"Since flesh can't stay, we keep the breath aloft. Since flesh can't stay, we pass the words along." --Erica Jong

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Letter from my Brother

October 13, 1957

Dear Joyce,

Thanks for the letter--I enjoyed hearing from you, and hope you are able to write often. I am happy that you like it there--it will be a wonderful experience for you, and you should get a great deal out of it. You mention that you suddenly find yourself among a lot of people more talented than yourself; this will alway be the case, so don't let it discourage you. Just as we are often most critical of those faults in others which we do not possess ourselves, it usually happens that we are likewise made very conscious of their virtues which we seem to lack. I have very good pitch discrimination; yet I have been discouraged by others who are gifted with absolute pitch. Many others memorize better than I, and while beginning to labor with languages I was very discouraged to make the acquaintance of a young man who had a fluent command of at least seven languages. I cannot memorize scriptures, and other people know the Bible backward and forward. I cannot play horn as well as many others, and I feel inadequate playing jazz on the bass. My ability to compose and arrange seems weak in comparison with others.

However, I have recently acquired a changed attitude concerning these things which used to worry me so much. I find that I usually play better in tune than one person who has absolute pitch. It is difficult for me to memorize languages and scripture--but I was engaged by the symphony on the strength of an audition during which I played all their requested horn passages from memory. I have been complemented on being the best third horn played the symphony has had. And, I am getting compositions performed and commissioned even more than my teachers, who are recognized composers. And the best bass player in town, whom I have eulogized on occasion, has told several people that he wishes he played as well as I. So, you see, I have decided that while we all envy the talents of others, they envy ours in return--we are generally more talented than we think. It is healthy for a perfectionist attitude to spur us on--when we believe that everything we do is not quite good enough, and we try constantly to do better. It is not healthy when we degrade ourselves and become discouraged and quit. Many talented people have given up their work simply because they have felt they could never equal the work of other talented people. Not all writers can win the Pulitzer Prize--but most can be happy successful writers. Not all composers can win the Guggenheim Award, but they can still create and know the joy of hearing their work. Every pianist will not be a Rubenstein, nor can every violinist be a Heifitz. Most conductors will never wqual Toscanini, and every artist cannot be a Van Gogh or a Picasso. I could go on indefinitely--but what I am trying to say is simply that there is a lot of room in the world for talent of every kind, and everyone can be a success without necessarily being the greatest in his respective field. Anyway, who is to judge?

Well, enough of my sermon! All is well here. I am not in school this quarter, but I am concentrating on German privately instead. I would like to pass the exam in January.

I had seventy-five copies of the choral composition made up, and it should be sung definitely in January. I am enclosing one of the choral parts which lacks all the brass and timpani accompaniment. It will be recorded, and I'll send you a copy.

Abravanel just called and said I have definitely been awarded the Rosenblatt Award this year. It is a $250.00 award for the commissioning of a new work to be played by the symphony. I am in good company, since those receiving the award before have included Crawford Gates and Leroy Robertson.

Well, Joyce, I hope you continue to enjoy your work there. And please continue to write whenever you are able. I'll try to answer everything I receive. --Be good!

Love, Gaylen

(I think this was good advice, and pass it along.... The choral composition he mentioned was a poem of mine which he set to music, Somewhere Lies a Line. He also used a text of mine called Jael, for a short opera he composed. And most recently (April, 2000), I was pleased when he asked me to provide and edit the text for a piece called Apotheosis, based on the writings of Neal A. Maxwell, and performed by the Ricks College Chamber Orchestra and Collegiate Singers. A CD was made for Tantara Records, as part of the Heritage Series, called Three Sacred Works.)


Pixletwin said...

What a great and insiteful [sic?] letter. Makes me feel inadequate sort of. ha ha

slickdpdx said...

Focus on your own virtues pixle. I second your assesment of the letter. A great read, very insightful. Nice blend of universal wisdom and personal circumstance. I imagine the letter was as useful to the writer as it was the recipient.

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