Tuesday, November 30, 2010

When An Ending No Longer Works.

Risiera di San Sabba, an italian lager #2
Last night I took an evening off from practicing. The tendon in my left wrist that developed tendonitis a few years back was getting tight. This is never a good sign and with a gig coming up with The Field next week I need to pace myself carefully. If pain develops I stop! Injury is not worth the recovery process.

I was also told to slow down by my vein doctor today. Geesh what do they think I'm getting old? My left calf is still recovering from the procedure and my job has me on my feet enough to distress the recovery. So I came home and rested tonight per the doc's suggestion. I let go of my AT class.

I opened my playing with Journeyman, Gathered Hearts, & Kinnara. Then a good look at Broken Wing which is one of the three pieces I will perform at The Field next week. Worked on two trouble spots and then played through the piece twice. The energy of the music is felling good. I was ready to move on to Stepping Stones but decided to play through a new work called Becoming. This is recorded in a few versions but not notated. Becoming could easily get lost in the coming days with the performance and added pressures on the day job.

While playing through Becoming there is a rocking part for a while. Tonight it rocked a bit more with a new part being exposed to me. Of course this new part does not fit with the current ending. So what I told myself, this piece is less than a week old. Get out of the way and let it flow. There may be a new ending or a new path to the old ending. Play, generate, and let go of preconceived notions.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Be in the Space

As I began doing Qi Gong this morning, I thought of yesterday's phrase for the day - "Be Free". I checked in with my body by giving the Alexander Technique directions as they allow me freedom in movement. As I did the Crane Stretching exercise I became aware of the space that I was moving in. This shift in awareness, waking me up a bit more allowed my movements to be free at the same time. We worked with the Bear movement next. My "bear paws" forming circles in front of my body, I again saw how much space I occupy. Still maintaining a sense of my hands we began the Swimming Dragon sequence. The space around me supporting my movements as my hands guided my body.

We then moved into a movement I learned from Luciano Pietrafesa. My body lengthening as I hung to the ground, I had  a sense of the space of my chest cavity as I continued this movement up and away. As my arms lengthened one at a time to the side of me and traveled across the space above my head, I once again found the space was supporting me as long as I extended my awareness to include it. By now I knew the phrase of this day is "Be in the Space." After a couple more movements, we traced this phrase with our hands to complete our practice.

After sitting meditation, as I opened my eyes I became aware of the space of our living room, the room holding me as I breathed. Again I had a sense of the space within my chest cavity. Slowly this space that supports all of life was breathing in, and then breathing out. This space of life which not only invites in the air that nourishes my tissues but also houses my heart. Can I be in the space of my breathing while I move through the space of my day? Walking meditation is an ongoing  simple and profound practice I use to explore this. Can I be in the space of my desk as my fingers flirt with the keyboard? Releasing my spine into the universe above me and the earth below me, I watch the gentle expansion and release of the space of my chest.

I move within the spray beneath my shower. Expanding and cleansing my body as I delight in the warm flowing water. I again sense my spine lengthening toward the sky and into the earth. My shoulders feel as wide as the horizon, as I recognize that the entire cosmos is within me. From this internal space I can do anything my dreams desire. Finding the space and being in the space remains the crux of life.

Later in the day while walking down the stairs at the local library, I become aware of the space above me and then around me. Smiling I sense my beloved walking next to me, with me. We enter the crisp autumn air with the leaves rustling in the wind. What a delightful sound on our wonderful planet.
Eager to go home and to be with my guitar.

Usually I practice in the basement, but with the sun shining so brightly and my wife at the gym, I moved to the living room. To begin this session I again traced the phrase "Be in the Space," with my hands. Sensing the Qi as I settled onto my stool, I decided to begin by playing Gathered Hearts.  I directed my spine to lengthen in both directions and to allow my pelvis to be free. My arms lengthening from wide shoulders as I brought them to my guitar. I began to play, taking in the space and listening to the different sonic quality of this room. I always enjoy playing this piece and generally feel myself let go of concerns and soften.

