Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Doing What I Ought

When I was ready to practice this evening, I sat first to reflect on what to practice.  I knew what I wanted to do, just play through a few pieces as I did this morning.  But part of me knew I needed more than this.  What would be the most valuable use of my time so that I would improve my musical abilities?  As I sat quietly, the word "ought" arose from an earlier conversation.  I seldom hear "ought" used in speech these days, but am certain I did hear this word in my youth.

Something about the feel of the word, got me going.  What ought I practice rather than what do I want to do.  As I sat with this a phrase from the piece Enclosing came to mind.  I was working on this phrase last night, and recalled that while it was improving, the phrase could still be played better; needs to be played better.  Now I had something to work on. 

After 25 minutes I took a short break.  The phrase and the ending which follows were improving.  During the break I looked up the word "ought" and found this: used to indicate obligation or duty.  Yes, as a musician I have a duty to work on my technical abilities so that music can come through.  An obligation to myself and to music to address my weaknesses.  I did a few minutes of Qi Gong to relax my arms and hands and then resumed practicing.  Now the phrase was beginning to sing, almost effortlessly coming through my hands, my head, and my heart.  I worked on it a bit more.

Confident that enough attention had been devoted to this phrase tonight, I began to just play.  A simple, but beautiful phrase fell from the skies.  I played it again, then again.  The third time sensing the change that was needed and viola, the change appeared.  Playing a bit more and another section followed.  I began recording as I played with this newest section to capture what might arise.  I continued to explore what was offered, happy and grateful for the gift.  Perhaps I ought to do similar practice again tomorrow.  What ought thou be doin'? 


  1. Beautiful, Patrick. To paraphrase Eric Dolphy, "to be disciplined is to be free". As you stated, "An obligation to myself and to music to address my weaknesses." The more we stay with this love-based obligation, the more we grow and the freer we become.

  2. Being true to our deepest heart's desires is so freeing!