Thursday, September 15, 2011

Savouring the Unknown

Three-Day Kayak and Hiking Tour of the Channel Islands (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz) After my sitting today, I improvised on an idea that arose yesterday in Amaj/Cmaj.  No measurable progress was made, but I did do the work and then enjoyed a bike ride and Qi Gong in the surf. Later I read a snippet from Pedro de Alcantara's great book on the Alexander Technique called Indirect Procedures.  Regarding fear of improvisation Pedro states:  This universal fear always manifests itself in misuse of the whole self. To learn to improvise is to lose fear and, consequently, to stop misusing the self.

What happens when I improvise?  I engage the unknown in music and in myself.  Fear ever so subtle, even manifest in playing guitar which I so dearly love.  In an Alexandrian sense what happens to my use when I play "wrong" notes or find that I do not know what to play next?  I begin to rush and I tend to collapse my upper body.  The judgement voice usually in a negative tone arises within me.  How can I use AT to help my savour the unknown?

Today I decided to improvise in various styles for just four bars.  Maintaining an awareness of my use while improvising was paramount.  If I completed four bars without collapsing the improvisation was a success.  I paused between playing through various ideas and directed my thinking via AT.  A sense of letting go emerged as I continued to play in this way.  In my use certainly, but also in my thinking about myself as an improvisor and in the music.

After a short break to write notes, I returned to this notion of improvising four bars.  A piece was developing and a moment arose where the slight fear of the unknown manifested.  I paused very briefly and thought of openness.  Bold confident notes came out and well past the four bars I found an ending.  The pause was momentary and if an audience had been present could have been perceived as a musical rest.  The pause was significant for me, showing me the power of slowing down and being open.

Another attempt yielded overall positive results.  As the improv developed and became tricky, I noticed my upper left arm was tensing and I had begun holding my breath.  I am certain that the tension had been developing beneath my level of awareness as I played.  I did not find a way to release this tension as I played.  Getting excited now I was ready to rush into the next exploration.

Sensing that I may be end gaining, I choose instead to do a lie down.  As my back hit the floor I noticed the tension in my spine.  Letting this go, I was still eager to proceed.  But I stayed with the lie down and released my neck, spine, leg, and arms.  When I did begin again - loud intense notes played at a tempo much faster than the others.  At times I felt as if I was holding on,  while at other times I felt free.  Towards the end I again noticed I was holding my breath, the very breath of life.  These three improvisations all proceeded past the four bars I had originally established and the all had a sense of music to me.  May the learning continue as I approach the middle of this month long exploration inspired by Creative Pact 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Patrick,
    Your discovery of the impact that physical gesture (specifically here, tension) has on the improvisation process is one of the most overlooked aspects of the improvising art form. In my experience, unnecessary tension arises when I stop letting the music come to me (as a gift) and start trying to control it directly. In essence, I'm physically free and open when I follow my improvising muse, and tense when I don't accept it, and instead try to reshape and anticipate the creative impulse. As you've experienced, your strategy for aiming at physical freedom instead of musical results (the means-whereby) yields moments of true artistic freedom. By the way, I visited your Website and listened to several of your recorded samples. Truly lovely, spacious music!