I played my flute at Mass again today, with an expanded set of music. Somebody -- Mary, maybe? -- asked me to say more about the flute I bought. It's an intermediate Gemeinhardt, open-hole.
I had the idea that I would just hit the ground running. I used to be good at flute; I would be good at flute again. It's going a little more slowly than I thought it might. At first the instrument and I didn't always agree about which octave we were going to be in. This is mostly resolved, but I am still working on the adjustment to an open-hole instrument. This flute has an inline G key (my old beginner flute had an offset G), and it's going to take me some time to feel comfortable with covering the open G key since the hand position is a little different.
The thing that is most surprising to me is the way that my brain is clunkety-clunking across multiple key changes. The Mass parts are almost entirely in F, and I found myself needing to be very deliberate with myself about the other pieces I was playing. It didn't always work. I issued myself a firm reminder before the Lamb of God, which modulates. "Don't forget," I told myself, "TWO SHARPS." If you have any music background you are wincing at that reminder: if you're playing in F and you modulate to G, there's only one sharp. This was painfully apparent when I played a C-sharp, loud and clear, where a C-natural was called for.
The directors are so kind and encouraging, though, that I could just shake it off. They asked if I'd come back and play again tomorrow morning, actually, but I declined.
I am determined not to let perfectionism get in the way of joy.
Today I was sitting quietly and holding my flute between songs, feeling it cool gradually as the warmth of my breath dissipated. And maybe this is odd, but it made me think about the goodness of post-Incarnation life: I have been given the gift of breath, and I can use it to make the air dance around me. I am pulling from a set of skills I learned as a young girl -- many many hours spent figuring out how to unite fingers and breath and tongue and brain into one coordinated effort -- and when it goes well my whole heart sings through them: you alone are the Most High Jesus Christ!
I was thinking too about the mystery of hearing. You never say to yourself, "Okay, that note I'm hearing is causing my eardrum to vibrate a thousand times per second"; you probably don't say to yourself, "Wow, it's so cool that my cochlea can do a sort of Fourier transform thing." You probably don't imagine the physical movement of the air being converted into electrical energy, racing down your eighth cranial nerve, traveling to your inferior colliculi and your temporal lobes. I am thinking about young Samuel, saying, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening" -- and about the gift of the listening itself.
That's the treasure of acoustic music, right? We use our bodies and our instruments to direct the very air around us to give glory to God; we use our ears to pull meaning from the dancing air. I say, with fingers and heart and breath, glory to God!, and you can hear it and sing along with me: glory in the highest!