of our months every year. (Don't even think about it, is my advice. By the time you've thought about it sufficiently, you've wasted another good hour anyway.) So be vigilant and determined. Don't let that oven get you down. (How many pianists have, 'She always had an immaculate oven' inscribed on tombstone???????) I also think that these kinds of worries are deeper-seated than you think (not 'the cooker is messy' but 'Help, I don't know where this phrase is actually going' ...) And I also happen to know that the mess can wait. Everything, in fact, can wait -- except for cooking, which, if you hope to stay partnered, can never wait.

Potential piano stars ought also ideally to be surrounded by sympathetic souls to take those tedious or domestic tasks from off of their slim shoulders, but in real life this actually quite rarely happens so stop wasting time reading this and get back to your Schubert you lazy nerd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yours, full of womanly sympathy,

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

My worry is that I have become addicted to Inderal. I can't perform the easiest simplest solo without taking not only one but two or three 10 milligram doses. Should I forget about orchestral work? What about the risks of an early brain hemorrhage?


Dear JH,

First of all I'd like to say cheer up, you are not alone. A recent survey suggested that over seventy-seven percent of players in a certain major London orchestra are similarly positioned vis-a-vis this (entirely legal) performance-calming/enhancing drug. For the uninitiated, these are adrenalin-inhibiting beta-blockers, which allow the natural excitement of performing expression, without allowing the 'fight or flight' mechanism (imbued in mankind since pre-history) to take over. In fact, had it not been that our early ancestors had to be ready to dodge hippogriffs and mammoths purely and simply because no one had invented McDonalds yet, present day musicians wouldn't have a nerve to worry about!!!!!!!!!

As for the minutely increased risk of brain hemorrhage (I'm taking your spelling here but wouldn't put money on it), that has first to balanced against how fast you'd starve in the street if you couldn't perform properly, and second against the knowledge that absolutely everything is bad for you to some degree or other, even red wine and tooth-brushing (see previous question). In short, what about the mammoths? What price the hippogriffs? Also, for what it's worth, if the rate of brain disease was really intimately linked with Inderal usage, there'd already be a vast and crying need for new players to fill in for the prematurely deceased in London's top orchestras. And, although I myself no longer avidly peruse the employment section of the arts section of a Saturday, I am assured (from friends who do) that such is not the case.

So, keep taking the tablets, is my advice!!!!!!!!!!!! (And, incidentally, Inderal is non-addictive. You can actually stop any time you choose.)


Copyright © 16 July 2004 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK






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