Saturday, May 30, 2015


Clouds come and clouds go, my mind is a clear blue sky ...

Notes come and notes go, but where is my mind?  Am I present with myself, with the guitar, and with music?  What happens in those moments as I bring my hands to the instrument and the mind begins a slight chatter?  Over and over I find myself calm and centered and just as I go to play the opening notes the mind interferes?  Why does the mind begin to wander, imagine, or otherwise obstruct the act of music?

I sit on my stool and come into my body by observing my breath.  Releasing my neck to be free, my back long and wide, my legs free, and my shoulders wide I arrive in an optimum state to play.  Many times I do, but other times the mind interferes. Patience.  Practice.  Discipline.  Love.  Over and over again.  I am grateful for the improvement over the years. 

Photo by Prashant

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Search

Once the search is in progress, something will be found. 

Brian Eno/ Peter Schmidt

So very true.  Once again the Oblique Strategies serves up a gem. So blatantly obvious, yet beginning the search at times is just about impossible for me.  Why is this?

I must be present.  I must be present to my shortcomings and lack of knowledge.  Be willing to struggle with potentially fruitless paths.  Be willing to know that a good idea may arrive that I can not develop fully.  

Today I was going through old stuff in my basement.  Time to let go of my cassette tapes.  Glancing at the tapes I smiled often at the wonderful and diverse music that has informed my life.  I am grateful for all the musicians who have put their hearts and souls onto recordings, frequently receiving very little for a life time of work.  

But musicians play; we share our music in the venues and mediums that are available. And the world is a better place for this act of sharing.  This music I have listened to, continues to inform my searches and many others.  As has the books read, art viewed,  poetry pondered, and long walks and conversations with others.  My search is always in progress, I'm just frequently not aware of this.

Photo by Alan L


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tipping the Scales

Balance the consistency principle with the inconsistency principle. 
Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt

As this Oblique Strategy arose in my mind this morning I had a sense something interesting would arrive.  I wondered if I was becoming too consistent of late.  I've been picking up the guitar, making slow progress practicing pieces, but there has been no creative spark.  I'm disciplined enough to remain in the process of practice, but when the juice arrives, my practice is amplified in a sense.  How to investigate the inconsistency principle and restore balance?

One thought was to pick up my electric guitar and see what happens.  Maybe even plug in some effects. Looking at the definition of inconsistency I found this explanation when used as an adjective - "not in agreement or harmony."  I could go for something atonal or I could learn more about harmony.  Playing around with an Eb sus4 and Eb sus2 chords I now had a direction.  Then the Strategy spoke to me when I began playing around in eleven which reversed itself.  The pattern of this was 4/4/3/3/4/4.  Then it switched to 4/3/4.  More inconsistency arrived when the rhythm changed to ten, then to seven and eventually mellowing out in six.

My playing was energized and challenging.  I was alive again.  I made some notes and will investigate this more tomorrow as the scale tips toward balance.

Photo by elycefeliz

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Voyage of Discovery

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust


Play without expectation
explore the sounds 
 probe the edges

Wake up

your heart

Vibrate the feelings
Feel the sound

change direction
release the sound


look inside

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Music creates the Musician. 
Guitar Craft Aphorism

Those four words encapsulate my experience to date.  Music also heals this Musician and for that I am grateful.  May a listener find something of value in what I play and find the juice to carry on another day.  Some days life is hard; I feel off track.  Though I may not feel like practicing, the pull of Music is there; calling me gently, surely.  Sitting still, I tune and then caress her strings.  As the vibrations swell my heart expands and the path clears.  Slowly the musician is tuned, ever so slowly; doing nothing but playing. 

Photo by Skeletelmess

Monday, May 25, 2015

Something From Nothing

Before we do something, we do nothing.  
Guitar Craft Aphorism

Learning and applying the practice of doing nothing changed my life.  Just sitting, inviting in relaxation to my body gave me a space within which I can begin my day.  Taken further, just sitting continues to evolve and transform my being.  When I remember to pause and do nothing before moving onto doing something, life is changed for the better.  May I remember more and more.

Photo by Peter James

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cultivate Curiosity

Be curious, not judgmental.
Walt Whitman 

 I've always been intrigued by processes and how things work.  One of the reasons that I went to an Engineering High School, studied Nutrition in college, and then all manner of working to get to know myself and why I do what I do.  Our home is full of books, many of which I have yet to read; and quite a few I've read more than once.  A diversity of albums, cassettes, and CD's line other shelves.  I nurture this thirst for knowledge and appreciate those who share this yearning.

Driving home this afternoon, I thought about an idea for a piece, Grey Mist, that arose earlier this month.  How might I vary what I already have in a way that is outside my norm.  A thought arose about a bass line.  Arriving home, I was hungry so I had lunch.  Doing a bit of research for a writing project I have undertaken I came across an old blog post Stay Curious.  Remembering my idea for Grey Mist, I went to the guitar.

