Sunday, July 31, 2011
I am continuing to investigate Philip Pawley's idea of doing more lie downs for shorter periods of time. Today over the course of an hour & twenty minute practice period, I did six lie downs. My usual one to begin my practice and then One every ten - fifteen minutes. Never did I feel the "need" to do a lie down, yet I continued to do so.
The first three lie downs, I noticed the usual place in my spine behind the rib cage was tight. This tightness let go easily. The duration of each lie down was longer than the minute that Pawley has investigated and suggests. If indeed I am to rest these muscle that are learning new ways of being used, I suspect that a little longer time on the floor is prudent. By the end of my practice session I was energized, and even willing to go further. But a glance at the clock on a Sunday night and I know I need to let go and get to bed.
Friday, July 29, 2011
The chords I found last night were four note chords. Today I decided to make another brick, still built on an interval of a fourth, but as triads. Then I played with finding the inversions to these chords. Do I now have another brick or three? In actuality this does not matter, what is important is that I remain engaged in the process.
One different approach I employed earlier in the day with this notion of a piece in C Hijaz was to begin constructing a mind map of what I had. The act of mapping the ideas to date led me to search for a working title that will bestow a certain quality or sense to the piece. And to do the work of finding these triads and their inversions.
Still no wall, just more bricks. Limits, but not walled in and enclosed. Building blocks for this piece and beyond. Ordered divergence watered with curios probing may lead to inspired music. At the very least I am learning; I am enjoying the sounds of a beautiful guitar on loan to me; I am happy just playing; and at times I am free.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
One of my favorite of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies is "Not building a wall, making a brick." Something working class about this that I like. One small effort that is mobile in a sense. A brick can be used in many ways, even unrelated to "a wall." Besides a wall requires a plan, and at times that plan eludes me. Then this craftsman works on making a brick.
Tonight's brick was to find five chords in C hijaz that are built on fourths. The works is done. I still can not hear them in my mind's ear, but I will. Would also be nice if I could name them. C'est la vie. For now I can let them rest in the brain and continue working on a new brick tomorrow.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Finally an evening in the DC metro area when I could take a walk again. Temperatures and humidity have been breaking records of late and have not been healthy to be out and exercising in. As I was walking I began to auralize a piece I have been working with. Then I paused to inhibit and direct via the Alexander Technique. Beginning the auralization of the piece again, I resumed walking. The birds and insects were singing and were somewhat distracting to me. So I paused, inhibited, & directed again. I found a place in the piece where I was lost without the guitar, so I made a note to look at this when I returned home.
Thinking about what else I might auralize, I realized that beginning with the AT directions was a good way for me to work. In this way my mental rehearsal of the piece would occur while I was aware and perhaps experiencing a different degree of freedom without holding my instrument. Hopefully this would positively influence my work with the guitar. So I proceeded through 3 other pieces as I walked. Occasionally distracted by the the sounds of Sligo Creek or the lovely movements of the ripples in the water. Just like performance I reasoned, there is frequently something that is happening to draw away my attention. Good to practice directing my attention in a distracting environment.
At home, I resumed practicing with a very sweet guitar that is on loan to me, by someone who is very kind. More opportunities to apply AT were explored. But the hour is getting late and the day job awaits me in the morning.
Photo by Jackie Dervichian.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
While I was clearing a pile from my desk, I found this quote written on a piece of paper "Music changes people. That's both and opportunity and a responsibility." I wish I knew who to attribute these mighty words to, but alas I do not. As I pondered these words, I wondered how best I can allow that potential for change that music holds to come through. How I might best serve the opportunity.
And then the thought hit home - to take the risk of playing great. Not hold back, not be content with having overcome fear; but to truly give playing everything I am. And now I have said it publicly.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Why does the sound of one note following another bring about joy? Peace? Wonder?
Why does a melody nourish our aspirations? Strengthen our resolve? Begin to right our world?
Why does a piece of music allow me to trust the process? To know that life goes on and love will grow?
How can playing a few pieces keep my heart open?
I don't know, but it does.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
At my AT lesson this week David Jernigan, told me that he was working with doing the AT lie down procedure more frequently but for very short durations. This came about from reading he has done on the work of Philip Pawley. I've been doing AT lie downs, properly referred to as semi-supine, for over 20 years. Generally for a period of 10-20 minutes as suggested to me by a variety of AT teachers, not the least of whom is Frank Sheldon. The reasons to undertake this practice is allow the body to stretch and to sort itself out. And also to rest tired muscles. From the little I've read so far of Pawley's work it is the rest aspect that he feels is most important.
Today I choose to rest more than is my nature, and to reflect and have additional time for meditation. I did two lie downs in the morning part of my practice. In the afternoon when I picked up my guitar, I decided to begin with a lie down, and then to incorporate Pawley's idea of doing a lie down every ten minutes for just one minute. For the next 50 minutes I did do four short lie downs as part of my practice. I noticed that this did assist not only my use with the guitar, but that during the third short lie down I found that the middle portion of my back/spine had begun to tighten. After this tightness released, I practiced for 10 more minutes and then took a longer break.
