"Have you ever been in love?"
That's what my 92 year old harp mentor asked me one day. She was listening to me play the third movement of the Hindemith sonata. I had just started it, so I was muddling through the notes and getting my feet tangled up in seven pedals changes in one measure.
"This is the part of playing harp that I can't teach you. These life experiences are what we draw from when we play. This is the fun part! This movement is beautiful! Memorize the notes and the pedals so you don't have to think about it. Then we can really start to work."
So I worked. I worked all week on eight measures. That's it- those eight measures were my world. One day was two measures, eight chords. I played those two measures/eight chords for an hour. (I'm always a little worried my neighbors get sick of my practicing.) The next day was one measure - the terrible Measure With Seven Pedal Changes. I think the Measure With Seven Pedal Changes may have actually been two days. I eventually got through the first eight measures of this movement, and didn't need the music in front of me anymore.
And then what happened? I started hearing things. I heard the melodic line in my right hand was repeated later my left, like a shadow. I heard the beauty in the dissonance. I heard the beginnings of reverence that Paul Hindemith was trying to instill, by putting the thoughtful movement at the end of the piece, rather than in the middle.
It was becoming a part of me. It was morphing from the notes on a page to a place- that place I go when I play. That place where I draw from those life experiences.
The next time I saw my mentor, I played this again. She sat back in her chair while I played, instead of sitting forward looking at the music stand like she normally does.
When I finished, she said "Now you hear it. Let's keep going."