When I began to drive, I could not do the figure eight. No matter what I did, the car would not stay inside those white lines. Driving on the road, I was jerky when it came to curves--I stayed in my lane, but my passengers did not have a smooth ride. As I became more experienced, I learned why I had these challenges driving. I did not look ahead. I was focused on where I was right then. Driving the figure eight required anticipating the curve--knowing what was ahead and making sure I got there effectively. When driving on the road, anticipating the curves in the road allowed me to smoothly follow the curvature without jolting my passengers as I entered a curve.
What does this have to do with playing the organ?
As an impatient person, I tend to rush the last beat in every measure, no matter what I'm playing. I generally practice with a metronome, as I did with the Buxtehude's Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland. Consequently, my rendition is very boxy and, frankly, boring.
Now that I've learned the piece, I'm attempting to shape the lines without introducing extraneous movement in my hands and wrists. This is not an easy task for me, and I've struggled for a couple of weeks with trying to make it flow. I think I had a breakthrough today. Instead of focusing on the current measure and note, trying to figure out where to push and pull the tempo, I need to look ahead and figure out how to get where I'm going effectively. It's not about where I am--it's about where I'm going, and where I'm taking the listener.
I think by stepping back and focusing beyond the measure and notes that my hands are currently playing I'll be able to finally figure out how to bring Buxtehude's piece to life.
In case you aren't familiar with this beautiful piece of Bach's mentor, here is Felipe Dominguez, a recent BYU organ performance graduate playing it: