Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Breathing Through Mistakes

A long time ago, I noticed that if I could not keep my breathing relatively free while playing a piece of music, I could not properly play the piece of music.  What the psycho-physical reason is for this I am not sure, but as my ability to breathe through a piece improved so did the music.  Is it unnecessary tension involving anticipated mistakes or difficult sections?  Is it fear?  Is it hearing critical voices from the past?  Hearing my own judgemental self?

Just breathe.  That simple.  Easy - not actually.  These past days I've been working on difficult passages in four different pieces that may be recorded tomorrow.  Yesterday I began playing with the idea of being free to breath through my mistakes, be they real or anticipated.  Today as I was practicing I decided to introduce a recovery period.  I'd play through the difficult section, then give myself a few breaths to recover, rather than push on.  At firs this was easy, but then my tendency to end-gain kicked in, so I had to breathe through that also.  I even gave myself the recovery breaths when I played the section well, just to keep my breathing free and my approach balanced.

I'll have to work with this a bit more to see if it becomes permanent, but my sense is that it will.

Photo by Adam Baker

Monday, March 30, 2015

Changing Conditions

A smile can change the condition of the world. - Thich Nhat Hahn

I've always loved the above quote.  For years I had a calligraphy of it on a post card strategically placed so that I would be reminded of the simple power of a smile to change conditions for myself and others.  This was good for a man who took himself far too seriously.  Last week I stumbled upon the quote again, while taking a break from practicing.  When I returned to the guitar I smiled at her, hoping for improved results I suppose. 

While playing that day the thought arose - let your hands smile at the guitar.  Something must have shifted because I wrote this on a post-it and attached this to my music stand.  Today I was struggling with a section of the piece Senseless Loss that I hope to record on Wednesday.  Forgetting that the metronome is my friend, I was becoming frustrated.  I don't like wearing headphones listening to the beat, but I was working with simulating the conditions in which I will record.  Then I saw the post-it.

A bit of the tension in my hands dissolved, and that was when I knew I needed a break.  Hitting the floor for an Alexander Technique lie down, I let my body to unwind a bit.  I visualized the chord changes that were hanging me up.  Returning to the guitar with a smile in my hands I worked a bit more.  With a softer forgiving attitude this time.  Smiling as I noticed that the conditions of the world had changed.
Photo by istolethetv

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Journey Between

In Ralph Towner's book Improvisation and Performance Techniques for Classical and Acoustic Guitar he suggested picking two chords and finding a way to relate them to one another.  This idea surfaced in my mind today so I decided to explore the possibilities again. Any two chords could work, the intent is to find a way, even more than one way to connect them.  When I've played with this before I always learn something.  Today was no different.

A simple journey into the unknown, offering a chance to respond, reflect and refine my abilities.  Another benefit is the activity makes a deposit in my imagination for future harvest.  Possibly a nugget could arrive that leads to a piece.  I'll never know if I don't pick up the guitar and explore.  Neither will you.

Photo by Dominic Alves

Friday, March 27, 2015



Photo by Phil Smith

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What Is the First Wrong Thing

Stop doing the wrong thing and the right thing will do itself -  F. M. Alexander

The aim of the Alexander Technique is to introduce harmony in how we use ourselves by cultivating freedom in the relationship of the head and neck.  In AT lessons, the hands of the teacher guides us into this freedom.  A feeling of lightness and ease ensues.  After performing an AT lie down I can generally sense this for myself.  FM Alexander put forth directions we are supposed to think to allow this freedom to arise.  This is much more elusive.  Difficult even.  Why is this so? 

Today as I sat down to practice guitar I found my breath, then began working with the AT directions.  Certainly I have found value in this and have conducted countless AT experiments over the years. Much ongoing valuable instruction, and a real desire to reliably introduce this freedom that comes from the technique has been crucial.   This morning I heard myself ask when and/or where does the wrong thing begin?  Momentarily I was stunned, then some quick answers arose - habit, faulty sensory awareness, and even a general lack of awareness.  Still where does it begin on this day?  Does this lie within the body or the mind?  In my view these are inseparable, and the problem is that they are frequently not operating in harmony.

