A bit of a dilemma

I love music. Some of my earliest memories involve musical activities. And I’ve been playing seriously for almost 30 years. But I’ve always found some aspects difficult. Particularly when it comes to larger-scale orchestral playing.

In hindsight, most – if not all – of the difficulties I’ve faced in the past were to do with autism. The social aspects of being around groups of people. The sensory difficulties with some pieces of music.

But knowing why the difficulties exist doesn’t make them go away.

I’m learning to cope more with the social aspects. That difficulty isn’t unique to orchestral playing – and, in some ways, it’s easier for me to be in that environment because there’s automatically a shared interest. So there’s always something to talk about; and there are always people who are far more knowledgeable than I am about the minutiae of classical music (I love music; but that particular aspect isn’t one of my obsessions).

The sensory aspects remain more challenging. And that’s what leads to a bit of dilemma.

Since joining the orchestra in which I currently play, I’ve generally managed by hiding at the back. This means that, unless I’m suddenly put in front of the trumpet section, I’m not really near other instruments (apart from the double basses, who tend to be quieter and their parts tend to complement the cellos anyway).

However, this time around I’m a bit further forward in the section. Closer to the ‘main’ action. And I’m finding it really difficult from a sensory perspective. It’s making it difficult to concentrate. I’m missing entries because I can’t do something as simple as count the number of bars’ rest. The notes on the page turn into moving dots and I’m fully reliant on muscle memory to play – but I don’t know the pieces well enough for that to be a workable option.

I’ve so far avoided a full-scale sensory meltdown in rehearsal. But it doesn’t seem too far away.

I’d hoped my new earplugs were going to arrive in time for the concert next week. That’s not going to happen; even if they turn up next week, I’m not going to have time to get used to them.

I’ve always been OK in concerts before. Hopefully that trend will be able to continue. But the dilemma is what I do next. Last concert my ‘hiding at the back’ technique didn’t work. This time, I haven’t been able to use the technique.

I don’t want to give up. But I just don’t know how to make this work.


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