Each week, @Sweden hands control over its Twitter timeline to a different citizen of Sweden. Together those different voices are meant to represent the country. Recently, the account was used by a member of the Sami, Sweden’s indigenous inhabitants. Reindeer herders, the Sami spend their summers in the north of the country in cabins that have no running water or electricity. The midnight sun provides them with all the light they need and they bring buckets of water up from the river for washing, drinking and cooking.
It’s a simple way of life — and one that requires some getting used to for people who are accustomed to being constantly connected.
So what would you do if you were to spend the summer in a cabin like that, with no telephone connection, no Internet, and no way even to charge the iPad?
And what would you do if you could take your instrument with you?
There’s a good chance that by the time you came back from a couple of months in a place with no distractions other than the chance to see the sun shine in the middle of the night, you’d have achieved a level of proficiency that would take you years to reach in a place with all the distractions of modern life.
It’s a sobering thought.
Between you and that concerto you have dreamed of being able to play is just a couple of months of uninterrupted focus.
Between you and the sense of accomplishment that would come from composing your own piece of music is a series of long summer evenings without a television.
Between you and the feeling that you really are in full control of your instrument, that it has no more secrets to hide from you and has nothing left to conquer, are long days of Internet-free practice.
Go Find Your Own Hut
The Sami do have their own musical tradition. It’s mostly voice-based with their own instruments largely limited to a kind of reed pipe and a drum. Modern Sami bands have incorporated violins, concertinas and accordions, but Sweden’s indigenous music is surprisingly instrument-free.
But the idea that we’re just a short step away from the musician we’d like to be is deceptive. Sami don’t head up north in the summer to get away from it all. They do it to herd their reindeer. And few of us have the freedom to spend a couple of months in a hut on a hill. We have jobs and children and elderly parents and all sorts of commitments that weigh on our time.
Turn Off the Internet?
But there are also plenty of other things that weigh on our time that aren’t commitments. All of that television-watching and YouTube-browsing and website-grazing are all time that could be spent practicing a piece or putting more notes into a movement.
We might not be able to spend an entire summer cut off from civilization. But we can usually find a few more minutes in each day — and turn off the Internet.