I moved onto working with Beneath Dark Images. Setting the metronome to 70 bpm I worked with the second section that is in double time relative to the first section. I focused on two specific changes that currently derail the piece. Paying attention to the metronome and the space around me, I found my mind quieting, directing my hands to relax and to play with ease. I gave myself permission to begin again and again as my hands learned to operate in time at this tempo. Relaxing into the incessant demand of the metronome, I focused on the movement of my left hand's fingers through the space around the fingerboard. "Process" I remind myself is what practice is about. Slow as progress may be, there is no way but through. Being in the space where the process is sufficient and results secondary is nourishing for me.

My practice was cut short, as I heard the leaf collecting truck approach our street. Aghast that I had nothing for them to collect, I sprinted outside and raked furiously for 35 minutes. Driven by urgency, I had no sense of myself being outdoors on a beautiful fall day, just a drive to maximize leaf volume. Chuckling about this when I was putting away the rake, I joined my wife for a late lunch.

The hour after eating is never a good time for me to practice, so I wrote this blog for a while. Again as with the leaf collection, I found myself "end gaining*" rather than being concerned with process. Impatience impeded the flow of my words. Certainly this is part of who I am, and with the help of my various practices my tendency to "end gain" and/or react is evolving. But end gaining is still very much a part of me. I noticed that the sun was setting, so I decided to walk.

Arriving at Sligo Creek I began my walk by softly singing Beneath Dark Images in time with my steps. When I do this I am never certain how to deal with a ritard in relationship to my step. Then I just enjoyed my walk, noticing how the space had changed since my last walk here. Most of the leaves have fallen and now the branches of the trees sketch their maze across the twilight. Marveling at the space between and among the branches, highlighted by the different densities of clouds and clear space I walked slowly and sliently. Looking up at the tree tops, I think of my spine lengthening once again, allowing the base of my spine to mimic the roots of the trees. I begin to walk backwards and observe how different this motion is compared to my walking forward. I sense a freedom in this difference, but perhaps it is only due to the novelty of this movement for me. Then I pause on a bridge and take in the long winding path carved by Sligo Creek.

On my return walk, I again sing through Beneath Dark Images and find my steps slowing when I arrive at the ritard. I realize I never know how to deal with this musical event with the metronome either. As the tempo slows in a ritard, what is the subtle relationship to the original pulse? I choose to maintain the pace of my steps and apply the ritard. I find this difficult and realize there is a learning opportunity for me in this area.

I lay down to nap and look at a collection of Robert Motherwell's ink drawings on paper. I have been attracted to these simple works for years. Tonight I notice his playing in two dimensional space as if for the first time. These drawings are small but powerful.

Upon awakening from my nap, I move to my guitar. I play through Beneath Dark Images, Broken Wing, and Becoming for my wife. I work with taking in the space as I begin and being in it as I play. My recent work in the Alexander Technique has been about being in the space and allowing the space to support me. I always find this easier to do with my wife as the audience than when I am in David's studio. This has everything to do with our relationship and with her ability to be present. Smiling now as I once again touch upon how fortunate I am in this life.

My wife just reminded me of her favorite moment of my "being in the space" today, when we hugged gently after lunch. How right she is!

* For those unfamiliar with the language of the Alexander Technique I offer this definition in Alexander's own words. 

            'End gaining is a universal habit' (F M Alexander ~ The Use of the Self).  End gaining is the tendency we have to keep our mind and actions focused on an end result whilst losing sight of, and frequently at the expense of, the means-whereby the result is achieved.  

Thanks to Hillary King for this definition.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Be Free

I ended my Qi Gong session this morning using my hands to trace the phrase "Be Free."  The energy was flowing in my body and a three day weekend before me.  After breakfast I went to practice for an hour.  I recalled the phrase for today and checked in with my body before opening my case.  Allowing my neck to be free, my spine to lengthen, my leg and arms lengthening I was ready.  I knew what I wanted to work on and played through Here We Are  . Playing through a piece that I know well is becoming my practice to Sanctify the Space as described in this blog previously.

