Saturday, April 17, 2010

Can Eating a Sandwich Make Me a Better Musician?

 For lunch today I had red pepper hummus on multigrain/seed bread open faced with good slices of fresh tomato topped with salt and freshly ground black pepper. A splendid spring day in Takoma Park today, cool with fluffy white clouds and a gentle breeze. I was eating on the screen porch after having just completed the first segment of my practice.

For fretboard knowledge I had been learning the notes of the C hijaz scale through the first to tenth positions. Today I extended this from the two positions I had previously learned. I kept my approach playful and musical, varying tempos, slight alterations in the patterns, and dynamics. I then moved on to preparing Stepping Stones for an upcoming performance with The Field. Focusing on the first two sections of this piece while playing amplified. Better to hear the transient sounds between the notes and find where I need to address my technique. I completed on a positive note and moved forward to lunch.

Still in a very focused place I noticed the toothiness of this good bread I was eating, the creaminess of the hummus tinged with the bite of the pepper and the acidity of the juicy tomato. Slowly I enjoyed my sandwich while looking at the trees with their fresh green leaves contrasted with the pink, white, & purples of blooming azaleas. Listening to the wind and gentle birdsong, punctuated with the occasional verse of the wind chime. The thought entered my brain – Can eating a sandwich make me a better musician?

Yes, was my wholesome reply, any moment where I am present affects all other moments. While this is an individual act of caring for the animal it is indivisible from the rest of my life. Drawing on the beauty of life, the wonder of nature, and all of my senses to inform and ignite my passions, to cultivate music. Each moment fully lived strengthens the possibility of other moments to be lived fully. The act of music requires complete attention, thus any act undertaken with attention assists the act of music.

On a lighter note as I write this I have decided that it will not be necessary for me to record my eating a sandwich to evaluate my practice in this area. Back to the guitar.
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art. ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Friday, April 9, 2010

Are you Ready?

More and more I find myself very tired on Fridays. My professional work continuing to take more of my energy, taking longer to rebound. This evening I am heading out at 8 pm with a friend. At 6:45 pm my wife, knowing this asked me "Are you ready to practice?" My reply was " No, but that has never stopped me before."

I closed my laptop and moved to the guitar. Commitment to a practice I love generates an energy of it's own over time. One that draws me when I'd rather withdraw, one that sustains me when I have no desire. But I must open the case and bring the guitar to the body for this to be possible. Regularly with all the attention I can muster, then on these low energy nights something is possible.

What are you waiting for?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

One hundredth post

My one hundredth post to this blog, a bit intimidating as in I should have something profound to write today. A bit surprising that I have made this much of my life public. A bit moving because I have a formed a few relationships from readers that are enriching my life.

Also something to celebrate, let go of, and move on. Grateful tonight that the muse visited and new sounds are filling ears and heart. So for now I return to the guitar.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Developing an Early Morning Habit

                            Photo courtesy of Roberto Duse

I woke at 3:45 am but allowed myself to return to sleep until 4:15 am. Rose and began Qi Gong session. Energy was flowing gently and I found myself wanting to rush through the exercises so that I could sit and get to my guitar. Interesting how this rushing energy shows up during such a gentle activity. Where does this come from? Is it my mind seeing another task added to my morning list just wanting to check things off? Or is it my emotions that were so nourished by yesterdays work wanting to quickly arrive at some destination, neglecting the fact that the journey is the path?

Fortunately since I have been practicing Qi Gong before my sitting for enough years now, I did not cave in and rush. At one point during my sitting I found my neck was pretty locked up. Gently loosening, I recalled Frank’s instruction during our recent Alexander Technique classes at the course in Sassoferrato, and brought my attention to my rib cage. Following my breath while sensing the movement of my rib cage I noticed that my neck was now relaxed. I just paused now for a minute to check in with this, ironically after gently following my breath for a minute I found myself sucking in a big in breath as I began to type again. I saw this when getting to perform one day last week when Sandra had been working with me. I was so relaxed and then this habit of gulping in lots of air in anticipation of a task asserts itself.

6:15 am

Into the basement and I picked up my guitar. Standing I gently played through Gathered Hearts as I was not warmed up. Noticing how the guitar felt on my body as I am testing my most recent strap change. The Godin is a heavy instrument and its weight has been bothering my left shoulder. Having used the Ovation for two weeks prior to the course and then during the course, I prefer the playability of the Godin and just need to find a way to distribute this on my body without injury or to find another instrument.

After the first play through I sat on my stool, looking at how the strap change impacts this my preferred playing position. A bit problematic with how the guitar comes to my body here, so another slight adjustment is needed, may be to change the height of the stool. I knew I needed to focus my listening so I found a note, an Eb, and played this gently, allowing it to ring until I could not hear the note anymore. I repeated this eleven times, slowly increasing the volume each time. I then began Gathered Hearts again, this time my tone was richer. A run through of Kinnara and then back to work on a chord change that has been bothering me in Gathered. I noticed that in anticipating this chord change, I am tensing my left shoulder prior to the move. How often do I do this? Could be part or all of the shoulder issues I have recently had.

I decided to do an AT lie down even though I was still relaxed from my morning sitting. As soon as my back hit the floor I noticed the tension in the middle part of my spine. Lying on the floor, releasing and allowing my back to lengthen and widen. My mind wandered to the photo of St. Francis that Roberto Duse took at the monastery last week (above.) I thought of the St. Francis Prayer which begins “ Make me an instrument of your peace,” a worthy aim for a musician I suppose.

Off the floor to run through Livin’ the Dream, while working with standing and taking in the whole room. Again recalling the photo I had a gentle reminder of what is my instrument projecting – be it peace, love, or joy? Much work lies ahead, but all is possible.

7:50 pm

Ready to begin my evening practice. Last night there was a lightness to my practice, certainly influenced by my early morning session. This mornings session again positively impacted my professional work. Seems to be forming a bridge in my musical pursuit and may be taking pressure off what I wish to accomplish in the evening. Will continue the adventure in the morning. Stay tuned.