Wednesday, September 7, 2011

False Starts With Faith

"String Web" woven sculpture by Machiko Agano

Found my notes earlier this week that David Jernigan had taken from what may be my favorite podcast about the Alexander Technique.  Pedro de Alcantara, an AT instructor, was interviewed by Diana Rumrill on her wonderful series on Musician's Health called Harmonious Bodies.  David's notes were taken in a rich text format and the first one which appeared to float off the page after I completed my practice last evening is

                  ** things are easy to do ** 

Yes they are, especially when I am present to the task at hand.  The next line on the notes reads

     put yourself in the frame of mind to do so;
                     work on frame of mind.

Certainly sage advice.  Mindful breathing and the Alexander Technique bring about a harmonization of my body and mind.  As the Dhammapada tells us All that we are arises with our thoughts.  If I tend to the garden of my mind and water the seeds of music, improvisation, peace, or anything that I wish to manifest, I am laying the groundwork for bringing this into being.  So today I reflected on the thought - improvisation is easy for me.  Over the years I have watered many positive seeds in my thinking and I know that changing my "frame of mind" takes time.  So I practice watering positive seeds.

When my guitar practice time arrived, I was in a good frame of mind to begin.  After completing my AT lie down, my energy was flowing, my body and mind engaged.  While opening the case I knew I was opening my case, picking up my guitar, I was present.  And tonight, music taught me patience, showed me a couple areas to study.  I began a few different improvs and they quickly fell apart.  These false starts began to concern me, but I reminded myself this is part of the process.  Wondering how am I to sustain this for the month of my Creative Pact 2011 commitment?  Can I continue to blog about improvisation and the Alexander Technique without becoming redundant?  The simple thought - have faith came to mind.

Smiling, I began to alter an arpeggio exercise in fourths and sixths.  Concerning myself with the quality of the notes I was playing, moving slowly and without concern I quieted my mind.  Simple melodies emerged along with a few surprise twists.  Pausing to check in via AT, I began again with a different chord and slowly explored the possible.  One more time and I took a break to write this.

Now for another lie down to re-harmonize myself before returning to the guitar.

I reminded myself that improvisation is easy as I completed my lie down. Three more efforts, two with clearly defined beginnings and the third began with abandon.  Moments that were musical emerged in all three, with surprise and horror also arising in the third.  By pausing and directing my thinking via AT between each improv, I was able to maintain a sense of myself while exploring the various musical situations.

One more lie down and this variation on the AT directions came to me.  Improvisation is easy when my neck is free.  Improvisation is easy when my spine is lengthening and widening.  Improvisation is easy when my back is long and wide.  Improvisation is easy as my legs release from my pelvis to my knees, from my knees to my ankles.  Easy when my feet are long and wide.  When my shoulders are away music flows through me.  When my arms are long all the way through my fingers I am better able to touch music. 

I hope that my improvisation with the Alexander Technique directions does not offend nor misinform anyone.  What transpired after this lie down was sublime.  Nights like this I want to go into the wee hours of the morning, but I have my responsibilities at work tomorrow.  Something tells me that I will play more once I publish this post.


  1. Great post, and thanks for the shout out!

    I hope readers do head over to the podcast on musicians' health and creative approaches to learning music. It's also free on ITunes as well.


  2. Forgot to mention that your readers may be especially interested in this podcast episode!