The first wrong thing I'll posit is a lack of attention.  Plain and simple, not being where I am.  The good news is that this can be transformed. The second wrong thing is holding onto or going for a position I think is right.  The third wrong thing is not being able to sustain my awareness of myself over time leading me back to the first wrong thing. 

To the degree that I've had success with AT, I attribute to great instruction from the likes of Frank Sheldon, Sandra Bain-Cushman, David Jernigan, Pedro de Alcantara, and William Conable.  Missy Vineyards book How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery has been invaluable.  As has been my practice of Zen.  Just sitting, observing my thoughts and generally choosing what thoughts I want to manifest while following my breath is the key for my use of the Alexander Technique.  I just need to remember to pick up the key and apply this work over time. Then pick up the key and apply again; and again ...

Photo by Joao Vincente

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

When Waves Collide

Standing at the surf's edge, I am always awed, humbled, and inspired by the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean in.  My eyes catch only a glimpse of this enormity in both length and width.  The waves release in accord with the system of forces at play, no tensing, no posturing, just release.  Then the beautiful blue sky with gentle white clouds moving about and I have a model for what the Alexander Technique  could be for me.  Forward and up; long and wide; releasing and moving according to the principles of the tensegrity structure I inhabit.

Except when I don't.  I have modeled and learned ways of using myself, even inherited some of them from my ancestors.  These unconsciously formed habits, take time to release.  What memory or action might re-trigger them quickly to live within me once more.  Today at least, I frequently have a choice.  A choice based on awareness, of being here now.  As Frank Sheldon once shared with me - Our habits have kept us alive a long time, thus they are difficult to release.  So I begin again constantly.

I sense another wave on this day the 30th Anniversary of the first Guitar Craft course which put in motion a way of life that continues to inform and inspire me.  A way of depth and breadth including many of the finest people I have ever met.  Music hovers over and within Guitar Craft, touching unlikely characters like myself, touching our world.  Truly I am a fortunate man.

May the waves of good will manifesting in Our World continue to collide and spread.

Photo by Joann

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Developing the Power to Choose.

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
How to allow myself to find this space of which Frankl speaks?  Finding my breath and observing it  a few times is one way.  Using the Alexander Technique concept of inhibition is another.  Slowing down our habitual responses to life's activities,  allows an opportunity to see what one is doing and to maybe even have a choice in how the activity is carried out.  This is paramount for a musician.  Habits useful or not are so easily formed, but not so easily released.  I want the time remaining to play my instrument to be effective, to serve music and this musician in a sustainable manner.

As I pick up my guitar case I decide that I will focus on practicing Alexander Technique Inhibition throughout this session.  When I place it down I pause, first to calm my thinking, then to direct my thinking about how I want to open the case.  Is this important?  Yes.  When I begin my practice with quality, then this can spread and grow throughout the session.  As I sit on my stool, I hold the thought "I am not holding onto any outcomes for this session."  For a goal directed person, this tweaks my being.  But I want the freedom to see, learn from and develop how I am playing.  And yes, I  want certain pieces to be ready to record next week, but if I allow this goal to be the key rather than how I get there, the goal may be compromised.

As I begin playing through The Call I notice mental chatter.  If there must be chatter then let's direct it.  Slipping in thoughts of length and freedom between the phrases I'm working with, rather than judgements seems an informed use of chatter.  Sensing this blog post was developing I reach for my clip board to make notes.  Then I inhibit my need to do.  I see how I am holding the clipboard, guitar about my body, leaning to the right.  I make  different choice and remove the guitar.  Inhibiting again and directing my thinking along AT lines I then make notes.  Noticing the extent of my awareness I am grateful and continue to inhibit after I put the clipboard down.  May seem trivial to some, but the aliveness in my being was a sign to me to continue.

