Friday, December 27, 2013

Unity Extended


Certainly elusive
yet with discipline
and will
the path is opened.

Trudge onward

Then again tomorrow
and tomorrow's tomorrow.

 Fleeting moments
becoming the way.

Fleeting moments - forming days.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Long Notes on the Longest Night

Long exposure on a small stream near Lake Sabrina

Reflecting on how to begin my practice tonight on the longest night of the year the thought "play long notes arrived."  Clever perhaps, but I saw the opportunity to work with my use by keeping what I was to play simple.  I had 20 minutes to practice before heading out with my wife, and this seemed to be efficient.

I began with the AT directions I was working with last night, Freedom & Curiosity.  As I played with applying this to long notes, a simple joy arose.  Just listening, inviting random long notes, & playing with vibrato as I kept the directions alive.  Especially allowing the full length of my arms to just be.

After ten minutes or so, I decided to play a piece, the one that arose when my brother passed away this summer, Forget-Me-Knot.  I noticed the longing to connect with him arise in my heart.  Another aspect of 'long notes' I had never considered.  As I began to play, my mind began to wander.  Once again the ability to "just play' was escaping me.  Then the direction arrived " I am not just playing."

I held this thought, noticing how the mind was stumped and settling.  At one point I began to play the piece again, with a new freedom and presence.  Towards the end this wavered.  C'est la vie. In searching for the photo for this blog, the term long exposure was used in the photo's title.  Yes I also need a long exposure to working in this way.  Time to slip in a few more minutes of playing before retiring.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Free to Be Curious

Strange Dream c

Before practicing this evening I read this blog post by Jennifer Roig-Francoli called An Exercise in Moving From Our Curiosity.  She began with remembering we are free, then arousing our curiosity, and then allowing the eyes to lead the head, the spine, and the limbs into movement.  I played with this before I picked up my guitar case.  Picking up my case with awareness gave rise to the next curious question - what will the clasps sound like as I open the case?  Can I imagine this sound I've heard thousands of time?  Sensing I was onto something I began writing this post after those two questions arose.

Pausing to reflect on what to type next I become curios about how am I sitting at my computer?  Which led to me to listening to the act of typing - different rhythms, variations in tone and dynamics.  Must all 'periods' be done with greater force relative to rest of the typing?  Will I ever get to open the case?

As I stood before the case I played with Opening the Three Energy Gates, a Qi Gong exercise.  Coming back to my thought of freedom, I became curious about the act of opening the case. Then the negative direction " I am not free" arrived from nowhere.   I smiled as I noticed a slight release in my legs and torso.  Listening as the case opened I heard the soft sound of the strings coming  to life as the lid moved about.  The two staccato notes that sounded a I removed the humidifier from between the strings was suddenly delightful.  I heard my footfalls as I approached my stool, the slight squeak elicited as I settled in. 

I took in the space around me, finding the thought of freedom again, I aroused my curiosity about what does my spine do as I move my hands to the guitar?   I have no idea, but this arousing thought heightened my awareness.  Free & curios I let my eyes land on the neck of the guitar and then my hands followed.  Beginning with an improvisation, I just let the hands go.  Listening, returning to the thought of freedom and being curious what this means to me.

I began playing through a piece and became lost.  Again I was playing and became lost.  I decided to take Jennifer's exercise and twist it with a sense of Missy Vineyard's negative directions:

I am not free.
I am not curious.
I am not allowing my spine to be free.

I came back to the I am not curious, a very strange sense of curiosity about how this affected my thinking and subsequent movement arose.  Even now as I entertain this thought,  a release upward occurs.  I began to play again.   Lost another time.  I paused and let this go, but wondered why after arriving in such a rich place was I getting so lost?  I had a glimpse of ease and freedom that is possible from this place, a glimpse that is not foreign to me, yet remains elusive.  More to practice and I am curious to see where this goes.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Not Holding On

Tired, very tired.  When I began to play tonight, I just launched into Here We Are.  No warm up, no directing of my thinking, no intentions nor plan about my practice session, just playing the piece.  As I continued the thought arrived "I am not holding onto anything as I play."  There it was, plain and simple - a negative Alexander Technique direction that I continued to come back to.

As I used this direction I noticed that my body was staying loose as was my attitude towards my playing.  Not holding onto anything included my notions about what it means to play a piece;  my underlying inspirations and conceptions about a given piece, and any concern as to how I was doing what I was doing.  Instead I was just playing.  So simple but so difficult for me.  But after years of 'just sitting,' perhaps something is shifting.  But I'll not hold onto that concept either.

An after thought. 

When I woke this morning I recalled that at the end of my practice a beautiful possible intro arrived. I played with this idea a few minutes and as the hour was getting late, I decided to tape what I had for later reflection.  With the recorder running, the idea fell apart. After three attempted beginnings I recalled that I was not holding onto anything as I play and let it go.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Movin' Da Funk

As the man said - Everybody gets the blues sometimes ...

Today was my turn.  Exposed to just a little too much sadness, too many memories, too much blight in our world, loss was overwhelming me.  Fortunately I have a wonderful wife and a way of life that works in good times and bad.  Returning home from much needed visits to relatives, we rested, ate and talked.  Joann mentioned that I really would feel better when I picked up my guitar and I knew she was right.

But first I needed to meditate and allow my feelings to subside.  To water positive seeds within me, within all of us, and to tune my perspective.  I followed this with Qi Gong, a reversal of our usual morning practice.  Moving the body while following the breath, the energy blockages dissolved.  Then onto my guitar.  Without demand nor judgement I played, allowing the power of music to move me, soothe me, and to invite in wholeness.  The pieces I  played did not matter so much as the act of surrender to the notes as they were, as I am.  At the end a spirited improvisation with notes flying off the fretboard without concern.  My body responding with movement not usually associated with the act of music and myself.  So be it.