Playing around with the idea, it seems to have merit. Using these bass variations in the introduction I found my way to the main idea.  Now I need to listen to recordings made when I began working with Grey Mist to hear where the piece wanted to go next and hear if this fits the current flow.  Curiosity yields connections that otherwise would not be made.  Even when the idea does not work, it just may take me to the place where I find what does.  I continue to learn to just remain open and explore.  Like the poet said Be Curious ...

Photo by Olin Gilbert

Friday, May 22, 2015


 Earlier this week I was practicing Tai Chi with Master Li.  As he was showing us a new part of the form, my right arm was forming the tail of the heron.  The hand is pointed down and as is all of Tai Chi - relaxed.  Master Li came over to me, gently shook my right hand saying let go.  Smiling to see The Grip had manifested once again.  While driving home I was amazed at how once again when learning a new movement, I am holding on somewhere.

This morning while practicing Tai Chi down by Sligo Creek, I was practicing a new section and found myself stiffening my neck.  My Alexander Technique work kicked in as I directed the neck to be free.  How does tightening my neck help me execute a move?  Keeping some attention to my neck as I continued to practice, a few other times I noticed I was tightening as I was learning these moves.

Again just now as I type, the neck was tightening.   There is always an opportunity to let go. 

Photo by Shikeroku

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.  Winston Churchill

I am ever so grateful to belong to a tradition that not only nourishes me musically but also addresses my inner world.  Truly I am a fortunate man. To talk about gratitude is one thing; putting it into action is what really matters.

Photo by Michele Agazzi

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Where From?

I heard a man say today - It's not so important what I am listening for, rather where I am listening from?  

Photo by Paul Bica

Monday, May 18, 2015

Are You Choosing Your Thoughts With Care?

Our greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. 

 William James

Of course this presupposes that I am aware of their thoughts.  My intention is to know when I am opening my guitar case.  This knowing requires awareness of the moment and my actions, which for me means I find my breath.  As I follow the breath, the thoughts begin to slow.  As they slow I then introduce new thoughts.  These thoughts frequently fall under the category of Alexander Technique Directions, which introduces an ease and freedom into movement.

By introducing freedom into my movements, less stress accumulates in my system, allowing greater expressiveness and less opportunity for injury.  Particularly the class of injuries known as repetitive use injuries which plague many musicians.  Amazing that simple thoughts can be a form of preventive medicine and these same simple thoughts can make one a better musician. 

Most of us have a poor understanding of how to use our bodies to get out of a chair, much less to have an effective understanding of performing a skilled task.  These simple thoughts that begin to lead us to freedom via the Alexander Technique take time, and may be just about impossible without the assistance of a teacher.  But then life is too short to try to do everything myself, so I accept I need help.  So choose your thoughts with care and learn how to take better care of yourself.  If you are a musician your next thought might be - find an AT teacher today.

Photo by Tony Fischer

Sunday, May 17, 2015



Photo by Mark Doliner

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Where Does Music Come From?

We drove past four different Takoma Porch locations in the little over a mile drive to the site I was assigned to play today.  What a great feeling to know that all over our little city of Takoma Park, music was freely being offered to the residents and whoever cared to make the visit.  I am a bit frazzled after playing .  Heat, humidity, passing buses and the occasional train were challenging my attention.  Sweat and my guitars' tuning drifting in moments after being adjusted took their toll. A listening and attentive audience and being hosted by a lovely family made the effort worthwhile though.

I was washing my hands before going on and wondered where does music come from and why do these pieces come to me?  This first happened to me on a Guitar Craft course when I could barely play.  I was challenged to perform, was thinking about Joann and a piece of music fell into my hands.  Twenty-five years later,  from time to time, I'm thinking of someone I love and a melody appears.  Music comes to me in other ways also, but these pieces that arrive when reflecting on family and friends move me, allow me to reflect on life, and give me hope to continue searching.  My concern was do I have the ability to effectively transmit this music?  But there was no time to reflect on this concern, because it was time to go on.

Photo by Joann Malone

Friday, May 15, 2015

To The Porch

I woke today knowing that I must play on our back porch amplified today in preparation for the Takoma Porch gig tomorrow.  I wanted to do this on Wednesday but did not make it happen and yesterday I practiced in the early morning so could not move it outside.  Then the rest of the day was packed.  This afternoon I hit the back yard a bit later in the day then I planned but I was out there.

The guitar/amp combo sounded better than I thought it would.  I was playing through a couple pieces when I realized that in 24 hours my set would begin at 4:15 pm.  So I played through the set.  Different distractions than usual trees blowing in the wind, a low flying helicopter, birds singing and children playing. But I played on. I'm ready.  Afterwards I put on new strings and played a bit more.