As I reach for the guitar, I think of my edges - the fingers, toes, head, skin - are they alive right now?  Free?  I include my mind and heart.  Can I approach unity in my action?  I continue in this manner as I practice bringing my thoughts back to how I am using myself as I play; as I take off the guitar; as I walk to the kitchen to get coffee.  The reward is heard in the notes.  As I reflect at the end of the session I formulate this thought.  Change will happen - am I directing the change or merely devolving into old habits?  Are you?

Photo by Sammiblog

Monday, March 23, 2015

Practice Interruptus

I was having a beautiful practice this morning when the phone rang. My niece was going in for an emergency C-section.  Guitar was joyfully packed away as I headed to Baltimore armed with snacks and love.

Hannah Grace arrived at 4:50pm today.  Both are doing well and are happy.  The music of life continues.  What wonder each day brings.

Photo by Xavier

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Energy at the Edge

This morning I had a two hour Qi Gong class with Master Li.  While this is always an energizing experience, some days are even more heavenly.  Today was one of them.  I left there with subtle muscular knots released, joints wide open and my Qi flowing.  A light lunch and nap and then I picked up my guitar.

With my hands still charged and my fingers relaxed I began practicing.  Looking out the window I noticed the trees now have buds.  Marveling at the complexity of the still bare branches and grateful that I am only working with coordinating eight fingers and two thumbs.  Then I saw the tree's energy in a sense, the buds forming along the smaller branches were particularly concentrated at the ends of the branches.  Just like in Qi Gong where we use our minds to move our energy about our systems, but particularly to the ends of the fingers and toes where the various meridians begin and end.  A surge of energy entered my hands as I continued to play, smiling as once again my various disciplines inform one another.

Growth occurs at the edge of plants, animals and people.  Particularly artists grow most at their edge.  Where is your edge?

For those of you local to Takoma Park, Maryland my wife & I will be offering a course on Sunlight Qi Gong beginning April 1st.  More info here 

Photo by Don Komarechka

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ripped Open

In Rumi's poem The Song of Being Empty he talks of a sufi who tore his robe in grief, and unexpectedly found great relief. He named the robe 'faraji' which means " ripped open" or the joy of being opened. The poem goes on to say "If you want peace and purity, tear away your coverings."

Musical performance has done this for me, ripped open my being. I have been able to experience my fears, judgements, joy, mystery and other emotions merely by playing guitar for people.  Still have a long ways to go on the purity that Rumi mentions, but I have certainly found peace.

Photo by gnuckx

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Right Ending

The right ending is an open door you can't see too far out of. It can mean exactly the opposite of what you are thinking.  

Michael Ondaatje  Coming Through Slaughter

Earlier this week I was making a rough recording of a piece when I made a mistake at the ending.  I heard the possibility of this new ending.  Played the piece with the new ending a couple times and decided to be open to the change.  The next day I played the piece for my wife with each ending.  Just two notes changed but there was a distinctive difference in the affect of the piece.  The new ending gives a clear musical ending while the original offers something just a bit beyond.  Took a little time to decide, but I'm leaving the ending alone.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What Are You Training?

"The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul."
 Wassily Kandinsky

Eyes, ears, minds, or hands; Kandinsky speaking from experience has captured the essence of the struggle.  Physical skills are crucial, as is knowledge of the medium and perhaps even the development of one's own voice.  But how long ago might this quest have been abandoned if not for the simultaneous development and support of the soul?  How else would I have overcome fear to play anyone's Music, let alone that which has come through me?  Where else would the repeated strength to suffer through the humiliation of yet another horrendous practice or even worse a public gig?  Why else endure the self-flagellation of torment about those developing skills and knowledge?

I would be remiss if I neglected to recount those times when strangers have said they hearts were touched or opened.  When I saw their smiles or tears during a performance.  Even more so if I discount the peace that has consistently arrived and nourished me in my efforts to serve the Creative Spirit.  These moments feed the soul, yet can not be counted on.  Development must not be just one sided.  Thus how does one train the soul?