Returning for 30 more minutes of guitar practice, I again began with a short lie down and incorporated two more during the practice and completed my session with a longer lie down. There was a sense of a greater freedom and awareness, and my head and neck seemed to find a release. Of course this last piece of noticing could also be what Alexander referred to as "faulty sensory appreciation." Yet my ease of use was palpable. I suspect I'll continue this investigation further.
You can receive a free download of Philip Pawley's article here.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
While walking early this morning I paused several times to connect with my body. Using a simple Alexander Technique procedure I picked up from Pedro de Alcantara. Once connected I continued to walk, while enjoying the sites and sounds of the early morning. Part of my thinking went towards reinforcing that it is easy to play music; easy to create music. And it is. I just need to be there in the moment and anything is possible.
After breakfast, I moved to the practice room. Reflecting on where to begin, I was grateful for the musical options and exercises I have available to me. Sitting on my stool, I used the AT directions to connect with myself, the guitar, and the room. I played the first phrase of Gathered Hearts and then rested. Reconnecting via AT, I brought my arms to the guitar with more awareness this time. The result was immediately noticeable in the sound of the first note. At the end of the phrase I paused again to connect and direct. I continued in this manner of playing the opening phrase and pausing to direct. At times I allowed my arms to move in a manner similar to my Qi Gong practice. Each time I returned to play the phrase I did so with greater awareness and ease.
At one point the thought of why should the use of my arms be any different because I am playing guitar? My arms are relaxed chopping vegetables, shooting basketball, and certainly while doing Qi Gong. I know the movements of playing a musical instrument are more precise. Yet there is something deeper. Lord knows how many baskets I have missed in my life, yet I'm still relaxed when shooting. The state of my use while doing Qi Gong is as close to the way I'd like my hands & arms to be. But the act of bringing my hands to the guitar brings all that I am - the happiness and the love, along with the fear and insecurities. Is it the fear of making a mistake or the doubt of my ability that constricts my arms and hands?
I moved onto playing Gathered Hearts in it's entirety, enjoying the energy and feel of how I was playing. I eyed the sketch in Bm from last night as I completed Gathered Hearts and the thought arose, what would Debussy do with this sketch? I put my guitar down and made a few notes on this process and then took the score from my desk. Then I decided to do a brief AT lie down. My back hit the floor and though I had not noticed any discomfort, there was tightness in my spine in the area behind my ribs. This is common for me and fortunately has subsided considerably these past two years. A definite result of my work with the Alexander Technique. As the tightness released, I directed particularly along my arms.
When I began playing with the opening chords of the sketch, with the spirit of what would Debussy do, something changed. A lightness was already present in the opening phrase, and possibilities were presented. As the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said " A possibility is a hint from God. One must follow it." As I followed these musical possibilities, my left hand and arm remained relatively relaxed. The earlier work having set me on a path of good use. I fleshed out what I could of the opening and notated what was given to me. An hour passed quickly and joyfully. Then it was time to complete my practice and prepare for a family celebration.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Inspiration comes from all directions when I am open and free. Today, a friend Jenni Pinnock, mentioned she had completed three sketches today. I was ready to work with transcribing a piece from a recording. but decided to dive in and see what happened with composing something new.
Telling myself that sketching a piece was easy to do, I approached this with a confident frame of mind. Where to begin? B minor came to mind, and I was off. Exploring the possibilities, venturing away from B minor and back. A little over an hour later, I had a sketch of a solo guitar piece. But could I do three?
A break for dinner and thirty minutes later I was back to work. My focus is seldom strong after eating, and now my confidence was lagging a bit. I knew I needed to pick a note or scale to jump off with and G Phyrgian came to mind. From there I moved to G Dorian but still nothing was happening which fed the lack of creative confidence. Finally I played with F Dorian and found a few chords I liked, but noticed I was modeling an older piece.
Letting go, I decided to take a walk. Sligo Creek is always a welcome sound environment for me, particularly when the water is flowing a bit high. The insects were beginning their evening serenade and I enjoyed the walk. Reflecting on how my frame of mind was so important in these two efforts. A positive frame of mind lends itself to positive outcomes. The first case I thought a sketch would be easy and the process was. Then when I allowed doubt to creep in, coupled with a lower energy state the results were lacking. Directly experiencing this so succinctly is very good information. Being in the process and working with composition is more important than the results. Learning and how to stimulate my learning is an ongoing process.
Again and again I am reminded of the power of my thoughts? Am I paying attention? Are you?
Friday, July 8, 2011
Loose your dreams,
and you will loose your mind,
to life unkind ...
