This is from a clip on YouTube “Allison Janney – In Character: Actors Acting”

“I like control.” – Michael Jordan

What is the difference between being in control and being controlling?  Is there a significant difference or is this just another idea contrived by humans in order to make ourselves feel better?

I was visiting with my friend Mark the other day.  He is a piano student at the local university and one of the most talented pianists I have met.  We were talking about composers and which ones we prefer to play and listen to over those we would rather skip.  It all came down to J.S. Bach.  Yes, he is/was amazing.  I made the comment that I prefer to learn and play Bach because it gives me the sense of control that I feel is lacking in so many other areas of my life.  This is a pretty recent development for me – probably over the last five or so years.  There are days when I feel like I have been spread so thin and my patience is sorely lacking.  There are days when I bounce from activity to activity and feel like I have no real control over my schedule.  There are days when my emotions are so over the place that I really have no hope of functioning in any sort of appropriate capacity.  These are the days when Bach helps to reign me in and find purpose and order in the madness.  Today, I could have benefited greatly from having the opportunity to spend 30-60 minutes just with Bach.  I think that there could have been no better cure from the madness that kept evolving over the day than being alone at the piano with one of my dearest friends – Bach.

When I am working, I always feel so in control.  I know how to do my job and I do it well.  Then a powerful group walks into the building and every person freaks out.  Every.  Single.  Person.  I go from knowing how to do my job to all my superiors questioning my ability to do my job just because a bunch of people walked through the front door.  This is exactly what happened this afternoon.  As my coworker and I were regrouping today and coming up with a new game plan for the afternoon, our department manager comes up to us and starts ordering us around.  The longer the afternoon went on, the more I nearly snapped in two distinct pieces.  I was doing the same thing that I do every Wednesday afternoon because my job function doesn’t change based on people of importance in the building.  However, all the tension from the management team made me want to cry and scream….or something as appropriate.  This is not control.  This is pure controlling behavior.

We are not meant to control each other.  That is not what this life is about.  We need to take control of ourselves and trust that the other people in our lives are doing the same.  I am a human being full of emotions, talent, drive, and the ability to do my job well.  Trust that this I will continue to do and we will get along very well.  If you decide to try to control my actions, well, we might come to a not so happy end.  I am a person that is full of a range of emotions and in any given day, you will see many of them.  I hide nothing.

“Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.” – Marilu Henner

Peace and Love (And Sanity),

The Mad Pianist

Music as Emotion

“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.” – Henry David Thoreau

Music has always been known to evoke emotion. I hardly think there was a time when humans thought otherwise. Music can evoke emotions of love, joy, sorrow, unease, rage, complete euphoria, and limitless others. So, how is it that we define the sentiments that we want to feel? Is this a conscious choice? Is it born within us or developed? I guess that is the whole nature vs nurture question.

I have never been one to listen to music that leaves me feeling undesired emotions. I like music that leaves me feeling better and more positive about myself and my surroundings than I started. I suppose, for this reason, that this is why I do not like listening to hard rock, metal, or rap. I guess I like to think myself as a purist. Give me a symphony that evokes pure beauty over electric guitar anyday. In a previous post, I did declare that I do like to listen to some pop music and top 40 and I am not now trying to deny that fact. I am just stating a new fact about myself.

I have been thinking about this concept of aesthetics and how we, as humans, choose what music we listen to for enjoyment. I find art pleasing for arts-sake and find no reason to justify it but is that how everyone else views their choices? I have a family member that enjoys listening to all of the “music” that I do not. Does that make his choices any less valid? I think this is a valid point to think on.

In graduate school, I took a class called “The Aesthetics of Music.” In this class, which really was one of my favorites, we debated a lot of subjects. We read a lot of critiques and portions of works by different 19th and 20th century philosophers, discussed the Mozart effect, talked about the music of other cultures, and so on. So, now I am out in the real world. Does my view of what makes a piece of music “beautiful” mean that it is what the world deems “beautiful?” What are my reasons and do I really need to have reasons?

We all have tastes and it will vary from generation to generation and culture to culture. I know that my view of beauty and art varies from my parents and varied considerably from my grandparents. Our tastes will even vary between people of the same set of education and focus. I have a friend from my undergraduate years that loves a piano concerto that I think is lovely but am really only lukewarm toward. I mentioned to a group of current undergraduate piano students at our local university about my love for 20th-century and more modern music. They looked at me as if I came from another planet.

How are we letting these differences influence our thinking? How are we letting them define us as individuals and us as a culture? How are we letting our unique artistic tastes divide us from each other?

I guess that is enough to think about for a Friday evening. Emotion, tastes, culture, beauty — it’s all a lot to swallow when grouped together. Well, just know that this topic or group of topics is far from off the table. Let’s just let it settle and see where we come up on the other side of the dawn.

What are your thoughts? Send me an email (, use the contact form, or leave me a comment and I will get back to you!

Peace and love (and good taste),
The Mad Pianist