Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Patient Progress

   Why did this photo attract me?  Why does a piece of music?  Or writing? 

Be it intrigue, wonder or just a sigh of relief,  art certainly helps me make sense of myself and our world as I process this life.  Many thanks for all those who put themselves out there day after day, taking risks, learning and moving our world forward.   Much hides from me, just like this photo loading improperly into the blogging platform.  Yet the different photo retains the taste of the old and also something new.

Thus look, listen, learn and create.  Share without remorse and do so every day.  Patient progress is its' own reward.  Then when your work touches another you too are touched.  In Guitar Craft we say that music makes the musician.  I now know this to be so.   What is making you?  Go to your work, now. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Silently Falling

Late this morning I saw the news that Chris Squire had died.  Sadness entered me.  In high school I loved Yes, still do.  When Fish Out Of Water came out in 1975, at lease once a day I listened through.  Side one with Hold Out Your Hand, You By My Side and Silently Falling still gets my emotions roiling.  Such beauty and truth cast in notes and words.

I picked up my guitar and began improvising in Chris's memory.  Rather quickly a beginning surfaced and I followed along for 20 minutes or so.  The taste of music was present, but it needed development.  The sky clouded over, so I decided to take a walk in case it rained.  Sligo Creek still swollen from yesterday's deluge mimicing the flood of emotions as I thought of all the music that stirred and comforted me in my youth.  Too many great bands to list here.  Many of them possessed such masters of the guitar, that I put mine away for years because I could never be that good.  A mistake perhaps, but then life is full of them.

Returning home I picked up the guitar again.   The improvisation moved on and after a few takes I recorded what I had.  Today a special person has moved on.  I am grateful that his music remains to provide solace to my soul.  Perhaps what I discovered today may sometime comfort another.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ch-ch-ch-ch changes

Why does a change of scenery, particularly one that brings me closer to nature, stimulate my creative spirit?  I used to think it was having the time off from work to relax and pursue the other aspects of my life.  But now I've been retired for over a year, spend plenty of time on music and yet when I get away to the beach the ideas flow.  Two new musical ideas in as many days and some good thoughts articulated on other areas of importance to me.

Does being close to the Ocean waves affect the waves of thought within me?  Is it the time outdoors moving within and being moved by the Ocean?  Decreased social interactions and responsibilities?  Less overall distractions associated with the maintenance of our home and lives?  All of the above most likely.  I'll continue to nurture these changes of scenery as often as possible, with guitar in hand of course.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thinking About Thinking About Guitars

I am currently reading How the Body Knows its Mind by Sian Beilock which is about how the body impacts the mind as well as how the physical environment influences how we think & feel.  Some of this material has been touched on in other works I've read and some has a new twist on this.  There's also new information which is always a delight for me.  Over the years I've worked extensively with how my thinking can affect my body via the Alexander Technique and will continue to do so.  One of the reasons I picked up this book is that it was mentioned in an Alexander Technique group I'm in.  She devotes part of a chapter to the Alexander Technique.  Meditation has also greatly impacted how my mind and body relate to my emotions.  Qi Gong has introduced a greater harmony & awareness of my body in motion and how this impacts my being.

Today as I read this book on the beach after a swim in the Atlantic Ocean Beilock touched on how children learn by observing others.  Certainly over the years I've picked up subtle and straight forward information related to playing the guitar by observing other guitarists.  I've also affected my playing by directing my thinking with the Alexander Technique, usually with guitar in hand or certainly close at hand.

But what if I just visualized myself playing, not related to a specific piece, but just about how to play?  Thinking purely about the act of playing in a free and open manner.  My guitar elicits a strong response in me, sometimes even a reaction that can get in my way.  I want to hear her sound, sometimes need to hear her sound.  Hell I live to hear her sound.  But what if I took time each day to just think about playing.  Not thinking before playing and then playing, just thinking about playing. Preferably on a  beach or close to Sligo Creek or maybe in a temple or church.  Unburdened by the act of bringing my hands to the guitar.  Observing the motion of the Ocean and thinking of myself in motion.

Physics tells us that a body in motion tends to remain in motion.  Can I allow my whole body to move & support the playing, not be fixed in my hips or locked in my right elbow or have my feet grasping the floor?  Can I think of my arms moving light as feathers though the air and alighting on the guitar with ease and grace? I did today.  Dare I think of my spine as the support of my body which supports my brain, all in harmony in the here and now?  Can I not think about thinking about how to play guitar?  May the learning continue.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First Dip

Today the temperature topped out at 95 F and very humid.  The sand was hot and so was I.  As the Atlantic Ocean rolled about my toes I was shocked, stopped back and then quickly moved forward.  That cool that refreshes, the primordial ooze calling me back, comforting my skin, my soul and my desire.  Jumping through that first wave I emerged ageless. 

Frolicking about, I gave myself to the surf. The salt biting my lips.   The ebb and flow of the water moving me about releasing my tensions and drive.  Jumping, laughing and jumping again.  Total ease and freedom of movement.  Playing without thought, responding purely to the moment.

Back home I pick up my guitar.  Connecting with the present moment I wish I could manifest once again the ease and freedom of movement; to play without thought nor judgement.  Slowly the possibility approaches as the hands dance softly on the fretboard.  Waves of sound echoing in the moment, as the sands of time dissolve.  Music nudging my being as the notes played on.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Discovered Random Possibilities

The last few weeks we've been going through "stuff" in our home.  Let go of 400 plus cassettes tapes, too many music magazines, CD's, equipment, and tons of paper.  So many ideas, quotes and notions I have written down on paper over the years.