The energy was in my hands and my playing of this piece was good.  I realized that I now also had a recent positive musical experience to guide the remainder of my practice.  I worked with a few chord changes from Broken Heart.  I've recently added a couple of inversions and a few new chords and would like to present this piece to The Field on Sunday.  When I stumbled with one particular chord change, I paused and came back to giving myself the Alexander Technique directions and drawing on the positive play-through of Here We Are.  I gave myself permission to be free of judgment of myself and to just focus on the work at hand. Patiently working with just the chord changes, leaving the arpeggiations until later. When I was confident I had them in my left hand, I began adding in the right hand part.  The changes came together, so I added in the chords that begin this section.

Again I just worked with the changes and then when solid added in the right hand.  Frequently pausing and allowing myself to be free in my body, in my mind, and in my heart. No need to judge a work in progress and certainly no need to judge myself. Deciding that I was also free to continue to explore the possibilities of this piece, I experimented for a while.  Though nothing of musical interest came of this particular exploration, I know that this type of effort is the lifeblood of my music.  Without the experiments, music could not whisper to me.

My wife and I left to meet with some friends. While I was driving, an act of mindless driving occurred in front of me.  I heard myself telling her that I could "be free" to not judge the other drivers. I wish I could drive like that always, but a small beginning is valuable. We returned home and enjoyed our Thanksgiving leftovers with the addition of mashed potatoes and vegetarian mushroom gravy.

A dear friend stopped by and after conversation and some quiet moments, I offered to play Broken Wing for her. She was also a good friend of Jay Bott, our friend who recently passed. A beautiful run-through warmed all of our souls. What a gift that has been given to me - music. Where would I be, where would we be without music? I invite you to "be free" to pursue your art, your life today and always. Go ahead - BE FREE!

Photo by Jim Landry

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Visualizing Positive Musical Experiences

 I came across this post from January Becoming, which was written when I was suffering from the flu and my mind was focusing on negative thinking.  During this time I picked up my old copy of the Inner Game of Music and read a section on trust. In this section Barry Green mentioned the use of visualizing recent positive musical experiences to foster the creative process.  This worked for me that day.  Tonight I am in a much better frame of mind regarding myself and music, and I found myself wondering about the impact of visualizing positive musical experiences from an already positive place.

I sat for a few moments and calmed my thinking.  Then drawing on my recent Alexander Technique work, I became aware of the space around me.  I then decided to improve my studio space slightly, bringing a tiny bit of order to my work.  Back on my stool,  I visualized myself during the recent Alive Again sessions and also the night the piece Broken Wing was revealed.  Then picking up my guitar, I recalled part of my improvisation from last night that stood out. I began playing this and then a section from Broken Wing.  I was with my playing in a way that usually takes me a while to achieve.  I decided to return to the theme from last night.

I played with it a bit and found a new direction to explore. After 15 minutes of this I paused, coming back to myself and the intention to play beautifully. Another attempt with the visualization and then I turned on the mp3 recorder and began to play.  I played what I had worked out so far and when I came to the end of this, I just let my hands go.  Suddenly a new idea emerged, followed by another, and then an ending.  I paused and began playing again but did not find this same twist.  But the first take is captured, thus I know where I will begin with tomorrow's practice.  I'll also be working with this visualization more and would love to hear if this practice improves your musicality?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Play It Again Sam

Making Connection

Finally made it to The Field again yesterday and shared two new works. One of the pieces had not been heard by anyone other than my wife prior to yesterday. While packing up at home, I decided to play the the newest piece twice. The piece is still evolving, and I always listen differently when others are listening. I made this request of the participants and they agreed.