The chocolate fudge brownie ice cream before a walk under the nearly full moon completed the shift.  Truly I am grateful for all of the loved ones who support my life, for the practices I have learned, and for music, sweet music.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What is is About the Unknown?

unknown fungal growth
While journaling this morning, the question of what is it about the unknown that can disturb me like it did last night arose.  Under the direction of my instructor, I spend part of every practice session just playing, improvising to see what develops.  Sometimes this is at the beginning, sometimes at the end, and rarely in the middle of the session.  When nothing is there I move on. This determination is usually a recognition of the truth of the situation, and is not harsh nor full of judgement.  And when the recognition is one of something is happening I stick with the exploration.

Every now & then, circumstances like last night arrive.  No idea why and while I could certainly create possible & plausible causes & conditions, I'm not certain this analysis would serve moving my musical development further?  What remains important to me, was when I heard the negative self talk, I did not listen and abandon the work.  In hindsight I see that when the talk was developing, I was drifting away from the present moment.  By pausing and taking a few breaths, I was able to bring myself back to the moment.  My body relaxed a bit, the chatter lessened, and the emotion calmed.  Approaching the task with a more unified presence, I was able to enter back into the unknown and not remain stuck.

I know that there as a time to let go of an exploration, a pursuit or a relationship, but when is that?  Elusive at best without a clear cut answer.  No need to engage if all that is going on is frustration & brow beating, but sensitivity to the moment at hand is pertinent. In the act of learning might letting go really mean giving up?  Is there a place that arises when you have exhausted your known options and your brain is stimulated and you find something new? When the emotions are aroused in the act of learning, might a subtle biochemical shift develop that also stimulates the brain differently than when an improvisation is proceeding smoothly?  Then in quieting the body mind complex with the breath, this new harmonized approach has a fresh territory to explore.  Being somewhat free to roam in this unknown place instead of walking away from a sense of stuckness and failure gave rise to new energy.

Again and again I learn and apply these lessons to my musical practice and to life.  May I continue to recognize when to remain with a process, when to pause, and when to let go.  May the breath of life continue to inform me and all beings.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Accepting What Comes II

L'Oiseau bleu Cosmos_20
Our plan had been to be on a retreat this weekend.  That was until my wife came down with a bug that's kept her wiped out most of this week. Thus I woke this morning with a planned day off but without a clear schedule.  Not that I need a schedule, just had not had time to rethink what I might do. Part of this time was devoted to a longer meditation and to more practice Qi Gong.   A few errands and lunch with my wife led to a nap. Then a few more errands.

I knew I would practice guitar, just not sure when nor what I would do.  I even noticed a bit of resistance about practicing which is rare for me.  What is going on I wondered? After another meditation and 15 minutes of Qi Gong I did sit down to practice.  I recalled a blog post from 2010 titled Accepting What Comes which I reread this week.  Three years later and I still do not have any formal composition process but I do have an inquiring and curious mind.  One night while practicing this week, I began playing around with Scriabin's Prometheus Chord. I based this chord on "C" and found a potential introduction that did not go any further.

Tonight in the spirit of accepting what the muse had to offer, I decided to begin with this nugget from earlier this week and see what developed.  After 25 minutes I was lost, nothing was emerging, and I found myself beginning to talk negatively to myself.  While questioning my abilities and knowledge, I felt uneasy about continuing. I also noticed that this was an opportunity.  I was already wandering about in the unknown, why pull back now, just stay with the process.  Having exhausted what I knew, and what I had already experimented with I decided to continue.

And it got worse.  Nothing was making sense, nothing developing, and the negativity was hovering nearby.  Suddenly I craved playing a known piece of music.  To hear what made sense and worked, to get a bit of joy from that.  But why?  Why abandon where I was?  Acceptance was not part of this process.  When I saw this, I took a few breaths and began again.  What would happen if the chord was based on "G" I thought.  As I played with this, a whisper of music emerged, building in strength and giving a lift to my will to continue.  When my left hand tired I took a short break.

I returned and played with this more.  Still not a piece, but by staying with the unknown; accepting my shortcomings and by practicing persistence something came alive.  Was it music?  Was it me?  The door is open once again.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Day's Listening

Sound of Silence

Slurping coffee, perhaps I need to begin again.

Hearing the sound of the clothes dryer in the basement and noticing the similarity to my thinking.

Waterfall cascading from the faucet cleansing life from our dishes.

Concern in the voice of a colleague about an approaching weather event on my day off.

Pedro's de Alcantara's new piece of music arising from SoundCloud, almost as good as being with him.

Debussy arising from nowhere, everywhere takes me by surprise.  Ah Debussy ...

Plop, stop, go on and listen.

My beloved's gentle shriek as cold lotion caresses her back.

Noticing that when I am quiet, I hear the sound of my breathing.

What is that sound of the unasked question?

The sound of I love you leaving my lips, echoed back with such beauty by my beloved.

Listening to Evan Parker playing in an unusual context.  I hear same Evan, new Evan.

Gargles destroying life, protecting life in my mouth.

Laughter & chatter amongst old and new friends.  Pain, sorrow, hope, inspiration and caution also arise.

Eno, dear Eno - what more can I say.

The sound of my book closing.

In a dream the sound of myself playing to an elderly person in bed in an institutional setting.  This is the second night in a row I woke and recalled this dream. What question am I not asking?

Friday, December 6, 2013

When Does a Sound Begin?

When does a sound begin?

