Friday, July 31, 2009

Acceptance of Here and Now

Friday 8pm

Can I be happy right now? Guitar in hand; music waiting to be played and I am in a funk. Dissatisfaction with where I am at with my playing of the new works that have been given to me. Since returning from the Guitar Craft course at Raft Island in June my work has been fruitful. Last night I hit a bit of a wall though with finding the ending for "When Love is Taken." When I moved on to look at one of the other pieces that began a few days before "WLIT" I became frustrated with what I had forgotten. Fortunately I do have this piece partially notated and a few rough takes. Yet I wanted my return to this to be easy.

A part of me is so grateful for music being present in my life. And another part just wants my musical pursuits to be easy. Where does this come from?

Time to get lost in the sound. When my mind is grasping, just focus on silence, then on one note, then another. I only need to be here now. When I first heard Thich Nhat Hahn say that our practice should be joyful, I was suspicious. Slowly this has resonated with me. I focus on my breath, watering seeds of happiness and acceptance. I return to playing ... quieter, focused.

I review "Leaving Song" which I have not looked at since I left Phnom Phen in April. Slowly caressing my strings. Letting go of the expectations and demands I put on myself. Music, let it flow. I move onto reviewing Dancin' Free which was what frustrated me earlier in my practice session. Ah, there it is. I play this through twice and work a bit on a chord change.

Now to look at "WLIT." I play it through and decide to focus on the last section. After a bit I find the ending. I feel the smile spreading softly on my face. I enjoy playing and exploring this potential ending. When Joann arrives home I will play this for her.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gentle Persistence

Throughout my life many have told me that I am persistent. In good times and difficult times this trait has been vital. Gentleness has slowly manifested as I have allowed.

In my guitar practice I have had to learn and am still exploring ways to be gentle. A nasty case of tendinitis a couple years back slowly ground my playing to a halt. Lack of understanding led to efforts when rest was in order. Eventually I succumbed. During this time I had my first exposure to the practice of acupuncture. I had already been exposed to Qi Gong and when I learned that my acupuncturist, Nianzu Li,was also a Qi Gong master I began taking classes with him.

My relationship with my body and my mind has deepened as I practice various Qi Gong forms and exercises daily. My sense of my hands evolves and widens. Slowly my body changes. Doing Qi Gong before my mindfulness mediation practice enhances this time. Interpenetration of these related disciplines becoming one discipline. Breathing, playing, sensing ... life.

I am learning that gentleness needs to inform the demands and expectations I place on my guitar practice. Music unveils herself to me at her pace. I can only be available. As I learn to be quieter I can here her whisper with more clarity. As I relax her energy informs mine.

Tonight after playing a while I sensed tightness in my back. I was pushing the new piece, pushing myself. Stuck, I took to the floor for an AT lie down. As my back relaxed I thought I might allow my new gift " When Love is Taken" to rest and move on to some other work. After all I have focused on this piece extensively and nearly exclusively since last week. While on the floor I began playing a flowing style of "air guitar" with my arms floating over my chest as I heard part of the piece.

The Qi began moving and I imagined myself playing with this quality. Could the fret board be another form of air for my fingers to caress? Can I allow the vibrations of the strings to be felt in my whole body? Can I be free? Or at the very least gentle ...
After all I know I'll persist.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another Low Energy Day

Began the day doing Qi Gong alongside of Sligo Creek with Joann. My body felt out of sorts, most likely due to the emotion of these past days. Refreshed we walked quietly along the creek listening to the birds sing their morning songs.

After errands, lunch, reading, and rest I picked up my guitar. There was not a lost of desire or energy in this act but I knew what I needed to do. My years of disciplined practice bear fruit on these low energy days. Today was no exception.

I warmed up playing Gathered Hearts very slowly, just sounding the notes. Enjoying them, getting lost in them. Then I played the piece with gusto. On to looking at the new piece, When Love is Taken. I spent 2 hours with small breaks for Qi Gong and one for an AT lie down. Slowly this piece is being revealed. Spent some time notating parts that I want to keep available. Made recordings of various rough takes and sections.

A delightful dinner with Joann and back to guitar work. The piece is taking shape. Time to let it and myself rest.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Answering My Own Question.

6:30 pm EDT

Earlier today I found myself in this place: Emotionally spent, tired, & unmotivated. What to do? ... Pick up my guitar.

And as usual there was something about the vibrating strings that slowly helped me to center. Slowly sounding notes, allowing myself to be in the sounds. Quieting me, healing me.