I found myself judging a section of the work on the first play through. Arpeggios are too similar and not dynamic enough. I stumbled as I was not paying attention. As I approached the end of the piece, I began thinking "I do not want to play it twice." Part of the Fieldwork process is that the artist receives feedback on what they present. Was I becoming afraid of the feedback on this new piece? After all the feedback is the reason I am in the workshop. Was this concerning me because the listeners would have more experience with the piece after the second playing? Perhaps this would sharpen their feedback and expose me in some way. The places my mind can go to.

If I did not play it again this decision would have been fine with the other participants, but I sensed something negative and destructive in myself brewing. Perhaps I was actually hearing the work myself for the first time and was not as happy with the music as I thought I was. I decided to honor my original stated intention to play it twice. Odd feelings arose as I went to bring my hands to the guitar. I paused and inhibited the motion, allowing my breath to settle.  I gently allowed my hands to sway similar to Qi Gong and I sensed my space. I thought of freeing my neck and allowing my spine to lengthen. I did not rush nor make any intentional changes to the piece. There were no "happy accidents" during the playing, so the piece remains as it was. Overall my playing "felt" better in the second take, my attention more with the playing rather than my thinking.

Fortunately I taped this session and so I was able to listen back on my morning commute today. I did not care for the first take of this piece. I paused and watched the trees for a while before listening to the second take. I was thinking that perhaps I need to rework the one section.  Maybe the piece is not as solid as I thought. Then when I listened to the second take, the playing was more sensitive, more musical. While a change may be in order for the one section, I was not concerned with the piece overall. I also had two ideas arise that may improve the piece. By not letting go of the second take, I was able to gain a more objective view of the piece and to glimpse something in myself.

I do not know what I might think or feel about this work if I had not played it twice. But my sense is that I may have backed off from continuing with developing the piece. I need to trust the part of me that wanted to play the piece twice. And failing the ability to trust, I just need to show up and do what I say I am going to do.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Matka Boska

She's so lucky, she's a star...

Ninety-one years ago today, my maternal grandparents gave birth to a lovely baby girl named Kashka or Catherine. I am sure that they were proud and happy on this day. I certainly am. Growing up on a farm outside of Baltimore the family spoke Polish at home. When the children went to elementary school they were taught English by Polish nuns.

When mom was upset with one of her children she would intone - Matka Boska meaning Blessed Mother. Her way of asking for help. Over twenty years after her death I was playing one night and a new piece began to emerge. I recognized immediately her presence and named the piece Matka Boska in her honor. Since then on the evening of her birthday my wife and  I light candles and I play this to her.

Tonight we were joined by my granddaughter. A spontaneous music & dance jam followed. While there was no polka the celebration was memorable. Blessings to all of the Mothers of this world today and always.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Care of the Instrument

Upon arising, I tune my instrument. The practice of Qi Gong, followed by meditation, and a petition for help,  harmonizes the tuning. Instruments are sensitive to the conditions to which they are subjected.  The tuning needs to be checked and adjusted throughout the performance of the day. Failure to take care of the instrument will compromise the tone.  The action of the instrument suffers, and ultimately the music of life cannot be played.

Sometimes the adjustments to the instrument are more than the musician can tend to. Certain venues place unusual stress on their functioning. If one continues to subject the instrument to harsh conditions, additional help must be sought or damage may be done to the instrument. Time to connect with the Luthier?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Apply the Aphorism


One of those days at work today. Actually the week has been difficult, with recovering from the two surgical procedures and the subsequent falling behind in my professional duties. My energy pulled in various directions. What is a musician to do? As the aphorism says - We Begin Again Constantly. I'm no longer at work so let them be, yet ...