Having guidance from a Master of the guitar and again a different Master in my study of Qi Gong has made the path possible.  Has made the way one of good fortune and provided me with hope when lost.  The knowing nudge, challenge, and kind smile or words placed at opportune times by one that has been there is key; yet the journeyman must walk through the door.  Must face the demons and the angels; rebound from judgements, errors, and folly.  Taking nourishment when those moments arrive where the training is one and the same; remaining in stillness or motion as necessary when astray; slowly and suddenly art finds one.

Photo by Anders Sandberg

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Approaching Innocence

The stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act.  On the spectrum of creative work, the difference between the mediocre and the good is vast.  Mediocrity is, however still on the spectrum: you can move from mediocre to good in increments.  The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.   Clay Shirky Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators

Act.  Act as if.  But act ...

This morning as I sat down to practice, I was thinking of a comment an actor, Phelim McDermott, made in his blog yesterday - Be innocent to what comes next.  Just about impossible for me to do, this takes an act of grace.  But I have moments of innocence.  And today I touched one of them nearly 25 years old.  I was on a Guitar Craft course, totally clueless to the tuning, composition, and generally terrified of playing.  Robert challenged me to perform at every meal.  He tossed out a few prompts to get me going but boy was I lost.

Sitting alone with my guitar, the next meal was fast approaching.  I thought of my favorite person in the whole world, who now happens to be my wife.  I strummed a chord, than another and suddenly a simple yet beautiful piece of music emerged.  I do not know why, did not then nor now.  I did not know the names of the chords, but I did have taste and knew music when I heard it.

Today as I do many days I began with that piece - A Journeyman's Way Home and it put me in that space of innocence and openness.  Approaching innocence like this sets the tone for the work that follows, provides hope that more will be revealed and just plain warms my heart.  When I toy with an idea that does not bear fruit, I know that learning has still taken place.  Knowing where not to go with a musical idea is just another sign on the path.  Moving along the path increases the opportunities to encounter music.  Probing with innocence provides a chance to encounter life.

Pick up your instrument be it one of notes, words, colors, objects, dance, design, business, math ...  Go forth where no man has gone before or go where they have, we all miss something.  Just go.  Now.

Photo by Bilal Kamoon

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Science of Parts

Science is: the conscientious attempt to set in order the facts of Experience. - Arther Eddington

Before beginning my practice today I went to Robert's Diary to see what aphorism would arrive to support and guide my practice.  Each part does the work of that part and no other was the gem that arrived.  A part of me wanted to reload the page and see what else might appear.  Which part is that I heard myself thinking?  I jotted the aphorism down and moved into my practice space.

Taking a few breaths the thought arose that the heart provides the energy that allows one to honor commitments to practice.  Despite what state the body or mind is in, the heart provides the spark when needed.  When misdirected the heart's desire can lead us into trying to hard or to put it in Alexander Technique terms: end-gaining.  From this entanglement the body can be used poorly, resulting in poor playing technique and unneeded strain on the body.

Our mind or thinking discerns what to practice and even why to practice a given exercise or phrase.  The mind directs the hands during the execution of a piece.  When constructive thinking along the lines of the Alexander Technique is employed the mind directs us in using our body according to principles.  These directions invite freedom in our spines,  torso and limbs.  When the mind is unfocused, mental chatter erupts thwarting the body and the heart.  If the heart becomes stirred about this, emotional tension further disrupts the body, the mind and the practice.  Time to return to the breath and harmonize these parts.

As I was working on a phrase, I paused to find myself seated on a stool, by a window, on a beautiful day on Earth.  Just doing what I love.  As I moved along to another phrase, I played it poorly and began again.  Still playing it poorly I paused, inhibiting the desire to rush this part of the music.  Could I visualize in my mind what I wanted my fingers to do?  Yes, the execution improved a bit, then faltered on the next attempt.  Another pause, inhibition and visualization; and then I noticed my feet?

