Good analogies get harder to find all the time. Everybody’s seen everything and every possible kind of comparison has been made between everything because you never know when the right set of variables will trigger a marketing algorithm. So when a good analogy comes along, it deserves to be celebrated.
My koto teacher has been wonderful. Her training is classical in nature and all of her other students can read the book she uses, but she has adapted her lessons to work with my blindness and we are making good progress. I think our different approaches to music have been far more challenging than just talking me through the stuff in the book, but she’s been diligent and it’s paying off well.
During a recent lesson my teacher said, “Most people are like chickens in a cage. They want someone to say ‘You there, Chicken A. Lay an egg right here.’ But you are more of a free-range chicken. You like to go your own way.” This isn’t news–I have gone my own way all my life and have no intention of willingly climbing into the cage. Still, it was a great new way to describe it and I have already gotten quite a bit of mileage out of this story. I’m keeping my mind open for some kind of chicken-inspired koto piece, but so far nothing has flown by except for the phrase “wasabe chicken.” It’s sometimes hard to accept that inspiration isn’t predictable, but there ya go.
In my own teaching, I struggle with trying to get cage-friendly chickens to range freely. I am often surprised at how reluctant some people are to experiment and just discover their own music as opposed to being directed at each step. It’s challenging and so that keeps me trying to do better, but in the end I suppose I will never really understand the cage lifestyle, just as many will not understand the free-range one. My ultimate goal is to be able to offer the guidance that each student needs without worrying that their process is not the same as mine. I suppose that’s the essence of teaching, although it feels more like being the guru on the mountaintop than I usually feel comfortable with. Even so, that is also something new and there is no growth without novelty.