When fingers caress a string,
breath vibrates membranes,
or sticks invite skins to respond?

Does a sound begin in the mind,
the heart,
even the beyond?

Perhaps a sound begins with a message.
Perhaps with causes and condition seeking to be voiced.

Can the, will the performer offer a reconciling voice?
Bring the beyond into the here and now?
Allow freedom to be heard?

How does a sound begin?

With an intention,
an action,

Who forms the sound?
The sound forms who?


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Restrained Freedom

As I began my practice tonight I glanced at the clock and realized that David Jernigan was probably conducting his weekly Alexander Technique class about a mile away from me.  Due to my taking Qi Gong class for the past 10 weeks at around the same time, I have not seen David in a while.  This does not mean that I do not practice AT, but I do not think of it as frequently as when I have ongoing contact with an AT Instructor.

I decided to vary a warm up exercise I frequently begin with by using inhibition throughout the exercise.  After 4 bars of the exercise I would pause, reconnect with myself and the space around me, and then play through another 4 bars.  Using these pauses to release and lengthen, I smiled.

Towards the end of this exercise I was pleased with the direction I was heading in and decided to apply inhibition to a piece of music.  I choose Senseless Loss, a tremolo piece.  Since most of the piece is in 7/4 I decided to begin by playing a bar and then resting for 2 beats, moving to the next bar, resting for 2 beats and so on.  I played through the piece once in this manner.  On the second play through I began to make it 4 beats of rest.  Keeping the rests to a fixed time felt important to keep me connected with the music.  The main thing I noticed playing through in this manner was that I had absolutely no sense of how to build a crescendo.  More importantly I noticed how present I was with what I was doing and decided to take this further.

I increased the playing to two bars of 7/4 with a 4 beat rest in between.  The act of inhibiting my playing and allowing my length and width to re-establish themselves was pleasant and my playing still effortless.  After two play throughs in this manner, I moved onto 4 bars with then a 4 beat rest.

Here my habits began to reassert themselves a bit.  During the 12th bar I noticed a familiar tension and miscue in my right hand fingers.  And then the rest to let go of this mistake and allow a breath of lengthening and widening enter my being.  The next four bars comprise  tricky left hand fingering and while the tremolo switches from the E to the high G string(NST.) Midway through playing this part I noticed a grimace forming about my mouth.  Smiling I was able to release this.  During the next section my focus fell apart and I let go of playing.

As I played through again in this manner, I noticed that when the crescendo was beginning to gain in intensity where I tripped up the last time that there was a slight pulling at the bottom of my right shoulder and I was holding on with my right elbow.  Noticing this allowed it to release somewhat and the right hand fingering miscue did not happen.  In the next section the facial grimace again arose and by the end of this 4 bar section I would have held my breath at the next transition was it not for the pause.  Has the grimace become part of my performance of this piece?  I suspect the grimace has been practiced below my level of awareness.  Are the other tensions noted part of how I perform this piece or part of my regular act of playing?  This was turning into a very rich exercise.

Now I really wanted to play through the piece and see if any progress was made.  And then from my early days of Guitar Craft the notion of restraint arrived.  Restraint was practiced in performance when you think you can play your part, but no that you really can't.  This is somewhat harder than it sounds.  So why move into the whole piece, when I was having success at identifying and working with issues that were yet to be resolved?

Practicing restraint I played through in 4 bar sections one more time.  Then I let go and played through a different piece.  I could sense the improvement of my playing by what had come before.  Smiling I continued to play, but left Senseless Loss for another session.  Perhaps my unnecessary habitual quirks can begin to unravel due to restrained freedom.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Matka Boska


Matka Boska - how many times did I hear my Mother utter those words in the language of our ancestors?  Her plea to the Blessed Mother to find the way to deal with three children and her husband.  Sometimes masked with anger, at others - fear, desperation, even hope, but always asking; asking for help.  Tonight we celebrated her Birthday once again without her physical presence.

Lighting candles in front of the photo of her with my Father and Sister I played Matka Boska for her, for them.  This year I had to add another photo.  One of my brother from the last time I saw him, enjoying pizza in our childhood haunt.  Little did I know that August day, filled with laughter, that it would be our last laugh; our last goodbye.  So tonight after thanking my Mother and playing her piece, I played Forget-Me-Knot, the piece that arrived during my grief.

Why does music come through me?  I'll never know; but I am grateful that these pieces touch my heart and occasionally the hearts of others.  A Mother's Love is never forgotten.  And now I am finding out that neither is a Brother's. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Question ; or two .

             ;   what came before?

! Really   ,                    ?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What Gives?

Crop: I try. I fail. I don't give up

Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference.” -- Benjamin Zander

As a result of living my life in the described manner by Benjamin Zander, at times something has to give.  Guitar practice and the day job are honored.  I need some time to rest and to be with my favorite person in the whole world - my wife.  Work on new pieces continue as does preparation for a house concert. A great experiment in AT class last night waits to be posted.  Finding time to write about my musical adventures is rewarding to me, but alas sometimes I need to sacrifice myself to the gods of sleep and forgo blogging.

And so it goes ...

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Sirens call
Birds worship

Life Sounded

Release all

Sounds live on.

Listen now,
before I forget.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Binding

Choice lives within the present moment.
Habit lies in the past.
Both shape our future.
I will be bound by my choices.
Can I be freed?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Am I Listening for the Whispers?


Am I listening for the whispers I heard myself stay after another false start with the new piece.  Tonight the recording device was annoying me, or I was annoying me, or my grappling with the unknown had me on edge.  When the question arrived - am I listening for the whispers - I still had difficulties playing but now I began to hear why.  The judgemental whispers in my mind coupled with the subtle yet unrealistic expectations that something profound would emerge from my repeated efforts with this musical idea were robbing my attention.