What is the role of the feet?  One of support, grounding and connection.  Yet mine were attempting to clench the Earth, to hold on to some notion of how I do things I suppose.  I begin again, pausing, inviting in harmony of the parts and hopefully noticing when this harmony has moved towards dissonance. 

Photo by NASA

Monday, March 16, 2015

Idea Flowing After Day of Rest

Awoke refreshed and raring to go this month.  After our morning practice I enjoyed breakfast with my wife.  Moving into the practice room at 9:25 am I warmed up with playing the first piece Iever wrote and then improvised.  After 10 minutes of this I was ready to address a piece.  Deciding quickly to play through Senseless Loss I decided first to warm up a bit more in a way that would address playing this tremolo piece.  Immediately I heard something I liked and followed the path.

Fascinated with what was coming out, I began making some quick notes calling it Tremolo Study in Five.  As the idea progressed a working title of Delirium emerged.  Time will tell if this is the title, even if it is a finished piece.  Grateful for the spark though.  Perhaps I need to take a day like yesterday to rest, recharge, and reflect more often.

Photo by Adreson

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Playing the Rest

To everything there is a season - Eccliesiastes

Today I needed to rest. So I did.  Still completed my morning practice and had two hours of Qi Gong with Master Li.  Then lunch, a nap, and an evening practicing meditation with the Washington Mindfulness Community.  Some days I need to let go of my doing energy and just be.  Grateful that I did.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Last Practice

Reflecting on what I should turn my attention to in my practice today, I thought about this being my last practice of the week.  Is there some technique or piece or my overall work to which I should bring to completion?  But what if this was my "last practice" ever?  I do not know when my life will end, nor when an accident or disease might manifest that would change me forever.  What then would I practice if I knew this was it?  Would I be hard on myself or relish in the joy of making music?  Would my awareness be such that I listened on a deeper level, played with greater passion?

Suppose I made the awareness of the possibility that this is my last practice an ongoing "first practice" when I sat down with my guitar?  Suppose I developed this awareness of the preciousness of life as I began any activity?  What might emerge from the shadows of this level of attention to the precious present moment?  Music, peace, and  love?  Stillness, clarity, and joy?  Might I be grateful for the time I have to practice, for the body that still responds well, for a beautiful instrument and life itself?  One way to find out.

Photo by Ken Bosma

Friday, March 13, 2015

Finding the Space

Just a thought away,

a breath away.

Away within

all is one.

Supported by Earth

while reaching the Heavens.

Attend to our thinking,

our hearts, 

then move with Grace,

ease, awareness.

Be, just be 




Away within.

Begin again.

With just one thought,

just one breath.

Begin again.

Let go of notions,

let go your spine

Find the space

in which you are.

Begin again.

Away within.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Picking Up the Pieces, Again

There was once two musicians ...

At times our music was full of dissonance with pages of rests between the bursts of twisted & tortured melodies that harkened the music of the past and laid out structure for our music of the future.  Silence was needed between the pieces to absorb  the intense feelings generated by our scores of misunderstanding. Occasional glimmering melodies would emerge from our miasma mist of uncertainty; two musicians reading the score of the music of life in the traditions in which we were trained.

One day we took a chance, composing a brief divertimento based solely in love.  Hearkening pieces of beauty & wonderment of our youth, this tiny work in the canons of music struck a vibrant harmony within & without the players.  Sometimes the Muse whispers, and sometimes she Roars with a force that penetrates deeply even into the hearts of the deaf,  illuminating and magnifying the notes  needing to be played now.  These rare performances, requiring years of dedicated preparation, change the players, change the world. The notes resonating and reverberating in the hearts of the beyond.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A New Take on Listening

This afternoon I attended a performance that is part of the 66th American Music Festival - Personal Visions at the Nation Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  Here was the program:

 JACK Quartet
Eric Huebner, pianist
David Felder, guest composer Lewis Nielson, guest composer

Morton Feldman (1926 – 1987) Intermission I (1950)
Lewis Nielson (b. 1950)
Le Journal du Corps (2010)*