I played through "Gathered Hearts" one time and then began to work on "When Love is Taken." Form is presenting itself, sections developing, me patiently following. Sad today to watch parents bury their daughter, a husbands loss, an older sister and a daughter bewildered and bewitched by emotion. May I find the notes that may honor this, may I embrace the life that I have.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When Love is Taken

I received a call at work today to tell me that my cousin passed on to another plane. She was the youngest member in my generation of our extended family. Now I am. My wife is at the hospital supporting the birth of a dear friends daughter. Joann was present at this young womans birth and will now witness her giving birth. The cycles continue. Love flows, love is taken ... One set of parents experiencing supreme joy, another the saddest fate of all. I sit in the middle, I sense; I feel; I breathe ...

I randomly placed a partial capo on the neck of my guitar at 7pm tonight. Did not like the voicing so I moved the capo from the higher strings to the lower. Played around a bit and added a capo to the first position leaving the bottom C open. My investigation began. Music seemed to want to be heard. I quieted. I thought of my cousin Gabrielle. I thought of my uncle and his loss. The title, When Love is Taken appeared.

I worked with this, with a short break for Qi Gong and another short break for a lie down. My back was so tight, so very tight. I continued working with the notion of the piece until 9pm. Joann called with a hospital update. I recorded what I had for the second or third time and went off to purchase fuel.

Parking my car I heard the insects and the leaves singing their summer song. I am fortunate to live a neighborhood that is an urban forest. Many tall old trees and the habitat they support. The wind was gentle and uneven so the rustle of the leaves was also. Combined with the insects humming I was enticed to walk.

I have always loved the night time. The blanket of dark. Sounds emerging from hidden places. As I walked the wind subsided. Then briefly the drone of traffic in the distance entered. Down the hill and the insects had their solo until a helicopter added their tones. Street lamps shifting through the trees, the chopper fading ... all the while Sun Ra's rhythm section playing in my head.

While Sun Ra faded I turned the corner to have my feline stalker pass me once again. She took rest upon a car roof and watched me do Qi Gong in the street.

Relaxed and refreshed I came inside with my guitar patiently waiting in the black reclining chair. I sat with her, with Gabrielle, with Uncle Syl ... I played some more. The form whispering; me listening; fragments coming to life. I wish to receive this gift, to share with my family, with those who will listen. Now I will begin again.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Close to Perfect Sunday


Began warming up improvising with the scale that whispered to me yesterday. At one point I noticed how slumped over the guitar I was. Just a slight release and improvement of my posture and when I began to play again I could hear the improved quality of my tone. How many times do I need to learn this same lesson? I have been exposed to the Alexander Technique for 20 years. Application is another story.

All comes back to the same basic principles which when applied reinforce one another. Improved posture led to better tone and the combination of the two improved my listening which led to ...

12:30 pm EDT

Spent 15 minutes working on notation for August Born when a new chord caught my ear. Played with this briefly and recorded the 5 chords. Time for lunch.

9:40 pm EDT
Enjoyed a perfect summer day with a picnic and walking around Great Falls with the four people I love the most. Totally relished a succulent peach when I returned home. Spoke with Tony Geballe about recording and producing the next release. What an amazing person he is, I am so privledged to work with a man of his qualities.

A brief look at the new chords that showed up today and soon to rest.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Honor Thy Mistake

One of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies is to " honor thy mistake as a hidden intention." When I worked with Steve Geest in FingerPaint we applied this successfully on many occasions. Tonight while looking for a binder containing scores and other information related to Scattered Hearts I came across another binder. This other binder has been in my possession for years and contains information on South Indian Classical Music. This was given to me by a guitarist I played with briefly and I have not done much with the material.

Tonight I opened to a page containing melodies in the Raga: Mayamalwagaula. I was intriuged by the scale being used which is ABb C#D EF G#A. Thinking of Eno and the potential hidden intention I decided to let go of my original idea for my practice time tonight. I began warming up by playing with this scale.

I'll revisit this again, but for now I have some other guitar work to tend to.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Slow & Gentle

9:30 pm EDT

Wednesday was my day off from practicing a deviation from monday as my day off due to family plans. Last night and tonight has me practicing gently and listening more. The exercise I undertook on Tuesday is still informing me.

Listening to rough takes and work on notation also taking place. Looked at Aftermath tonight. I must be gentle with this piece as the constant stretching of my left hand could irritate my tendon. After a bout of tendonitis a couple years ago I am very careful with my left hand work.