Now at least I was listening.  I returned to stillness, opening my hearing to the sounds of the AC, the chirps of the evening insects, and then to the sound emanating from my strings.  Difficulties presented themselves, but I returned to the listening; and then I let go of the playing.

What was my goal in recording?  To learn about this piece that is developing.  Then let go, play with all that I am, and keep listening and learning.   Once again I see that I have to love the process of practice and all that goes with it.  The drudgery, the repetition, and my feelings of not having what it takes this time.  I hear the whisper of let go, let go, let goooooooooooooooooooo ...

I press record and play. Ninety seconds in I have arrived somewhere unplanned and pause.  Perhaps a new way to begin the piece.  I press record again, follow the form and and in a later part of the piece arrive at another new area.  Record once more and let it rip.  Intensity in one section nearly derails me, but I hang on.   An idea from listening yesterday that I thought I wanted to explore did not happen but arrived a few bars later.  Time once again to let go. Let go and listen.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Can I Hear the Whisper?

 Still working with this new piece.  Stillness remains key to my process.  When I slow down I listen. Persistent open stillness allow the whispers of the muse to be heard.  Last week when I was completing my work for the evening, I recorded what I had achieved with the piece that session.  This act is nothing new for me, but when I woke the following morning I decided to listen to this during my commute.  This was going against my habit of having the recording to refer to for ideas. I heard myself saying it is too early in the process to listen, my playing is so flawed. On I went about why to maintain this habit.

I trusted the impulse and listened three times during various parts of my drive.  During the second listening I thought I heard something but it was nebulous.  Then in the third listen, I heard the whisper of where to take the piece.  That evening I worked with the idea and was satisfied with the result.  The next morning and a few other times I have done this with this piece.  The whispers continue. 

This piece is stretching me, as is this process.  As I listened this morning I thought the introduction needed something, but I did not hear what this might be.  Tonight after a very exhausting work day, I was ready to play, when I paused.  I realized that it's been a while since I've done an AT lie down before playing. So I hit the floor and as I relaxed, I began listening to the intro in my mind.  I heard a possibility.  Of course I wanted to get up and play with it, but I choose to stay with the lie down.

The idea does have merit and I played with another part from my morning's listening that needed work.  Now I'll sacrifice myself to the gods of sleep and listen again tomorrow.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Conveying Hopeless

Dark Woods
A comment left regarding my latest musical exploration raised a question about how to convey hopelessness.  This question may have been lurking within my pysch but I had not clearly articulated it.  Music is composed of notes and their relationships to another.  We have joyful, or sad, or mysterious responses.  For some reason I can elicit sad, angry, and the occasional joyful responses but can I garner hopelessness?

Fortunately, hopelessness is not a large part of my experience in life.  How can I touch this, embrace hopeless?  Can I muster the vocabulary that while the music cannot state hopeless explicitly, invite the listener to dwell with the experience?  What am I getting myself into?  Peering through the language glass can I detect and transmit the nuances approaching hopelessness.  Doubt or fear of failure tells me to back off.  But I know this is where my musical and perhaps even personal growth dwells for today.

With doubt in hand and the question of what does hopeless sound like within my heart I begin to play.  As I listen, while I'm not sure how these chords and notes might relate to another, I trust what I hear and continue to play, develop, and follow.

This time I have space on my recorders SD card so I capture my explorations to be listened to as needed.  I remind myself this is a process.  I need to guide, allow and be with the process.  Perhaps the music does not need to convey hopelessness, perhaps the music, regardless of the initial inspiration just needs to be heard.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

New Beginnings Part 2

Windshield Ice 1577

I began my practice reviewing the melody which arose the previous evening.  Doubt surfaced, I was not hearing the magic I heard the night before.  But I have been here before, faced this resistance within me to move forward with an idea.  Playing it again I sensed what drew me the night before.  Moving onto some chord slashes I found at the end of the session, I had a sense that this might be the beginning of the piece.  Using this section I found the chord slashes did lead in nicely to the melody line.

As I continued to play around other ideas emerged and spread.  I was exhausted by a very demanding week at work and the SD card on my recorder was full.  Should I stop and empty the card?  Begin notating on paper?  Or simply continue to play, trusting that the process will continue to reveal and develop.  Of course that nagging little thought kept at me, that something may be lost.  Laughing since if I paused to clean up the SD card or begin hand notation something also stands to be lost.

Better to remain in the moment with what I was playing.  Notes come and notes go, and I just played on.

New Beginning

During my work day on Thursday I was thinking about the history of one of our clients.  Both of his parents are Holocaust survivors.  I wonder at the stories they possess and the horrors they have lived through.  Was there a piece of music whispering to me?  How would I become available to receive this piece?

There I sat eating my lunch with a sense or sentiment of what to express.  For me at this point the work will be for solo guitar, so one limit is already established.  Where & how to begin?  A cliched thought of boot steps echoing down a hallway arises, but a bit more ambiquity seems apropos.  Do I have the musical language to express this?  Ah, there it is - that subtle thought of doubt, masking the face of fear.  Welcome home old friend.  Breathing in I smile to this doubt and know that I will wrestle with this during my evening practice.

How else to develop the language then to speak?  To probe and prod, experiment and fail; dwelling not on the moments of struggle but taking energy from the search and slowly moving forward. Deciding I needed a scale to begin from, I arrived at C Phrygian Dominant.  Now the stage was set for the evening's work.