Ruby Tuesday - The Rolling Stones
I found myself imparting this pearl of wisdom of the Stones to two colleagues at work today. Certainly my dream of being a musician, has pulled me through many a tough period of my life. Persistence, courage, and the support of friends and loved ones have fueled my path.
Tonight after a walk along a rain swollen Sligo Creek, I retired to the practice room. Beginning with an Alexander Technique lie down, I allowed my body and mind to connect. Slowly allowing the concerns of my week recede into the ether, I simply enjoyed this simple but powerful practice of the lie down. Noticing my body let go, but not completely. A slight holding on in my left elbow and shoulder reminding me to direct my thinking and offer freedom to this limb. What am I holding onto? Why am I holding on? Yet I do hold onto my dreams. Is this a positive example of holding on, or just another form of delusion? However this dream of being a musician does offer sustenance to my life. I can only hope that this dream offers something to others.
In my practice room there are many pictures of loved ones. Tonight as I was playing, I looked into my sister's baby picture. Actually, one of those that illustrate the good use of the neck, that children have before we train them. Such a warm smile, full of life. And I knew that she was smiling at me and for me, as I once again made the small effort to keep my dream alive. Keep your dreams alive, the world needs them.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
How do I approach what I do?
Another evening where I am tired, the demands of my professional and family life, tugging at my time to play. Do I leap in and play a favorite piece with the hope that the energy from the music brings me into the present moment? Certainly there have been evenings when I have done this. Yet I aim for an efficient guitar practice, and an efficient use of myself. Tonight, I was sitting on my stool, breathing and calming down.
After a few minutes I was ready to get my guitar. Instead I decided to play with AT inhibition. My next decision was to raise my left hand as if I was to play. Directing myself to find my length and width, I inhibited this action, and instead spoke the phrase "I am free." Deciding again to bring my left hand to the guitar, I again used the AT directions, and this time I did allow this motion to proceed. My next decision was to get my guitar and after directing, I choose to fling my right hand about instead. Deciding to bring both hands to my imaginary guitar, I directed, and then did nothing. Next time after directing, I did bring up both hands. Taking in the room about me, the space above me, and my feet supported by the floor, I decided I was ready to play.
And I was ready. Having released much of the tension of my day; my mind and body were working together. Maintaining a sense of myself I rose, opened my case, and tuned. Forty-five minutes of spirited practice ensued. I played the beginning of Here We Are a few times, each time coming back to myself and directing. Those opening notes sounding so sweet and present. As I played through the piece, my mind was hearing the music as I played. Sensing the freedom of my use, I occasionally generated thought of freedom of use as I played. I continued in the manner the tremolo piece. Then while directing prior to playing Gathered Hearts I turned towards the mirror and began to play. So much easier to do this here tonight. Was it because I was home? Alone? Or was I just playing in the moment without concerns. During Gathered, I noticed my breath moving freely and deeply, supporting myself and the music. I could see in the mirror that I looked more relaxed than I had at the beginning of this session. I moved onto some single string work with my pic. Noticing my attention was waning I took a break to write this.
As I think of returning to the guitar, I read my initial question of How do I approach what I do? Laughing as my use of myself has been less than optimal as I type this. At least I noticed.
Excited, I returned to my practice space. Too excited perhaps. I found myself rushing to check out an idea using a wah-wah pedal. My old electroharmonix needed a battery, reaching for the screwdriver I realized I had no sense of myself. I could pause I thought, yet I plunged on. The pedal did not work so I abandoned this and moved onto transcription. Again I thought of pausing and directing, but I wanted to get on with listening. Something about headphones, a score, and the guitar leads me to end-gaining. Progress was made on the transcription, and towards the end I did pause, direct, and look for how I can approach this process with a better sense of myself. But tonight in this second half of my practice, habit drove me forward. As I completed my practice, I smiled. And so it goes.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Release your neck.
Release your limitations and expectations.
Release love into the world.
Release that which you hold so close - secrets, lies, and tales.
Release to openness.
Release love into the world.
Release the possible. And wonder ...
Friday, July 1, 2011
Sometimes I suppose it is fine to give into my tiredness on a Friday night, and let go of practicing. But tonight is not going to be one of those nights. Seldom is actually, I love to begin my weekend with embracing music. I've been home from work for hours. I have rested, had a delightful dinner prepared for me, organized paperwork and had a wonderful walk along Sligo Creek. Plus I have a three day weekend in front of me. To the guitar, Now!
I refuse to give into the resistance. If you have not read nor listened to Steven Pressfields classic The War of Art get to Amazon and get a copy. I particularly love the gruffness of his voice on the recording and the frankness of his prose. If I don't practice Now, when will I?
Just writing about my resistance earlier, I felt energized. The blockage had a chink and I picked up my guitar. Beginning with an ear training exercise, I then began to improvise. Just having fun, I allowed years of work to guide my hands. Twenty-five minutes passed and I took a short break. Heading back down now. Truly, Now is the only time I have to practice.
photo credit: www.dirkloop.com