Seymour: An Introduction

I saw Seymour: An Introduction, a documentary directed by Ethan Hawke, about the piano performing and teaching career of Seymour Bernstein. It was like a dharma talk by a Buddhist teacher stressing practicing and performing music which allow a deep track to finding the self. Career performers often have stilted personalities perhaps because their musical performance could be taught and studied and practiced but everyday social interactions were random and uncontrollable. He gave up performing at the age of 50, perhaps at the peak of his career, because he disliked the business side and the way it made him feel. From then on, he dedicated himself to passing on his understanding of the nuances of high level level piano playing by teaching dedicated students. Breath control, posture control, finger control on the keyboard, foot control of the pedals and holding the note the correct amount of time, among other things, develop the technique necessary for concert performance but are unlike the overnight sensations which captivate many Americans, such as emotional garage bands with no technique. An interesting movie meditation on doing what you love and the importance of music in living a good life.

At the end of the movie, I was reminded of Bill Cunningham New York, the documentary about the New York Times photographer known for his On the Street column, which I first came across in the 1970’s in graduate school in Fayetteville, Arkansas of all places. Bill bicycles about the City and photographs what he sees as fashion trends. The similarity, I guess, aside from both being New Yorkers, was the total dedication to observation, Seymour of music and Bill of fashion.

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