As I sat down with my guitar, that moment arose of recognizing the unknown and wading in.  I'm generally comfortable within the confines of my practice space with being lost & clueless; hopefully with enough openness and attention to hear when music has whispered.  Embracing the uncertainty of my knowledge and the mild stress of my challenge; I trust that time with the process will bring order from the chaos of choices. At the very least I will learn & possibly produce a something of merit.  Exploring the relationships within the scale, allowing triads to form & dissolve, I listen as melodies arise & slip away.

One melody stands out and I have found my base to explore from.  Where does this melody wish to go next?  Gentle efforts find the next phrase, yet I feel this piece needs energy and darkness.  Still gentleness governs the evening's efforts.  So be it.  In a world full of suffering, and while contemplating this suffering a gentle practice is at the very least useful.

                                                             Photo by Barry Stock

Monday, June 24, 2013

Honoring a Request

Yesterday was Ladd Everitt's Birthday and I sent him birthday greetings via Facebook.  Then he asked for a 30 second piece for his birthday.  Where to begin?  The time limit was one guiding constraint, albeit a severe one.  Did I need to do this today?  Why yes it is his birthday.  I needed a theme, an emotion, or a key please.  I looked at his name and decided to explore the interval of the fourth A - D.  Quickly I decided to toss in an F# and I began playing around.

After 40 minutes, a piece had arrived  and a rough recording was made on my portable mp3 recorder.  This recording is less than perfect yet was made in a spirit of goodwill and joy.  I sent him a drop box link and set off for a walk with my wife.  I am amazed with the ease of which I released this recording.  No worrying or negative judgement about the lack of time or that it's a mps or I am not worthy of sending this off.  A slight concern about him 'liking' the piece, but this is not up to me.  My response was important; just shrugging off any trace of fear and allowing what I do to enrich a good man's Birthday.

During our walk I told me wife about this.  I had said I wanted to explore and stretch during this time off from work.  I brought Pedro de Alcantara's book Integrated Practice with me as a potential source of ideas to play with.  But I never thought that a simple Birthday wish would provide the stimulus.  What other contexts might arise this week to provide the impetus for learning and growing?
I am grateful for my response to Ladd's request yesterday. In less than 38 minutes after his request, I honored his request without judgement of myself and no notice of fear; just a bit of love being sent out to a good man. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sailing the Alexander Technique

I was practicing in a room last night that is new to me.  My guitar sounds different and as I notice this I take in more of the space about me.  A slight release in my spine ensues and I continue to gently scan the wood paneled walls circa 1950's USA as I play.  For the first time since arriving here earlier in the day I notice the two paintings of sail boats, perhaps in a race.

As I see their forward motion & the uprightness of their sails, I shift forward over my sitz bones.  Smiling at the gentle but clear Alexander Technique directions being administered to me by the environment I am in.  As I review pieces of music, I work to keep the directions of forward & up alive within, smiling at the paintings that began this particular piece of AT work.

This morning while practicing in the same room, I notice that the water in the one painting is rough & choppy, yet the boats maintain that dynamic of forward and up.  Much like me navigating the piece I am playing, while the earth was relatively calm beneath me I am in motion. Though sitting in an asymmetric position, both of my arms are extended in different directions with my palms holding my fingers in various positions as the move about the guitar.  Directions remain alive for glimpses of playing, as I come back to them during breaks between what I am practicing.  My awareness spreads gently during these moments of being alive to and with what I am doing.  I notice that I am tired, so I take a break.

On the beach I am once again engulfed by the sheer immensity of the Ocean.  Pondering how wide the Atlantic is, I release my shoulders to approach their width.  Allowing my spine to soar into the delicate floating clouds above me.  Enjoying this snack AT practice as I begin walking in the surf.  Later while swimming and playing in the surf I pause to absorb the Qi of the Ocean, of the Planet, of Life.  Swaying & undulating with the waves, allowing forward & up, wide & free I dive into another wave.  Might one day I navigate music with such freedom and joy.  The aphorism - establish the possible and move gradually to the impossible arrives on time once again.  Finding myself and how I am using myself with the AT directions is one way to establish the possible. I continue to find the technique practical & applicable to any situation.  Examples within life abound to remind me.  What I do with these opportunities to remember or when I intentionally pause to invite these principles into my being continues to invite ease and freedom in.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


 Invite the silence.
Without guarantee practice.
Persist, wish, abide.

Photo by Barry Stock.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Autumn Abbey
What is that music whispering to me?
Gentle, flowing like the wind.
Be still, it murmurs, be still.

Suddenly dissonance roars,
with an introduction of confusion to begin another section.
Another part of life lived.
Again it murmurs, be still; just    be still.

Why is this music whispering to me?
Because I can listen or because I will play?
Or am I just living in this fortunate day?
The quieting roar gently flows towards the end.
Murmuring, murmuring - be still, be still.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Moment by Moment


Moment by moment,
Note after note,
Music breathes or not.

Where is the player?
In the way or on the way?
Present in love and freedom?
Where, when, now.

Moment by moment,
Life passes.
Note after note,
Music evolves.
Breathing in and out,
Noticing, nurturing, giving and given;
a present - this present moment lived.

Photo by Barry Stock

Friday, June 14, 2013

Glimpses of Awareness

  Tonight this photo by my friend Barry Stock spoke to me of awareness.  How often am I aware of the beauty that is  around me?  How often am I aware of where I am in space, let alone what I am doing, thinking, feeling?  Glimpses of awareness show me where I am or where I am not.

I may have great aspirations, but what of my actions?  My thoughts?  My words?
As the Guitar Craft aphorism so aptly states - we begin again constantly.  Grateful for the reminders to stop & notice; for the practices that guide this; and for the practitioners that strengthen & support all of us.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Little Habits

HabitsHow quickly habits set in.

