Magic.

Focus.

Mastery.

Self-mastery.

Mister Impossible.

Art that keeps you looking.

Music that keeps you listening.

The idea of the artistic breakthrough — the day when you don’t just do what worked the day before, but figure out how to do something new.

The Ricercar a 6.

If there were any piece of music that could qualify as magical in the way that Mister Impossible defines magical art, it would for-sure be the Ricercar.

Here’s what Charles Rosen had to say about it, in a New York Times article called “Six Parts Genius”:

The keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach cannot be called piano music, but there is one magnificent exception. Many musicians consider the six-voice ricercare from “The Musical Offering” to be his greatest fugue, and I would choose this as the most significant piano work of the millennium, as it is perhaps the first piece composed for the recently invented piano — at least, the first piece that a composer knew would certainly be played on a piano.

[…]

It can be appreciated above all by the performer: listening is only a poor second for the musical experience of immersing oneself actively in the polyphony, which here has an emotional and physically expressive impact rarely found in a work of music. It is a piece for meditation.

No, Mr. Rosen, it is a piece for magic. For both mastery and self-mastery. For turning something that was previously impossible into possibility.

I want to practice it more than I want to practice anything else, and I keep telling myself “you only get to do the Ricercar after you have already succeeded at these other tasks,” and then I never get to spend as much time on it as I want to — but I also want to do my 100 performances, and so far I only have one Chopin nocturne, two-thirds of a Mozart sonata, and five-eighths of a Stravinsky suite performance-ready.

Get your Mozart and Stravinsky mastered, I tell myself, and then you can go all in on the Ricercar and La Valse.

I mean, I’m already going fairly all-in on La Valse. Half of my practice time is going towards waltzing, because I have a dance partner on the other end of the keyboard and I want us to do our best work together.

But I am not yet going all in on the Ricercar, and I want want want want to.

Until then, here’s the first movement of Mozart K332. Please note that “performance-ready” does not mean “I’ve done everything with this piece that I want to do with it;” all it means is “this piece is ready to play in front of an audience 100 times, so you can see what works and what doesn’t and FIX WHAT DOESN’T.”

(Recording a piece for YouTube might count as a third of a performance, btw.)

What else?

Here’s WHERE I GOT PUBLISHED THIS WEEK — and since this week’s list is VERY VERY LONG, it’s worth reminding you that “what I wrote this week” /= “where I got published this week.” (In general, I turn in five freelance assignments per week; this week, way more than five of those assignments got published.)

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Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

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