Sunday, July 10, 2011
What Would Debussy Do?
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.