I've been learning Jesu' Joy of Man's Desiring for an upcoming family wedding. The score I have been working with has both standard notation and guitar tablature which pushes the pages to five.  This is more pages than I need to be dealing with. For some reason the tablature is working fine for this piece so I decided to drop the notation and compress the score to two pages.

Tonight was the first time I was working with this and began with bar 39 which leads into an area with kinks to resolve.  I kept getting lost.  Deciding to begin with the first bar and establish the flow of Bach's majesty, I was again getting lost very easily.  Then I saw the problem.  By habit, when my eyes came to the end of a bar line, they were jumping over the next line as if the line of notation was still present.   Laughing, I  began again and lo and behold my eyes jumped again; a bit later once again

Habits, habits, habits.  They develop below the level of my awareness, but then require dedicated awareness to release them.  What's next?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Could it Be?

It's cooler. Is the AC on orchid it be Fall?

The more I think or feel that I am lacking in time to effectively carry out what I want or need, the greater the value of choosing to do nothing?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dormant Seeds


Dormant but patient.
Spring storm clouds gather, reveal.
Watch what you water.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer Haiku

Instill quiet now.
Then in stillness, blossom deep.
Summer shines within.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Finding the Light

Every now and then
the whisper points and leads.
Those first notes sweet and suggestive;
the next ones haunting and hallowing.

Quietly I listen.
Quietly I 

Where does this melody wish to go?
Open, available, I yearn to know.
Simply play.
Softly stay.

I find
I miss
I float the wish
Slowly, lovingly
note follows note.

Every now and then. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Reminder Note

The New Explore
Each note is a reminder.

Of where I was
or was not.

That music speaks to us of
the incomprehensible
the everyday
and the in between.

Vibrating intentions
oscillating wishes
melodies emerge and merge
within          without

May each note remind me to come back,
serve a higher aim,
sound boldly of love.

For now

For then.

Each not Is a reminder.
Where am I?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Morning Thought

spider web with morning dew

Listening to the bird songs from my bed this morning before sunrise.  Such lovely and varied improvisations based on necessity. Recently I learned that their songs change every year.  Why is this?  A result of their winters travels south or just arising as their lives and experiences change?  Every action affects all actions.

Are my songs, ones of necessity?  Do they serve a higher purpose?

This thought arose as I listened to the birds - Sound is not fixed and neither am I.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What Vibrates?

What vibrates
guitar strings
the heart
the soul
the Universe
Life Itself?

Our vibrations are contagious,
what are you vibrating?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wave Lesson


May I
be wide & spacious like the ocean;
 full of dynamic energy, yet undulating as a gentle breaking wave;
 curious and deep, delightful and profound,
moving effortlessly yet powerfully.

May I
be open;
be still;
and listen with a wide heart.

May I
to remember;
direct and inspire;
stay the path with another;
and stay the path for all others.

May I
and leave no trace beyond.

May I
May you
embrace all that is new.

May I
May you
release expectation
and just be true.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Secret Punctuation of a Habit

Photo by Barry Stock

;where were you when it happened

;where will you be you when it happens again

;when it happens again a habit may be born

;when it happens enough enough a way of life arises ...

What results then?

be where
you are Now.!.

;habits will arise, better to be with their birth,
perhaps guiding them as you need,
as you wish...

Easy - no
Possible - maybe

;where were you just now!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Listen lightly now!

[  Views trap  ] know all is  ;   is not  ¿

 Freedom   lies    be yon

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Stupidest Fear Yet

Last night I was looking at relationships between three scales.  I found this particular theory years ago in a back by Walter Mathieu called Harmonic Experience: Tonal Harmony from Its Natural Origins to Its Modern Expression. Periodically I look at work again, but am usually overwhelmed.  Last night I saw a bit of hope in moving forward with this if only a tiny bit.  Most of my musical progress comes from small but persistent efforts.

Tonight I decided to play with these ideas and something began to take off.  I was making notes on this, with my guitar on, seated by my desk.  A recipe for what the Alexander Technique calls poor use.   I loose awareness of myself, and twist & torque my body.  But the notes were made on what I had so far.  I decided to do a lie down and was grateful as my back touched the floor.  The tension generated by tiredness and poor use had me.  As this released I began audiating what I had so far, I heard something exciting happening.  Then this stupid little fear whispered - but you'll never be able to play that.

I could not believe it.  And I also chose not to listen to the fear.  I returned to playing & exploring.  Willing to allow the muse to speak and to do what is necessary to allow her to be heard.  Ive had a lot of dealings with fear over the years, but this was a new one.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Nature by... Gaudi? 

For whom do birds sing?

For whom do I play music?

For what do we listen?

Why do we not sing more?

Do the questions frame the quest?

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Wonder of Gratitude

Philosophy begins in wonder. Plato

As I completed my practice session playing Matka Boska, a tribute to my mother, to all Mothers,  a sense of gratitude overwhelmed.  Gratitude for life, gratitude for the love my Mother gave me, gratitude for the gifts of living, laughter and art that so many have shared with me. 

Gratitude as the frame for my day, keeps me present, grounded, and awake to the presence of so much that life has to offer  Grateful that my body still has fine motor control to play, that my mind can recall what to play, and that my heart still cares.   One precious breath at a time I can wake up and listen for what life needs.

The new day is upon me.  Time to go and marvel at the beauty and wonder of another opportunity to watch the sunrise from the bottom of the sea.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Release What You Don't Need

Release, constant release requires conscious participation.  Requires nourishing my awareness and practicing coming back to the present moment over and over.  Support of other practicioners moves me to spaces I am not capable of achieving on my own.

