Verb: Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
Noun: Activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, esp. by children.
I find it interesting to note that when we make music at our instrument, it’s considered “playing.” As musicians, we get to play. Every day. [Singers, I know you don't use the same term, but the idea makes sense for you too, no?]
I was pondering this today as I wrestled to play chords on the guitar—an instrument I’ve never learned. I didn't feel very "playful." But something sparked—I felt like there was something I might like to do with this instrument. Should I find a teacher and take live online lessons? Why not learn another kind of play?
I’m a professional classical pianist. I've had a very playful life so far, you could say. But it occurred to me that it might be fulfilling to find another way to play, a casual “fireside” portable kind of play. Maybe I’d even be able to share some of the other music I love with family and friends (one of my musical “soft spots” is for indie alternative folk pop…or something like that…I’m listening right now, for example, to the new A Fine Frenzy album that came out today.)
By definition, play serves no “practical purpose.” But play pervades nature. And making music is a distinctly human activity. So, one could propose, playing music is highly purposeful because in doing so, we engage in being what we are: human.
Musical instruments are contraptions created to make the sounds we imagine or hear in our heads. Until we master them, they’re unnatural, they hurt our hands (fingertips on the guitar today!), strain our breath, make us self conscious and frustrated, and produce consternating sounds other than what we really want to hear.
Thus we practice. Practicing, come to think of it, is also very human—the effort put forth to hone and perfect our creation of sounds that reveal our human qualities.
So, the next time you play your instrument, consider what a wonderful opportunity it is to embrace something created to help you express what and who you are. Play indeed has purpose. If we practice with passion and gratitude, our instrument will become an extension of us. The more actively we listen, the more deeply we feel, the more we tell a story with every succession of notes, the more music opens the window to our very self, revealing us to ourselves and others.
Observer of the world of music, performance, learning and technology. Performer, Producer, Recording Artist, VP Community and Content-Zenph Inc.