'As always, it was sheer pleasure to observe Robin Hill's remarkable fluent technique: everything looks easy when he plays it.' Colin Cooper- Classical Guitar Magazine ----- 'Wonderful for their (Hill & Wiltschinsky) precision, touch and clarity of sound... refined virtuosity, the achievement of a long interpretive process.' Il Giornale D'Italia (Rome) ----- 'I loved your CD and thought your technique and performance were fabulous...' Rick Wakeman

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Psychology of the Injured Musician

A few days ago Robin broke his right wrist.
Treacherous ice was the culprit, and I'm sure there have been many casualties across Europe in the last few weeks.
Whilst there is no good time for such an incident, this couldn't have happened at a worse time for us.
A new album out, (you can see Robin's site for details), and a 2 week trip with concerts promoting 'Standing on Air', had to be cancelled.

But how does all this effect a musician?
After all, they dedicate their life to making music and suddenly the very essence of their being is removed.
This might sound dramatic, but read on...

I have written before about the pressure that soloists are under.
This post, 'Alicia de Larrocha, the Ritual Fire Dance and a Maths Exam,' springs to mind.
The fabulous pianist once admitted in an interview that prior to a concert she was so scared she hoped for an earthquake so the performance couldn't go ahead. Yet an audience watching her play with such confidence would have found this hard to imagine.
The fact remains that the need for the best possible performance at all times is a weighty responsibility.

So what happens when a concert performer suddenly finds they can't play?
The amazing Paco de Lucia once sustained a horrific hand injury with a fishing harpoon.
It has been reported that for the first 48 hours he simply had a sense of relief. The pressure had been removed as there was no way he could play.
However, after 48 hours fear and frustration started to creep in as he wondered if he would ever play again.
Thankfully for us all, he made a full recovery and continues to perform and record.

The guitarist and lutenist Julian Bream also suffered a badly fractured elbow in a car accident many years ago which required several months of rehabilitation but he went on to make a full recovery.

Gypsy guitarist, Django Reinhardt, famously damaged two of his left hand fingers (third & fourth) in a fire.
He then went on to play with fingers one and two with greater facility than many other guitarists ever achieve.
Thus turning the tables on adversity.

Some are not so lucky.
The Austrian concert pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm during World War 1. Such was his desire to still perform, Wittgenstein commissioned Ravel to compose a, 'Piano Concerto for the Left Hand'.
This piece continues to be performed to this day, by two handed pianists.

Robin's injury is not as severe as any of these mentioned.
He has a fracture of the Radius and requires a few weeks in a brace.
But, the temporary consequences are that he cannot play his guitar.

So, how did he feel about this?
Initially the fear was intense.
He was very quickly seen by an orthopaedic specialist and taken to hospital for an x-ray and MRI scan.
Luckily for us, the specialist, Professor Funk, is a friend of ours.
Even luckier for us, he is well used to dealing with musicians and athletes who perform at the highest level.
Consequently, although Robin's initial x-ray didn't show a fracture, the Professor wasn't satisfied with this and requested an MRI scan.
After 20 minutes in an extremely noisy machine, forced to lie on his front with arm outstretched in a Superman position, the fracture was located.
So many thanks to Prof. Funk for his diligence and also the Bridgewater Hospital for finding a slot in their very busy schedule.

But where are we up to now, a few days down the line?
Well, like Paco de Lucia, Robin did have pretty much 48 hours where he seemed relieved.
The constant pull of the guitar had simply been removed.
Since the age of 10 he has never not played the guitar.
He was also jovial, positive about the long term and optimistic about the length of time without playing.

But now...72 hours later, I see a change.
He has started saying he is missing playing.
He is talking about supporting the guitar with his right elbow so he can at least maintain his left hand exercises.

This is not a bad idea.
To play any instrument at concert level requires many hours of practice each day.
Often people don't realise this and I usually liken it to an Olympic athlete. Nobody would expect them to turn up on the day without months and years of preparation.
It's the same for musicians.

Then there is practicing in his head.
This is actually something Robin does anyway, usually to help pass long haul flights, and to help cement new pieces to memory.
Now this has taken on a different sense of urgency as he 'hears' the music in his head and 'feels' the notes under his currently redundant fingers.

This may all sound rather dramatic but one has to remember that for Robin, and all other concert performers, music is not only their life but also their living.

It is however a good time to take stock and get on with projects that are usually left unattended due to constant travel.
So, watch this space for further developments...

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