Release the unnecessary.  How much of my way of moving is unneeded and unrelated to how the system is designed?  Tension, misguided effort, and plain old habit cloud my capabilities.  What am I releasing - the past, the future, the unseen?  Can I allow my body and mind to arrive right where I am?

As I focus on the Alexander Technique direction of width I notice my tendency to hold my right shoulder rolled forward with my arm slightly pressing against my body.  This puts pressure on my breathing, though this pressure is generally below the level of my awareness.  This habit also pulls on my back, tiring & misusing muscles which then pull on other muscles, introducing tension throughout my system.  And I seldom notice this.  Why?

Habits of hurry and inattention.  Years of neglect of how I use myself resulting in well worn pathways in my brain mandating this is how life is.  Mimicking of how others use themselves, for instance in playing the guitar, without my own playing being based on principles.

Yet the simple thought of "wide" without actually doing anything, allows a release of muscles doing unnecessary work.  Allows a release of tension from the strains my habitual unnecessary work produces.  And this simple thought quiets the mind, bringing me into the present.  A new if transitory pattern is introduced, one based on principles of releasing into the design of the musculoskeletal system.  Even though this release is transitory the basis for a new way of moving is being established.

Introducing the thought of the AT directions, over and over, as I remember, allows the release into a new way of being.  Connected with my thinking, my body and the space around me a gentle release like the melody of clouds I saw at sunrise today arises.  Moving with grace and ease, according to the way the design allows.  Release.  What am I releasing?  Habits, judgements, opinions and neglect. 

Release what you don't need was a comment from Pedro de Alcantara's interview with Diana Rumrill.  What is it that I need?  What do I not need?  How do I determine my needs?  The Alexander Technique provides me the framework to see, experiment with, and find what I am doing and more importantly what I need to be doing or not.  The directions allow me to release what I do not need and to lengthen & widen in movement and in life.  What are you releasing?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Framing the Mind

Red Moon: Time lapse of a transformation

"Things are easy to do" is the first quote on a page of notes from an interview with the Alexander Technique & author Pedro de Alcantara on Harmonious Bodies a couple years ago.  How to arrive at the place where "things are easy to do?'  Pedro goes on to speak of putting yourself in the frame of mind to do so, to work on the frame of mind. Using the Alexander Technique to broaden my awareness is an ongoing part of my musical approach.  A method of connecting the body & mind with what I am doing right now.

These partial scores are accented with recordings of the various works in progress.  Some of the recordings have captured a piece in it's entirety while others like the scores are partial.  Along with a few completed pieces these works in progress will form my next recorded release - When the Ocean Courts the Drop.  As I have a more time this week than usual to devote to music, my focus is on completing the notation of some these scores.

Where to begin I found myself asking yesterday?  The recordings have been organized, the partial scores assembled and now the work of listening and notating awaited me.  This is difficult work for me.  My ear is not developed enough to undertake this work with ease.  One of my favorite Guitar Craft aphorisms - Establish the possible and move gradually to the impossible arises. With this aphorism framing my thinking, I decided to begin with a piece that has a recording that sounds complete and has a partially developed score. 

Ironically in my last Alexander Technique lesson with David Jernigan, he had me singing a song and finding the melody on the guitar.  The musician in him has noticed this musical weakness of my ear before and on this particular evening this formed a good frame to address our AT & musical work.  I am generally comfortable playing for David these days, even improvising.  But singing?  Singing when his family is in the adjacent room with a mere wall between us?  But I did, even though it was a bit of a struggle.  Could I keep the AT directions alive which we had been working with earlier in the lesson while dealing with my internal opinions about myself?  Could I remain free and confront this habit of mine that does not like to expose myself & my inadequacies?  David assisted by his gentle presence, keeping the AT work alive with me. 

I have been working with developing my ear in my practice for the past two weeks and now I confront the limitation of this part of my musicality.  The recorded melodies I am working with capturing and notating are not as simple as what I have worked with.  My pitch recognition lacks and so I struggle.  And I pause and direct.  Pause and breath in, knowing that in making this effort the ear is being developed.  And f I can keep the notion of "things are easy to do" alive I am not quite as overwhelmed as I might be. 

Success smiled on me yesterday, notating a 90 seconds of a two minute and 40 second piece.  A few times I wanted to throw in the towel, but paused instead.  At times setting down the guitar and enlivening my Qi with a few simple Qi Gong exercises.  Gently backing off from end gaining with pauses to direct my thinking via AT.  Connections developed between the ear and the mind, the mind and the guitar, and from where I am to where I wish to be.  May these connections continue to develop and broaden

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Trust in the You of Now

bleu / blue 

Trust in the you of now

One of  my favorite Oblique Strategies formulated by Brain Eno and Peter Schmidt in 1975. What more could I ask of myself? I am always changing; life is always changing.  I'm not the musician I used to be nor am I the one I will become. Thus I need to trust my intuitions, trust when I 'feel' inadequate and arrive back in the here and now.

Knowing where I am right now a bridge from the possible to the impossible resides.  Arriving, trusting, and moving from where I am is an ongoing process.  A process I must reengage with over and over. Wherein lies the source?  Right here.  Right now.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Patterns spiral in 

 Patterns spiral out.

What guides them?




Are our patterns ornamental or fundamental?




Attend one volution fully

and the next step illumines.

Attend again with vigor

and a path has begun.






Sunday, February 17, 2013

Winter Morning Sounds

Winter's sounds isolated within.

Crisp and clear; mimicing the bare trees whose branches reach and connect all there is.

A few moments of clear thinking.

