This is sort of what I meant by choosing to acquire the skill to play the Dvořák Cello Concerto rather than implicitly blaming the piece (or the composer/author) for it’s “essential” difficulty. The Dvořák’s purported “difficulty” is just the reader’s commentary on her own relation to the text.
I feel like this states it so well that I don’t really have anything to add to it (but obviously I’m going to try.)
Every time I encounter something new with the cello, which happens all the time, I tend to label it as “difficult.” In fact, one of the biggest reasons that I chose this instrument was its inherent “difficulty.” Each song or scale or technique gets labeled as “difficult” when I first encounter it. Then, at some point I’ve progressed enough and developed enough skill that prior pieces are labeled as “easy” such as in the case of Twinkle Twinkle. A year ago, however, it was labeled as “impossible” (I was still plucking and bowing separately!) It went from impossible to difficult to somewhat doable to pretty easy to wondering how I ever could have thought it was so hard. So, like Jon said, whatever label we give something is a reflection of our own abilities, not of the piece itself.
Which brings me back to the cello itself — this strange wooden box that I wanted to learn to play because it was “difficult.” (Really, that actually ranked above liking the sound of it during my decision-making process.) I’ve spent the last year almost half afraid of this impossible to learn instrument. No matter how much progress I’ve made, my relationship with and my attitude toward the cello has stayed the same: it’s hard to play and I’m thus not not likely to ever be good at playing it. I’ve spent many many many practice sessions frustrated over the inherent impossible-ness of the cello and wishing that I’d either picked an “easier” instrument or that the cello just wasn’t so infuriatingly “difficult.” Maybe the rest of you have already seen the connection here, but it took me two days to really internalize this: It’s not the damn cello that’s difficult!
By this, I mean that the cello isn’t a difficult instrument. Truly, it isn’t. There’s nothing inherently impossible about it. Realizing this caused a kinda of fundamental shift in how I relate to the cello and how I approach practice. Today, as usual, I was getting frustrated about something that was “difficult” during my practice. The frustration was growing, the tension was building, and I was about ready to walk away and call it quits for the day when I realized that there was nothing inherently difficult about what I was doing. Just because I couldn’t do it well didn’t make it inherently difficult to do and realizing this made the frustration and tension disappear instantly. Previously, when I was viewing what I was doing as having some sort of inherent difficultly, I gave myself permission to feel frustrated about it. It was out of my control that it was hard, after all. The cello or the piece or whatever was an obstacle to be overcome and it was easy to feel angry and discouraged during practice sessions when I couldn’t accomplish what I wanted to.
Realizing that this isn’t inherently hard was one of the most liberating moments I’ve ever had while practicing. There’s absolutely no reason to feel frustrated because the piece isn’t hard. Rather, I just haven’t learned to play it the way I want to (yet!) So, realizing that what I was working on wasn’t “difficult,” I very easily went through the process of figuring out what was wrong, why, how to fix it, and implementing the solutions. I was able to do this with the entire piece in less time that it used to take me to work on one problem spot and the song now sounds as good as my pieces normally sound after three or four weeks of practice (and it was my new piece for the week!) Thinking this is hard created so much mental tension and used up so much of my effort that it was inhibiting how fast I could learn. Getting rid of that mental tension that I’d stopped even noticing was there is just about the most awesome thing ever. 😀