Roger Reynolds (b. 1935) imagE/piano (2007)*
David Felder
Stuck-stücke for String Quartet (2007, revised 2008)*

Stefan Wolpe
Form for Piano (1959)*

John Zorn (b. 1953) The Dead Man (1990)* 

The Feldman, Reynolds, and Wolpe works were for solo piano, and the other works String Quartets performed by the Jack Quartet.  Challenging music at times, played with superb musicality in a lovely setting. My ears relish the opportunity to hear new live music, especially pieces I may never have a chance to hear live again.  Of course sometime the pieces are a challenge to listen to, but today for me these works all had that magic within.  

Le Journal du Corps by Lewie Nielson used the String Quartet in very imaginative, almost playful ways.  I had my eyes closed for a few minutes at the beginning and then began to watch the performers.  As I watched, I heard myself saying how could anyone hear this kind of music, let alone be able to notate it for others.  I was mesmerized at the technical abilities of the players and their concentration.  And I became distracted, now unable to listen.  What had happened?  The wandering chatter also happens when I'm practicing at times, and throughout my life.

But here I was listening to an amazing effort, all that was required was to listen and I was not.  Thinking of the Alexander Technique and my recent and ongoing experiments with "negative directions" I told myself.  I am not listening to this piece of music.  By the third direction, the mind had quieted.  I closed my eyes taking in this art for the ears.  A couple more times during the performance the direction was used again.  So simple. So powerful.  May I continue to quiet the voices and be able to respond.

Photo by Bill Strain

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How Do You Cry?

How to use 20 minutes to assist me in reaching my various goals today?  That's what I had left to work with before leaving my home for an appointment.  Sure I could read or bring order to our home, but those would happen anyhow.  I needed to move something else forward if only a bit.  I decided to listen to a couple quick recordings of new pieces I made yesterday on my mp3 recorder.

I had a couple reasons for this one of which I can learn how I am playing the pieces and know what to focus my practice on later.  And I need a good enough version to send off to a friend who is transcribing pieces for me for an upcoming release.  I was fairly certain that one of the three takes of The Call would satisfy this, but I needed find it.  I also listened to takes of Forgive Me for future practice purposes.

Jotting down some quick notes on Forgive Me which arose in memory of my departed sister Sharon, I thought of the person I was to meet.  They have suffered some incredible losses and are still in the grieving process.  I decided to take a copy of my release from a few years back, Scattered Hearts, with me to give to them.  Three of the pieces on Scattered Hearts stem directly from the death of family and friends.  A couple others deal with loss in a different manner.  And yes there is also Joy present throughout the CD.  When I gave this to my friend, who said they cry a lot, I heard myself say I cry through my guitar. 

Photo by H Koopdelaney

Monday, March 9, 2015

Offering Space

What art offers is space - a certain breathing room for the spirit.
                                   John Updike

Do I accept the offering?                          Can I accept the offering?

                                 Do I add to the offering?


                                  Breathing with hope.

                       Today is the day to make Your Offering

                                          Will You?

First Photo by Justus Hayes

Second Photo by US Army


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Questioning My Practice

    While organizing some piles of paper these past days, I twice found the question on different papers "does playing with intensity have to involve muscular tension?" If I've written it down twice, this question must arise frequently enough to need attention, Last night I decided to address this question in my next practice.  What does "playing with intensity" mean?  I thought I knew, but as I looked at this question today, I quickly became unclear.  When I play, I am releasing sound. Then what does it mean to release sound with intensity?  Is it volume, emotion or both, even more?

As I began my practice I looked to answer this question.  An answer was not arriving and I was not sure that one would.  The word intensity seems to imply tension, but then tension gets in the way of playing.  Perhaps I need to better define intensity. The dictionary says - exceptionally great concentration, power or force.  Then I recalled playing basketball as a young man, when finally after years of practice and playing I could make a move to the hoop with power.   Why this arrived in my mind then I have no idea, but I sensed I was onto something.