 Connecting life

Bare thoughts

Crackling leaves

Dawn breaks free.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Davis

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Eternally Stood Up
Thoughts to words.

Thoughts to actions.

Thoughts to notes & melodies.

What was I thinking? What am I thinking?

Better perhaps to direct my thinking?

Or quiet my thinking and notice what is going on.

Or reflect on my thinking and notice what patterns are directing me.

By noticing the patterns change is possible.

      Thinking habits breed movement habits.

      Thinking habits breed emotional habits.

      Thinking habits breed how I Live my Life, or Not.

Find silence - free the thoughts.

Free the thoughts

the Heart Opens


Friday, February 15, 2013

Gentle Persistence

Desert Track

Fear.  Always fear.  Why?

There is a piece that has been whispering to me for years.  Recent listening to  various recordings from times when I have been actively working with this piece, has let me hear that there is music there.  Even a beginning, a middle, and an end; just not all on the same recording.  Tonight when I was working with this piece, the struggle to pick up these parts by ear frustrates me.  And this frustration invites the sprouting of fear.

I'm not good enough. I will never figure this out so why not let it go.  God knows what else lurks beneath.  Ah. Now that's out.  Returning to one of my favorite GC aphorisms We begin again constantly, I set the guitar down, breath a bit and return.  Knowing that gentle persistence will yield a few more notes and something positive to build upon. To give in fear is to perish.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Rose Haiku

Shiver of dawn's light
Winter's crisp silence arises.
Frozen rose whispers.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Six String Scales

Six String in the Sunshine
I found this link called Six String Scales on twitter this evening and decided to check it out. Basically the exercise involves playing each degree of the scale once on each string. I decided to test my fretboard knowledge post by Simon Powls can be found here.

After exploring variations on the exercise I began to play triads containing the same note, for example A, and moving around the fretboard. I was not playing inversions of the original chord my restriction was to quickly find an "A" on a different string and for it to be in a different relationship within the chord than the last one.  After 5 chords I switched to " B" and so forth.  A fun change of pace to my usual practice.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Edge Thoughts


Edges are much   w i  d   e    r   than I think

The pull towards the edge, stronger than I know

Directed exposure
opens the edge
reveals the pull
makes dance

any longer?

Go wide
edge forward.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Exploring the Edges

Spiraling up / Subida en espiral
 What happens when I get lost in the edge of uncertainty?

My body contorts, breathing is held, emotions flutter and my brain, well frankly I am uncertain what my brain does or does not do.  Why this set of psycho-physical reactions? Does one happen before the other or do they all arise simultaneously?  What if I were able to maintain my freedom at the 'edge?'   Instead of spinning out of control, what if I spiraled out, slowly evolving in somewhat of a pattern?

Can I make friends with the edge, my edge?

After generating these aforementioned questions, I decided to do an Alexander technique lie down.  As I lay down on the floor, the idea that I could visualize improvisations while in this very free state of the lie down arose.  Deciding to play with it, I first thought through the lie down process, allowing my body to lengthen and widen and to let go of unnecessary tension.  I began to improvise using my mind. At times I was hearing it, while at times I was seeing my fingers making choices on the fretboard. Other times it was a combination of both.

As this mental improvisation developed I noticed activity in the area of my chest and though it was not necessarily fear, some type of emotional response was developing.  Smiling, why with just this exercise on the floor would any type of emotional activity arise?   Ah, this creature I inhabit is always puzzling.  As I played with this improvisational exercise, I decided to bring my arms up from the floor mimicking the position I would have when playing the guitar.  Why not bring whatever habitual bodily identification I have regarding improvisation on the guitar into this exercise? 

After writing this I was ready to pick up the guitar, and then I recognized an opportunity to inhibit this choice.  Applying the AT directions, I again noticed this activity in the area of my chest.  Perhaps I'm just overloaded from a long week.  Or I may be probing an area that elicits a negative distracting reaction to my actions.  Or both.  Since most of my weeks are overloaded with stimulation, there is no way to rule this out.  Might I approach the edge of learning how to better live within this life of mine.
All of this from a simple withholding of implementing my act of picking up the guitar and working with the Alexander Technique instead.  Deciding that another lie down is in order I head for the floor.

During this second lie down I again experimented with visualizing an improvisation. My body was not as overwhelmed with tension this time and relished the opportunity to release even more.  There was no emotional flutter associated with this set of imagined improvisations.  I rose from the floor and decided that I would now pick up my guitar and explore improvising.  Should I mimic one of the visualizations or find a new beginning? 

I began with using the AT directions and began to play in the high register.  Gently probing what was there, I noticed the freedom in my use from the two lie downs and continued directions.  There is a definite positive effect from keeping the AT directions alive over time.  After exploring a few improvs I noticed that I was beginning to hunch inwards.  Why this drawing in of my body?  Am I "protecting" myself with this action?  Taking a short break, I then came back and decided to explore this further.

This next improvisation began to come alive.  I turned on my recorder.  Almost immediately the music stopped.  Was this the affect of my effort to capture?  Or the set of ears eliciting something negative in me?  I continued to play and explore, slowly moving out to the edge.  Music seemed to arrive again, with my body relatively free and my mind engaged, I let come what may.  Then I began an improvisation based on the structure of Gathered Hearts.  After some gentle meandering, again something came alive.  Letting go of this, I then played Gathered Hearts and then improvised some more.  I realized that in a sense I had "spiraled out" towards my edge.  Preparing the body and the mind with the lie downs and visualizations and then introducing the guitar.  Stepping out towards the edge, and then a break, followed by more steps.

A lot of questions and an approach that led to positive experiences.  More to follow I'm sure.  Stay tuned,