And then I saw this photo, the tree reminding me of my desire for musical growth and expression. There is plenty of space to support my growth but also the clutter. My worn out methods of reaction and use. These old habits drain my energy and twist my attention to and fro, until I remember to come back to the present moment. So back to the question - what to do? Apply the aphorism, apply the practice, and unpack my guitar. Let go; breath in; release.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sanctify the Space

Often I begin my time with my guitar by playing the first piece of music that ever came to me - A Journeyman's Way Home. I had been challenged to perform at each meal of a particular Guitar Craft Course in March of 1989. I could not play guitar at this time and thinking of my favorite person in the world then and now, Joann,  a simple beautiful piece emerged. This morning I was reading Pedro De Alcantara's excellent Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique and he mentions that Pablo Casals would begin his practice sessions by playing Bach as this "sanctified the house."

A wonderfully appealing notion that fits and supports my own practice. So today I played Journeyman's as a beginning; recalling and reclaiming the innocence, enthusiasm, and wonder of that first magical moment when music whispered in my ear. From this space, I moved to playing with a scale - C hijaz. I made this musical, not just a mechanical training of my fingers. I was also using a plectrum from having played Journeyman's and was delighted to what is available to me with this right hand method that I rarely employ anymore. I switched to a finger style exploration of the scale and noted the differences in timbre, speed, and accuracy. Drawing from my recent Alexander Technique lesson I allowed space beneath my arm pits.

I have come to this area of my use frequently since my last session with David. To one that is not versed in AT this may seem trivial and unrelated to guitar playing. Yet allowing awareness to this space around my arms in general has offered me freedom lately. I moved onto working with the harmonics in Dandelion Wish using an exercise I garnered from Pedro's Indirect Procedures. Recently I have applied this particular exercise to Matka Boska and  Stepping Stones and am finding it t be very useful.

The exercise is to introduce a rest on the second beat of a measure. Then play the rest of the measure and the first beat of the following measure. Continue through the section you are working with or an entire piece in this manner. I have found this to be challenging and fruitful. I have to really know the piece to keep introducing these rests and in doing so I find my awareness of what I am doing in the moment deepening. The rest also disrupts what habits I have built into my execution of the music and allows for a moment to direct my use.

Working with Dandelion Wish in this manner was not only fun but freeing. With the exception of the added rest, I worked to play the rest of the phrase in tempo and an intensity consistent with which how I would perform the piece. Thus working with my use in a musical manner. The results as with my work on Matka and  Stepping Stones has been worthwhile.

So back to practice, then to rest. I am still recovering from my second procedure this time on my right leg for varicose veins.

Forty minutes later.

From this space I returned to working with Dandelion and played around with the use of my hands as I approach the guitar and also with the rhythm & phrasing of this section. Progress continues. I moved onto look at Broken Wing the new piece emerging in memory of my dear friend Jay Bott. From this space of fun and exploration I played with the beginning of the piece and am allowing the piece to grow and flow. His Memorial Service is later today, so now I must introduce a rest for myself and let go of practice so that I can attend to this properly. As I shared last night - Enjoy what you are doing right now. This moment is all that matters, ever.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where Am I?

As I prepared to leave for work today I thought again of Debussy. I fell in love with The String Quartet in G minor when I first heard this. Combing through the classical portion of my CD collection I could not find it today so I settled for Bartok. In the car I realized that my copy is on cassette, one of the reasons I have not heard this in some time.

When I came home I was still thinking of Debussy and thought I might need to make a trip to the Music Library to look at scores. Then I decided to search the internet and minutes later I had a pdf downloaded and an mp3 from legit sources. This was one of those moments when the opportunities for learning that are in front of us these days is staggering. Now I'm not great at reading scores much less following along with the music being played but I now have an opportunity to improve this if I choose.

While practicing with the guitar tonight I decided to review Broken Wing. After I had notated the chord structures for this piece the night it came out, suddenly it is nowhere to be found. I even checked the mixed paper recycling that I'll be putting out in the morning. What a world I have created, where in seconds I can download works of others and at the same desk can not find my own. Help!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gray Songs

I was listening to two pieces from  Time Remembered on the commute to work today and was struck how this music played by an acoustic guitar ensemble reminded me so much of Debussey. The gentle ambiguity that I love of Debussy so nicely summed up by Verlaine:

        Nothing is more precious than that gray song,
       Where indecision is joined to precision.

