A Childlike Approach to Life…and Mozart

Growing up, my piano teacher would paraphrase 20th century pianist Artur Schnabel, saying “Mozart is too easy for children, but too difficult for adults.” 

Some people construe Schnabel’s statement to mean that children overlook the complexity and nuance of Mozart that only a true artist can appreciate. My teacher’s interpretation was, however, the opposite. She posited that adults in fact miss the true essence of Mozart’s compositions; that their art and genius lie in their uncluttered simplicity. 

Children, she claimed, access this intuitively. Adults get caught up in the performance, prestige, displays of virtuosity. Amongst this noise, they overshoot the heart of the music. 

To me, an appreciation of simple pleasures exists in the same realm as Mozart: all too easy for children, who scoop up each everyday moment free from preconceptions and open to possibility; all too hard for adults, who approach each day encumbered by expectation, who must capitalise on our time, who must have something to show for every minute of our days. 

I am aware that I risk being universalising and reductive: I do not mean to flatly romanticize the childhood experience. Our youngest fellow humans are of course complex individuals with varied and unique inner worlds. I think as adults, though, we might learn from the curious and non-judgmental lens through which children take in their world. 

As adults, do we miss the delight of splashing through a puddle because we are fretting about the imminent need to dry out our boots? 

Do we fail to luxuriate in a servo ice cream on a hot afternoon because we compare it to that gelato that we had one time in Rome? 

Do we rush through the grocery store without noticing how vibrant the autumn silver beet have become, in order to get the dinner on by six o’clock sharp?   

What pleasures might we receive if we were to approach our days with childlike curiosity? Where might we swerve away from complication, and instead notice the beauty in the simplicity of what lies in front of us, returning to a childlike acceptance of each moment as it comes? 

How might we begin to give these moments of our lives space to breathe, untampered with, like the crisp notes of a Mozart sonata? 

Why not try writing along to 12-year-old Umi Garrett playing Mozart? If you find yourself inspired, submit your work to the University of Sydney Anthology: Simple Pleasures. Submissions close June 31st 2022.