I'll be on the porch of 7063 Eastern Ave tomorrow.  Let us hope for good weather.  Check the link for other artists and locations.   One of the many reasons I love Takoma Park.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Three Kisses

I kiss the Earth with my feet,

I kiss the strings with my fingers,

and I kiss the Universe with my Heart.

Photo by Nick Page

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I Touch the Universe

Bringing my hands to my guitar I touch the Universe.

My left hand caresses wood.  The tree harvested and shaped by man was energized by our Sun tens of thousands of miles away; nourished by the soil and microbes of the Earth and watered by the Heavens.

My right hand caresses metal mined from the Earth and again shaped by the hands of man.  Scientific theory brought into actuality as alloys are created.

The bout of the guitar lies across my chest close to my heart.

The guitar neck pointing up and out to embrace and be embraced by all there is.

Bringing my hands to the guitar I am touched by the Universe.

Drawing by my Favorite Person in the Whole World
Joann Malone

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Releasing the Heavenly Pillar

In the Daoist 12 Posture Qi Gong there is an exercise called Releasing the Heavenly Pillar which is how the Daoist refer to the spine.  This simple exercise was developed in a sitting meditation posture but can also be performed sitting in a chair or standing. This simple exercise to assists the spine in releasing out of the pelvis.  As I was practicing guitar this morning, I paused at one point and did this exercise three times in each direction while wearing my guitar.  Not the ideal situation, but I do what I do.

Later I paused to inhibit my activity and direct my thinking with my current twist on the Alexander Technique Directions I mentioned in yesterdays post.  Playing through a section I was working on, the thought to release the Heavenly Pillar arrived.  As I noticed this thought I also noticed a release in my right arm and hand which was welcomed.

Photo by Sue Clark

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Grip

Working with David Jernigan in an Alexander Technique session years ago, he first mentioned The Grip which is a characteristic of my right hand.  I have noticed The Grip manifest in other activities, but on the guitar this not only impedes my ability to execute but also stresses and strains muscular activity through my elbow and most likely further.  This morning I was practicing a section on the high register of the guitar, where my left hand fingers have to move about and land in a confined space.  As I breathed out and began to play this part I noticed The Grip had manifested.

 Why?  How could tightening the hold on my right hand possibly improve the use of my left hand?  In actuality this tightening adversely impacts my left hand by inducing stress in the system.  As I mentioned I've noticed The Grip in other activities such as walking, holding a cup, holding a clip board so perhaps The Grip goes deeper than the guitar.  My right hand is my dominant hand. Is this a manifestation of power or control issues?  Fear, the usual culprit is most likely adding to the fray.  Obviously I do not know what this all means and may not need to. 

Looking down and to the right to "guide" this activity with my eyes may also not be helping in this instance.  The little bit of tension arising in my neck is then transferred throughout the system.  Let the left hand do the work it is doing and the right hand do it's work and no more.  How to untangle this? Fortunately, I can come back and still my breath, offer myself the Alexander Technique Directions and let go a little bit. 

Returning to the guitar to work further on this section, I quickly decided a lie down was in order.  Tune my system and then see if I can introduce ease into my playing.  While this was better, I still needed help so I turned to my current take on AT directions that were revised at the beach this week.  May my head float up to the Heavens as my body is as wide as the Ocean and my feet dance on the Earth.  Holding these spatial directions for a few breaths I then brought my smiling hands to the guitar. 

The Grip is not gone, but has eased a bit.  Old habits have energy and require intention, awareness, and energy to release.  I am grateful for the path.

Photo by Andrea Rose

Sunday, May 10, 2015

In Gratitude For Mom

I am forever grateful to my Mother who gave me this life, loved me like no other, and showed me what it meant to love another.  Though it has been close to 30 years since last we touched, her touch remains with me always.  Her smile, her hugs and her laugh still warm me.  I carry her with me, and hope that as I find greater freedom and love that this spreads throughout her and our Universe.

A Mothers' Love is a mystery none of us will ever really comprehend, but if I can spread it around a bit, I have made the world nicer.  I long to hear her voice intoning Matka Boska, Blessed Mother, when she as at a lost of how to deal with me.  I am grateful that despite the number of times she had to appeal for help for me, I was always welcomed into her arms.

Photo by Face MePls

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Year Two

One yea ago today, I woke up without a day job.  Refinement, a term I learned fro Richard Nelson Bolles, had begun.  What a joyous adventure it has been.  More time to study music, Qi Gong, poetry,  Alexander Technique and to read.  Longer periods of time devoted to meditation to the practice of music.  Plus all the wonderful adventures with family and friends.

Life is very good.