If I had not known what I was listening to was written by Bill Evans I would have guessed Debussy, with progressions unresolved or incomplete, the gentle dissonances that keep moving forward like a wave. So lovely.

I then listened to my own improvisations from the Alive Again sessions. I found myself thinking this might not be the time after having just listened to the master John McLaughlin, but I needed to return to making decisions on this project. The gentle bell sounds from the audience cleared my mind and I listened through. 

I was eager to practice tonight but first had to deal with some matters with friends and family on the phone. Good stuff all in all, and great to catch up, but when I was finished I was more in the mood to curl up with a book. So I did, sort of - Harmonic Experience: Tonal Harmony from Its Natural Origins to Its Modern Expressionby W. A Mathieu, which led to picking up the guitar. I really should spend more time with that book, and with my guitar and ... but until my passive income stream becomes more active I'm with the day job. Knowing I can come home first to my loving wife and then to my guitar gives meaning to my day.

Twenty minutes of focused work on a technical issue in Steppin' Stones and then 30 minutes playing with parts of the chord progressions I found last night. Altering the rhythms and adding tones to see what might be there. One particularly Enoesque arpeggio captivated me and I returned to this a few times unsure what to do with the idea. Smiling I packed my guitar and will soon be sleeping.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time Remembered

On my commute home today I was listening to Time Remembered, a beautiful lyrical interpretation of the music of Bill Evans by John McLaughlin. John assembled a group consisting of The Aighetta Quartet, a classical guitar group, and Yan Maresz on acoustic bass guitar. I've listened to this for years. Always inspired by how gentle yet powerful, composed but improvised, Bill Evans yet John McLaughlin this music is. As soon as My Bells ended I wanted to listen again, yet I had already had this same impulse twice. Rewarded for my patience by a burning solo on the title track Time Remembered.

After dinner I wanted to get to guitar practice as tonight is the first game of the season for Maryland Basketball, the one sport I actively watch. I found a chord and followed it with another. Before I knew it I was engaged with the beauty of discovery. One chord after another gently flowing forward. I began writing this down and continued to explore. Not sure where the chords will go nor if an ending will be revealed. I sense a connection to what I heard on McLaughlin's lovely renditions. Half time is a few minutes away so I'll spend another twenty minutes enjoying the process.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mama Said There'd BE Days Like This

Low energy yet again today. I suspect it is a combination of distress from the vein ablation procedure and general tiredness. Been resting since Friday but still wiped. Any time the body is invaded the energy system is taxed, even if I am not feeling pain nor even  discomfort. I canceled the Field Session this afternoon. Really want to make the Day of Remembrance with the sangha and to perform Matka Boska there.

I worked with Broken Wing this afternoon and just listened back to the recording. I was going to present this at the Field, c'est la vie. I have been pausing for some Alexander Technique work as I move about our home. Today is not the day to make great demands on myself, just be gentle with where I am. Soup making, a little listening, some organizing, and reading are the tasks I can honor. Grateful there is music in my life.

I read this in RF's diary post from October 17, 2010 today:

Music is a society of the imagination: the Good Society where truth prevails. 

The movement of melody represents ordered, intentional & responsible conduct; harmony, moral order; rhythm, the intrinsic joy of being alive.

Good words to ponder as I return to my chair.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Providing Opportunity for the Muse to Arrive

Army Photography Contest - 2007 - FMWRC - Arts and Crafts - Bridge Into Fog

Grateful today for the new piece Broken Wing which arrived last night. Why does this happen? I can not control the time nor circumstance but I do create the opportunity. My musical practice is regular and ongoing. Many years ago in my early days in Guitar Craft my practice was too rigid. Exercise after exercise followed by working on pieces that were very difficult to play. Robert told me that I needed to play more. To provide a time each evening to just play. During this time I should abandon concerns with technique and see what music might be available to me.