Found the following on a small sheet of paper today:

Ignore the question. (Eno?)

Add a little grey (Smith, but darn if I know which one)

Suspend in air  (Alexander Calder)

Construct the same differently (Sounds like Eno)

Speaking of sounds, I better pick up my guitar, already 9 pm here on the East Coast.  Life is very
 good.  Being stopped to consider items that I find attenuate the process on many levels.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Right Question?

It's a beautiful question - but your answer is wrong. 
Toyah Wilcox

What if I asked the right question,
heard the answer,
and was able to incorporate this into life?

Just might be a beautiful answer.

Photo by John Fowler

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Spider & I

Spider and I sit watching the sky
On a world without sound 
Brian Eno

Driving Hope 
before and after 
science of another day.
Webs of silence
calling forth,
watching the sky
with stilled heart.

Last Looks.
Hometown is closing.
Mourning hours call.

What if?
I never again?

Monday, June 15, 2015


According to Wikipedia a rest is an interval of silence in a piece of music. I'm back home after a week on the Introduction to the Guitar Circle and Beginner/Intermediate Course in Hope New Jersey last week.  For myself being on a GC Course provides an interval of silence in life and while a part of my being is rested, I certainly come home tired.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Alexander Reminders Arising Out of Trees

We were learning a new part of a form in Qi Gong class this morning, one where one of the hands moves across the body around the waist and then the alternate hand does this.  Some of us in the class were leaning over, perhaps unaware or perhaps helping the hand doing the movement.  Master Li pointed this out and then I heard the birds.  The trees were so tall in the area we were in and as the birds sang out I spontaneously rose up to hear them better.  As the class went on I let me ears lead me forward and up.  I smiled at yet another reminder from nature about this important aspect of movement delineated by FM Alexander.

As the class progressed the birds continued to remind me to think "up" as I learned these new moves.  To be wide and open, to listen to Master Li's verbal instruction, but to also learn from the graceful way in which he moves.  Unfortunately a recently discovered hernia began to garner my attention and soon I sat out the rest of the class, focusing my energy on this area with hope that it may heal.  As I type I hear the birds singing their nightly lullabies and am again reminded to be forward and up, long and wide.  Be free, be open and sing. Ever grateful for the reminders however they arise.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Now Where is That Question?

Curiosity killed the rut.  
Todd Henry

May I find the question(s) I did not know I need to be asking.

How to uncover/discover/recover the spark?

Looking at Art or art
Being open

We know what & how to do this, so let us do the work.

Friday, June 5, 2015


Magnify the most difficult details. 
Oblique Strategy

Working on Slip, another demanding work-in-progress. Once again fingers of my left hand are anchored throughout the piece. Several odd rhythmic changes require my constant attention.  As I am developing the possibilities of the piece I am also working with the space around me.  I wish to maintain my freedom by incorporating the principles of the Alexander Technique and practice good use.  I'd like to say maintain good use, but that is a dream at this point for me.

When this Oblique Strategy popped up today I wondered which difficulty might I magnify.  The shapes my left hand must assume and hold, the changing rhythms, or practicing good use?  Can I keep a sense of the space around me and within me?  Why within?  By noticing the movement of my chest as I breathe I notice two things. One is if I am holding my breath as a "system of control."  While the other aspect I've been noticing is that when I sense my inner space is confined, I notice I am collapsing down and in from my neck and shoulder blades.  The collapsing limits my freedom to play, is a detriment to my long time ability to play, and tires me out.

As I pondered this Oblique Strategy during a break, I saw once again the importance of minding my use.  With good use, I increase the freedom in my left hand, I lessen the tendency to collapse about the guitar and though this does require additional attention I am in a sense growing my attention muscle.  With this growth my future musical pursuits will prosper along with the rest of my life.  By decreasing the strain on my system, I might be better able to hear the additional possibilities hidden within Slip.

Returning to the guitar, I decided focus on my use instead of Slip.  I played through two pieces not as demanding on my hands while working with the AT directions to foster freedom in my neck, back and spine.  Noticing the fatigue from the past two hours of practice I decided that taking a longer break from practice was in order.  Though the possibilities of the Slip continue to pull at me even now I inhibit my desire to jump back in there.  Time to work with the Musician and allow a rest.  After all does not Music reside in the space between the notes?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Them Changes

Well my mind is goin' through them changes.
Buddy Miles

Impermanence - everything changes.

Notes change - sounding different from the attack, as they sustain, and as they decay.  Apply various types of vibrato and the notes change more.  Invite other notes to play at the same time and any individual note sounds totally different depending on the surrounding notes or harmony.  Not unlike people in that way.

Thoughts change. 
Times change. 
People change. 
Tastes change.
Life is change.

Many of the changes are random. Yet there are changes we can direct.  Such as our thinking.  The information we take in or not.  The food we eat or not. The people we engage with.  The practices we undertake.  Are my actions serving my aim?  Are my words in harmony with the world I wish to create?  Am I aware of the precious moments with loved ones that may leave this life before I finish this sentence?

Photo by Neal Fowler

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Day after day and throughout the day I have to ask for help with my practice.  What do I ask for?
- Help from Beyond
- guidance from those that have tread the path before me
- the clarity to see the next step
- the courage to take it.

Over and over, again and again.

Photo by ePi.longo