Photo by Don McCullough

Friday, May 8, 2015

Be Alive in a Sea of Change

Practicing a set for performance is different from fantasizing about playing the set for imaginary people.  The first is working on the stamina of playing the various pieces each with it's own technical challenges and emotional arisings. This also allows me to determine how the flow of moods and tempi interact with one another.  Pretending in the mind about any aspect of a performance or its' impact merely detracts from the music.

Yet the mind will wander by forecasting into the future or holding onto the past.  This happens within any given piece with anticipating difficult sections or whether I can build up the emotional content of the work and by hanging onto a mistake.  To just remain with the notes being played sets the stage for what is to come and for what has come.  Remaining present with the process in rehearsal or performance ensures music has a chance to arrive.

If I can be aware & alive in rehearsal, I have a much better chance chance of being alive within the sea of change of performance.

I will be performing two sets at Takoma Porch on Saturday May 16, 2015 at 4pm.  Over 40 diverse musical acts will be performing on porches around the City of Takoma Park.  I hope to see you there.

Photo by jeronimo sanz

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Arriving, Leaving and Coming Back

In the practice handed down to me by Thich Nhat Hahn there is a gatha  for meditation:

Breathing In - I have arrived, breathing  out - I am home. 

Because Thay knows we become habituated in our thoughts, words, and actions a couple years ago he changed this to I have truly arrived, I am really home.  How many times a day do I need to come back and find the present moment, only to begin leaving life again by having my attention to my breath, my body or the action I am undertaking waver?

Fortunately I find my way back again, but for how long have I left?  Arriving again, how is it that I miss the leaving?  I must admit there are times when I notice that I'm leaving the present and go about my merry way anyhow.  It really does take a whole village to raise a child and it take a whole Sangha to guide me, strengthen me, and inspire me to come back.   To be right here, right now, truly present is a miracle.

The very miracle of life.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Seek Freedom

A friend sent me an email today with the thought "We can choose our freedom." Can I?  Will I?  Going against habit is a continuous struggle.  Neuronal pathways polished by years or decades of poor choices, lack of knowledge, or misguided beliefs are still slick for the using.  As we make new choices, presumably better ones, to build more effective habits new pathways are forged.  Where do these pathways lie within our brains, nerve circuits and muscles?  How easily in a moment of inattention do we slip back into the old choice or habit?

When the emotions kick in mental clarity is muddied, somatic memories are invigorated and a subtle desperation to act is aroused.  Sometimes even to just get it over with. 

Meditation exercises the muscle of attention while slowing down the random chatter of the mind.  As the thinking stills, choice becomes possible.  Much better to pause, to think new thoughts, release the emotional energy and wait for clarity.  Rather than occupy our  ghost towns of the past,  choose to seek freedom.  As one good book has stated "seek and ye shall find."

Photo by Bureau of Land Management

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Not Lying Down

This afternoon I was researching and expanding upon some of my previous writings on  the Alexander Technique on Negative Directions.  As I moved to practice guitar, I decided a lie down was in order.  Settling into the floor and thinking about my body, I decided to use I am not doing a lie down.  A twist on directing that I have not played with previously.  Holding this thought a bit,  I then moved to I am not lengthening my arms, not widening my back and not releasing my pelvis.  Going through my body but directing to not release.  My mind quickly quieted with this experiment.  I wondered if I'd notice anything different.  The area of my back behind the chest which usually releases a bit during a lie down did not have the sudden release I've become accustomed to of late.  Not sure why this did not happen, but I did notice.

Continuing with the experiment as I went to get off the floor I directed  I am not getting up.  Which led to I am not walking to my guitar and I am not opening my case.  My awareness spread as I was not opening my guitar case.  Nor was I standing and playing notes as I was not standing on the Earth.  Neither was I recording my practice and I was not afraid of misplaying a particular part.  Shortly after this I noticed I was tightening my jaw as another difficult section was coming.  I paused and directed I am not holding my jaw when I play.  I noticed this jaw tightening two other times during my session.  Now I wonder how much this may be part of my playing and will look for this in the coming days.

While practicing Qi Gong during a break from playing I directed I am not holding onto my energy.  As I returned to the guitar I laughed as I began thinking I do not know how to play!  The freedom in my use generated by these experiments with negative directions today was palpable.  What causes this quieting of the mind and an introduction of ease in my body continues to mystify and intrigue me. 

Photo by Ed Utham

Friday, May 1, 2015

Grey Mist

Since Franis EAngel has left a couple interesting comments on Facebook regarding my playing around with de Bono's ideas on lateral thinking again, today's improvisational sketch began with an "F."  F Dorian to be specific, with a tinge  of grey.  Still playing with it, and there are no words for what the notes are saying.  May I be able to find the melodies the grey mist is hiding, evoking or otherwise in between.

No where to go,               The notes are waiting ...  the mist flaying

no need to understand

respond with the hearts hand

broken phrases


vibrate to

the other land

Photo by Harry Thomas