Borodin

Earlier this year, when I was listening to ABC Classic on the radio, the presenter gave a very brief account of the life of Aleksandr Porfirevich Borodin. They said that before Borodin was a composer, he was a chemistry professor. It was actually while he was quite ill, and could not go to work as a chemistry professor, that he did a lot of his composing.

I found this interesting for two reasons: First, the fact that music essentially had the status of “hobby” for him — something he did in his spare time, away from work — but he managed to do really well, and became quite famous for it. I wonder if this was his real ambition, or if he just composed music for himself, and somehow realised he was actually good enough to do it professionally.

I’m sure anyone who creates anything as part of their hobby has, at one point or another, dreamt of making a career out of it. As someone who writes, it is a dream of mine to be proficient enough so that I might get remunerated for my writing, or at least receive some sort of acclaim. A friend of mine who has taken up jewellery-making, hopes to sell her pieces online one day; and another friend who enjoys making ceramics will be selling them for charity later this month.

When it comes to a hobby like reading, however, where the basic premise is consumption rather than creation, I’ve never really thought seriously about making anything of it career-wise. I mean, when I see bloggers write about how they have “Advanced Readers’ Copies” of new release novels, or I see snippets of book reviews on the covers of books, I think how wonderful it must be to make a career out of reading books and telling people what you think of them …but I don’t think I ever really considered it as an option for myself.

For one, I don’t tend to read very fast, so I would probably miss a lot of deadlines. (Although, I suppose, if that was my whole occupation, I might be ok…?) But even if the speed of my reading wasn’t a problem, I think I’d still prefer to be able to read whatever I want, rather than being told these are the next books to be read, please write no more than x number of words in your review, etc, etc.

Generally this wouldn’t be a problem because I’d like to think I’m capable of reading a broad range of genres, and I’m always happy to take all sorts of recommendations from people I know (and even from strangers who seem like pleasant and/or interesting people). However, I much prefer to read what I want, when I want. It might take me years to get around to a recommendation, but I will get around to it (eventually…)

The second interesting thing from this fact of Borodin’s life is that it reinforces the link between music and mathematics. (I know maths and chemistry are not the same thing, but they are closely interrelated. I once had a maths teacher in high school assert that although most people believe mathematics is a branch of science, it’s actually maths that is the umbrella under which all sciences exist. I still don’t know if I agree or disagree with this.)

A friend and ex-colleague of mine once told me that people who are good at maths tend to also be good at music, and vice versa. I can see the logic of this correlation, but I’m sure I’m the exception to this rule. By this I mean that I’ve always done reasonably well at maths at school, but I’ve never had a knack for music. Reading sheet music has always baffled me, and trying to play any sort of instrument has always been beyond my coordination.

Still, the more I listen to classical music, the more I want to learn to play an instrument. I’ve wanted to learn drums for a long time, but now I find I quite like the sound of cellos and other string instruments — a family of instruments I was quite averse to when I was younger. When I was a kid, I was drawn to the sounds of the saxophone and trombone, but now I think I’d prefer something like the oboe or clarinet.

Anyway, at this stage in my life, it’s still more of a daydream. I often tell people who don’t like beer that they just haven’t found the right beer yet (these people have usually just tried mainstream commercial beer), or I tell people who don’t read that they just haven’t found the right genre/author to captivate them (these people tend to have had some kind of bad experience with a book at school). So maybe it’s the same for me and musical instruments. Maybe it’s just a case of trying and trying again…

2 thoughts on “Borodin

    • Thanks. It actually went in a different direction to where I thought it was going to go! I was going to write a bit about a few different composers, but I had more thoughts from Borodin than I realised…

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