Listened to a podcast at the harmonious bodies website today in which Madeline Bruser author of The Art of Practicing was interviewed. She was also stressing the necessity of listening. Madeline works with her students to play from thier heart. Certainly an aspiration that I share. A wonderful thought she shared was " If our heart is not engaged as musicians, then how can we reach the hearts of our listeners."

Back to my guitar.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Play the Same Note 11 Different Ways

Years back I read an interview with Luciano Berio and he said that he instructs his students to play the same note eleven different ways. I was intrigued when I read this and immediately took up my guitar. This exercise came back to me recently and I used duration, vibrato, timbre, and various means of attack and saw how richer my options were then we I first played with this.

Reflecting on this on my way to work this morning I decided to add a variation on this exercise. First I played the same note, a D for tonights efforts, 11 different ways. Then I played the D using different variations but played the same note variation 11 times. This quickly focused my listening and was a rich experience.

I then worked on a passage in Dandelion Wish which always gives me difficulties. I slowed this way down and the quality of listening persisted. A short break to allow the 'muscle memory' to set and then on to relearning Prayer From a Small Room, a delicate piece. This piece began while warming up in the dining room at Raft Island last fall. The following morning it flowed out of me in my cabin while practicing.

I revisited Crack in the Door, a piece that is over a year old and has not been played for some time. Glanced at Blossoming from the same period. I need to make decisions as what to prepare to record for my next solo guitar release, The Seven Sorrows. Completed the evenings work with a run through of Matka Boska.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Struggle Continues

Currently it is 9:10 EDT. Began practicing 30 minutes ago. Really want to blow off the notation part tonight. Really feeling the need to just play the guitar, work on the pieces I have. Intellectually I can justify this, yet I know I need to honor the commitment that I made. After all I made it for a reason and in a short period of time it has served me well. To let go tonight, no matter how tired I am from a wonderful family day is a mistake. So back to practice. Soon to notate.

9:44 EDT

I listened to the rough recording of what I recaptured of "Beneath Dark Images" from friday night and still can not hear all of the piece in my mind. I decided to notate the other part that I have recalled and then take it from there. This difficulty shows me why I must record these ideas, especially as they develop further and notate at least chord structures as I go along. Now I can return to playing a bit.

10:00 EDT
Played "Livin' the Dream" so effortlessly that I called it a night. good to end on a high point. Just typed EBT instead of mistake. Yes it is Eastern Bed Time for me.

Stay Tuned!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

First Post

Today is the fifth day of a commitment I made while reading The Affluent Artist Blog. The topic of Rock's blog that day was Procrastination, which made me think of what part of my creative process do I regularly procrastinate. He had also issued six week challenge for himself regarding his goals.

I decided to jump in and challenge myself to work with notating and the making of recordings to save ideas and pieces for future reflection. Over the years I have lost many pieces from not having a regular ongoing system for saving them. Two years ago I purchased an Edirol R-09, aportable mp3 recorder with built in mics so that I could always easily record a snapshot of an idea. And I have sporadically notated pieces.

Today is Day 5 of this commitment and it has been fruitful. I have posted updates to the Affluent Artist Blog and today decided it is time to begin my own blog. One piece Dancin' Free was notated the first two days of this process and the third day I brought overall order to my record keeping of the R-09 recordings.

Then yesterday on Day 4 a real breakthrough occurred.

From my post on the Afflunet Artist Blog.

" There was a piece that came out in December that I began notating the first few bars then and thought that I had recorded. I found out a while back that I had not recorded it and was distressed.
Tonight I spent a few minutes notating what I still knew and organized some notes on another piece. However I still had nearly ten minutes remaining to this commitment. I returned to working on the first piece ” Beneath Dark Images” to see if I could jog my brain.
This is always a tough place for me to be in, attempting to recapture a piece. Kicks up feelings of inadequacy & incompetence spinning me into a funk. But I persisted listening with my mind for the transition to the next section. What was I going to do. To move to another piece at this point would be a cop out.
Then I heard the next part in my ear. Played it. Yes. The piece began to reveal itself to me again. More playing and then I hit record and then made some notes."
Today I had such a sense of relief from this work of yesterday. I took another look at "Beneath Dark Images" and then moved on to exploring. I just began to play a chord and then another and I follow where they might lead me. I heard something that I liked, but did not have much time before I needed to leave so I recorded the idea.
Later in the evening I returned to this and as a new twist to my process I began notating this small snippet of an idea, just 16 bars. But while notating this I played a bit more with the notion and bounced to recording, and back to notating, and then a new rough recording.

Stay tuned for where this goes.