Making a power move in basketball while intense required control, strength, grace and intent. Mind and body connected for one purpose.  Now apply this to guitar.  Release the power of the piece being played.  Perhaps think of it in terms of energy - release the energy of the piece, using right effort.  Even release the emphasis on the hands while playing.  Let the whole body, mind and soul play the notes.

How to access this power?  How to find the power without tension and find it consistently?

I began working with a few musical phrases, then moved onto the piece Senseless Loss.   Using the Alexander Technique directions I had a good sense of my body but something was missing.  How might I apply Missy Vineyard's Negative Directions?  The obvious one was I am not playing with power.  Then recalling that the basketball move required my whole body I played with directing I am not playing with my whole body.  Progress was being made here.  What I have noticed in the past and once again today with negative directions, is that something happens in the brain.

I can not explain what it is, a disruption of habitual thinking, a different neural network kicking in or a combination of these and other aspects.  I do know that when I uses negative directions the body and mind behave differently.  In Alexandrian terms we are psychophysical beings. When the mind changes so does the body and vice versa.  By using AT principles I can work on my overall use, I can change.  More explorations to follow. Stay tuned.

Photo by Shaheen Lakhan

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Will I Heed The Call?

 Every journey begins with The Call.
Be it one of spiritual development,
mental expansion,
or the desire to visit other lands.

Can I see the path?
A Path provides a pull
and shows us the next step.

Easier to trod the Path
with an experienced Guide,
even better in the company of others.

the Journey is mine to take.

When I hear The Call,
there's a charge that sparks my desire,
my will, and my need to answer.

Will I heed The Call?
 Photo by Paul Bica

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ice Feathers

Ice Feathers was the title of a photo I used earlier this week.  Both the  photo and the title intrigued me.  While looking at the photo, I began improvising, reminding me of last years challenge proposed by  Sid Smith  of composing a piece of music inspired by photo's he had taken.  A possible introduction followed by an interesting progression had me notating what I'd found.  Revisiting the idea the past three days, my interest has been sustained but the idea was not taking off either.

I returned to this idea yesterday after undertaking the previously described work on Forgive Me.  I was primed by the energy.  I played around with the structure of the introduction.  Back & forth, maybe, maybe not.  So I played with the progression.  This became increasingly interesting musically, but while the rhythmic feel of it was compelling, something else was needed.

Watching yet another snowfall in our backyard, I played with my fingers on the strings.  Just caressing them, wondering about them.  Each snowflake uses only the energy needed to reach the ground and no more.  What was the energy needed to move this piece along?  Watching the snow I held the musical questions of this piece.  Playing the beginning again, an idea flew by and I followed.  Liking what I heard I played around with the idea and extended it.  Slowly the energy was building.

Time for my afternoon walk, especially to relish in the snowfall.  As I walked I played the piece in my mind, searching for where we might go together.  Nothing.  Walking the snow covered streets and hearing the idea again.  Hearing a slight change arise, I kept walking, kept listening.  Another idea arose, one I could not really hear, but I understood the gist of the rhythmic change.  Arriving home I played with these ideas and may have found an ending. 

As I shoveled once again, I thought of those lovely snow flakes that used only the amount needed to land on Earth.  Could I use only the amount needed to move this snow and possibly have some energy left to play some more?

Photo by Hannah Edwards

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cultivate the Energy of My Playing

After warming up this morning I began working on a transition in Forgive Me, a brief section where three different chords are arpegiated and my left hand stumbles.  As I began to work with this I noticed tension in my right arm.  Whenever I use the idea working on transitions, some of the grunge work of playing a musical instrument is about to be undertaken.  The results are elusive, can take quite some time to be heard, and requires good focus. 

Quickly I decided to apply the Alexander Technique principle of inhibition to my work. While practicing in this way, the thought arose "what if I changed the term - transition?"  Has transition become a loaded term for me?  One that has formed a pyscho-physical association, reaction, tendency or learned predisposition.  A habitual pattern of tension arising as I hope to work with and control my fingers, that instead thwarts the very actions I wish to achieve?