This is an ongoing part of my practice, a time to improvise and listen. Last night I noticed the possibility of a state I have experienced before. I stayed with the flow and played with what I had. Within an hour Broken Wing was a piece of music. Moments such as this when the creative spark is kindled energize me for a long time. Tonight I played with Broken Wing, examining possibilities within the inherent structure of the piece, playing with each section to listen to what might be.

Tomorrow I will perform this for The Field, a works in progress structure that meets for ten weeks. The Field is a space to explore, take chances, and to bring works alive. Another reason to be grateful.

The question I had for myself when I began writing tonight concerns the space I create for myself while practicing. The intent is to be quiet  in my mind, at peace with where I am musically, and attentive to the use of myself. Ever striving for greater connection with myself, my guitar, with music, and the unknown. Tonight while practicing and working with a notion from my last Alexander Technique class to allow the space to support me left arm, I wondered what is the energy in the space around me? Can I allow this energy to be love? Will I connect?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Broken Wing

Spread the Wings and break the shackles

A different kind of day for me today. I was up early and writing, looking to explain what I am currently exploring with the Alexander Technique. Moved on to Qi Gong and my sitting. After breakfast I had a vein ablation procedure on my left leg for varicose veins. This led to a relatively quiet day for me - resting, reading, walking, resting, listening & taking notes from Tuesday' s AT class, and walking. After dinner I retired to the basement to practice.

 I did some work with Matka Boska & Livin' the Dream. I'll be offering one of these pieces at the Washington Mindfulness Community's Day of Remembrance this coming Sunday evening. I'm feeling good about both of them. I did a variation on a lie down with my legs propped up and then returned to my guitar. I began to improvise and noticed that music was whispering to me. I listened and followed and sensed that the piece that was developing was for my friend Jay Bott who left this earth recently.  My last visit to Jay inspired the post last month called The Unexpected Music Lesson. He was a dear and sweet man and while I miss him, I also know that he is still with me.

As the piece unfolded I turned on the tape recorder in case something flew by too quickly for me to digest in the moment. Quickly I had a beginning, middle, and was close to the end. I took a piece of staff paper to notate the chord changes. After writing the date and Jay's name down I heard myself give it a working title of Broken Wing. I'm not sure why but will trust this for now. While still notating my wife arrived home and I invited her to listen to what I had. While playing and approaching the end an unexpected twist arrived. I believe I have the ending. After completing notating what I have so far I looked at the time and saw that just an hour had passed. A blessed hour for sure. In gratitude to Jay Bott, Music, and the Creative Spirit that guides us.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Practice & Practicalities

Besides doing my guitar practice tonight I had a good deal of personal matters to also attend to. Tonight I set out to blend my guitar work and practical work to support one another. The way I used tonight was by using the Alexander Technique. The past few days I have been working with a practice out of Pedro de Alcantara's excellent book Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique (Clarendon Paperbacks) More on this at another time.

One thing I have learned that I need is to break my guitar practice up into smaller chunks of time. This helps my use of the self. I can maintain my mental focus and my bodily presence by noticing when I am beginning to strain myself. Many times I use the AT lie down at this point or Qi Gong or just sitting quietly. Today I worked with maintaining a sense of the AT work while folding laundry during breaks. Thinking up, allowing my arms to lengthen while folding tee shirts. Then when I sat with the guitar I was ready. During my next break I took notes on what I had been doing to write up for the blog. While making the notes I worked with keep a sense of "up."

I returned to the guitar and let go of the two piece I had been working with and turned to a new piece I began at the beach Sand & Shadows. I've been using AT as I learn the opening to this piece. Tonight I decided to extend the melody in one phrase. Catching myself end-gaining a few moments ago I took a break to write this.

Where are you right now?

365 x28 Carved Park Bench (The Anatomy of a Major Life Decision)