Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Virtuoso Freakshow, Part 1

May I direct your attention to one Rafael Méndez, born to a poor family with 19 children in Jiquilpan, Mexico in 1906, and who is certainly one of the greatest trumpet virtuoso’s of all time.

The subject of this post is his recording of a composition by Paganini titled “Moto Perpetuo.” It was written as a single continuous line that goes on for over four minutes and was meant to be played as a showcase for the violin. Because the trumpet is a wind instrument, Rafael learned to play it by using a technique called “circular breathing,” whereby the performer breathes in through their nose without disrupting the air stream while they are playing. As far as I know, this is the first time anyone attempted this technique on the trumpet, much less pulled it off so spectacularly. This recording was made sometime around 1960 when he was 54.

Listening to it today, it still seems impossible, like there must be some sort of trickery involved. He would, however, periodically perform this live throughout his life, so there is no doubt it was real.

So how was this possible? An uneducated, poor Mexican boy develops into one of the most spectacular, ground breaking trumpet virtuosos of all time? That, I think, is part of the mysterious magic of being human. We all have the ability, to a greater or lesser degree, to figure shit out and then, through the application of personal discipline, develop that idea as far as we can. In Rafael’s case, it was playing the trumpet, and he was obviously very gifted in doing so. Others have done the same in every field of endeavor, moving humanity ever forward. These are the visionaries who show us what’s possible.

We all can, and should, contribute to this evolution no matter how small and inconsequential it may seem to us at the time. Because at the end of the day our contribution may not be as inconsequential as we originally thought.

We exist for a brief time to do something.

So go and do it!