What if I thought in terms of energy?  Directed energy to include the Alexandrian principles.  In my study of Qi Gong, the translation from Mandarin that speaks to me is Energy Cultivation.  This part of the music has a disrupted flow due to misunderstanding of how to execute the required fingerings.  Can I cultivate the energy to improve the flow of music?  Much of my Qi Gong practice involves releasing energy blockages through meditative movements allowing the Qi to flow and health to improve. 

With a sparked interest, I began to explore blending AT and Qi Gong to this situation.  Sitting on my stool, I directed my thinking via AT.  Connecting the soles of my feet with our Earth, I then thought of the phrase "Ei Dao, Qi Dao" - where the mind goes the Qi goes.  Where did I want my Qi?  Through the tips of my fingers as they danced lightly across the fretboard.  As I inhibited the next chord change, I realized I could not visualize what I wanted both of my hands to be doing to play this arpeggio.  Faulty mental understanding, which can be remedied.  As I saw this I decided to do an AT lie down.

While on the floor in semi-supine, I felt how tensed my back was.  My spine still tight, from clearing a neighbors iced driveway a few days ago.  Here is an energy blockage that informs all the rest of my movements.  Glad now to be addressing this.  As my back released into the floor, I played with visualizing the execution of the phrase.  After 15 minutes I stood, ready to tackle this challenge of my guitar technique.  Something about this energy I felt alarmed me.  The very idea of tackling is bit too of a yang energy to bring to my efforts.  Instead, I inhibited my desire to play, and I practiced a few forms from Moon Light Qi Gong, which cultivates our yin energies.  Now I was ready to play with the musical phrase.

Earlier in the morning I was lacking in motivation, knowing that I needed an edge to explore to get me going in my practice.  I had laid off the guitar yesterday to allow my body to rest from the aforementioned stress that arose from clearing that driveway.  Now I had the edge.  When and how to blend the principles of the Alexander Technique and Qi Gong, allow them to interpenetrate my playing, my being.  Gently observing what my hands could and could not do.  Playing with the fingerings in a variety of manners to address particulars, delighting in the energy manifesting as I came back to the principles I was working with.  On the edge with directions, energy, and focus.

Photo by Brenda Starr

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Edging Along - Joyfully

Why is it always standing at the edge?  
Why not dancing?

Leaping is so predictable.
I'm more interested in how I can continue to grow at the edge.
Can I de-territiorialize the edge?

What happens at the edge of my thoughts?
What might I hear at the edge of silence?
What happens just beyond my skin?
After all what about?

Fences only guard so much.
The deeper I've been lost - the more has been found.
Will I wander to the edge again?  Then again - again?

At the edge of the blanket lies my wife.
Past the edge of my heart is faith.

Is there an edge to the soul?

Photo by Dominic Alves

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Creative Spark

Wherein lies the creative spark?  

Frozen in ice?  

Melting from photos?  

Floating like a feather? 

Is it lightly dark & messy?  

Hard and fantastic?  

Do I construct my daily web of practice making myself available to receive it?

Hint: It's everywhere - get to work.

Monday, March 2, 2015

What Is the Question?

To blog or not to blog - that is not the question.  Am I willing to put myself out there?  Now we're getting somewhere.  Will I risk foolishness in the search for the creative?  Will I take action that stimulates the process, knowing results are never guaranteed?  Which may even spur further experimentation and education, in other words more work.  Will I especially take the action that is shadowed by fear?

Just put aside concerns and dance across the unknown.  Hold hands with uncertainty and know you re never alone.  The search for notes, the search for words it is all the same - merely the search for life, for meaning.  And just maybe a few people will be touched, their lives a bit better.  Maybe a few people will be spurred to take their own risks in the face of fear.  Just maybe.  Now it's time to get back to work.

Photo by Dee Ashley

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Iced In

                                             nEw questions

                                              tIme to

photo by Sharon Mollerus.