Blog: Cutting Through the Noise

Blog of Cellist Joshua Roman

The Popper Project: Part Two

Wow. This is one of the most difficult challenges I've set before myself. And therefore, one of the most compelling. Having just posted Popper no. 25 last week, 15 more to go seems doable. The most difficult part of the Popper Project is the goal to post one a week. Still, each etude presents unique demands that make the endless pursuit of perfection rewarding and fun (as well as... endless).

In my previous post on The Popper Project, I wrote about the line of focus that is required to record something, not just practice it. This is related to the concept of Practicing vs. Performing, and in a greater sense, being in the present moment. Lately I really have been realizing how many levels are ripe for present-moment-thinknig. I've always considered practicing and performing on the cello to be an ideal situation in which to develop this kind of full focus. In order to perform (or record), you must have and execute a plan, all the while going above and beyond architecture, and letting the improvisation of emotion carry the communication forward. The interesting thing is, you cannot simply leave this to the moment of performance. If you spend all of your time thinking and organizing, then when feeling comes along, often the strong emotions can seem overpowering, and mute their own effect by tying up the very structural lines they flow through. Occasionally this can be sublime, but with repeated or sustained practice, simply gruesome and overindulgent.

Interestingly enough, this does not just apply to practicing for a performance, but also to planning a day, or a week, to practice! Too much time wrapped up in the details of a schedule, and nothing ever gets done. Too much indulgence of supposed "in the moment" feelings without prioritization, and time is also wasted, or a sense of the big picture lost. Which is worse? Is one worse?

It is at moments like this when I get inspired to drop everything and practice (against my own "prioritize for emotion first, then execute" advice). This time I am stuck - my flight just started boarding. Plenty of time to plan in the 6 1/2 hours aboard this plane (with lots of free snacks. I love JetBlue.).

I've been amazed at the following the project has developed. Hundreds of subscribers on the Popper Project YouTube channel, emails, notes, facebook posts, and even a write-up in Strings Magazine, but most of all the inner drive to improve my cellistic skills and not give up, have been keeping me motivated, and I will finish this project.

More to come.