Tuesday, June 22, 2021


Begin again now

From summers heat; winters cold.

Pause. Release. Reframe.

Breaking up my routine a bit with with a 30 minute guitar practice after journaling. Allowed myself to play a few pieces. Focus on calm, confidence, ease and joy. From here moved onto Qi Gong practice with my wife and sitting meditation with our expanded local Sangha. 

When I returned to my music practice I decided to continue playing through the remaining pieces to see how my recent practices have impacted them. When my judgements began arriving I paused at one point and played with a variation from the AT Cycle Practice which arose for me last night - Thoughts Far Away. Again this phrase quieted my thinking. I continued to explore using this “direction” as I practiced and even used this as a cue before playing What Is This? the most difficult piece of repertoire I am currently working with.

I decided to pick up the tempo on WIS? and play it again. Pausing to direct my thinking and free my body I recalled a practice Michael my Shiatsu Massage and Tai Chi instructor gave me a couple years ago. In playing guitar I assume an asymmetric position for long periods of time over decades of practice. This has precipitated some problems muscularly and even energetically. He suggested I play air guitar with my left hand “picking” and my right hand moving about the fretboard. I played with this for a few minutes and then ran through WIS? again. I definitely noticed a difference.

In the afternoon, I played through each piece again. Improvement was noted. Celebrated with a walk along Sligo Creek before dinner. We also offered our Qi Gong class this evening. I’m ready to delve into The Jazz of Physics by Stephon Alexander. 

Photo by Joao Cardoso

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Longest Day

The longest day of the year sure felt like it. I had to tell a group of people I’ve grown quite fond of that I am needed to move in another direction. Fortunately this was well received.

Randomized my practice again with the focus of todays work being the middle of these seven pieces. I’m certainly glad I did. The first piece was When Am I? I thought I was playing this piece well, but the middle section needed a lot of work. I was surprised by this, but then recalled how often I’ve had difficulty transitioning from the first section. All those troubled transitions have left their energy on the middle section. I added the ending of the first section and slowed everything down. Found myself holding my breath a couple times. Never useful, but happens below the level of my attention more than I am aware of.

Working with Exiled I also found myself holding my breath at times. Overall the work was tedious but valuable. Onward.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Begin With the End in Mind


The greatest space has no corners;

  The greatest talents are slowly mastered;

     The greatest music has the rarest sound; 

         The Great Image has no form. 

                Tao Te Ching no. 41

I continued with generating a random sequence to my practice today. Supported by the valued Covey principle “Begin with the end in mind.” Before playing a piece, I reviewed it’s ending on the score. Striving to hear what I would play. Then I played the ending 2 - 3 times. The value of this practice for me with beginning with the end, is these notes are not encumbered by mistakes in the beginning or the mental drifting that occurs as I focus for a few minutes. A fresh look at each of the seven endings proved valuable today.

Random Actions


I decided to assign a number from 1 to 7 to the pieces I’m preparing for recording. Found a random number generator on the web, limited it to seven, and then spun the wheel to determine the order I would practice these in today. You might ask why?

Well I develop habits, look for gratification and have a limited time and attention to do my best work. Wanted to make sure I don’t fall into a rut as to how I approach these. Decided to physically practice each piece, then to either run it in my head or use the score if I needed to and then return to physically practice it again. Seemed fruitful. 

There was something interesting about taking away my choice as far as the order of practice. May play with this more. Listened to a work in progress The Hidden and moved it forward also.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Practicing WIth Distraction

 This morning was just stunning. Beautiful skies, cool and the birds singing joyously. After breakfast on the back porch i decided to practice guitar there too. Soon I realized I was in for a challenge. The birds were pretty high energy. Perhaps they did not like my playing. They sure challenged my attention. With multiple bird songs I noticed how my technique sounded horrible. Every other note seemed to be conflicted and it sounded as if my finger were sliding all over the place. My ears really came alive during this time. Before too long I returned inside. We had all the windows open, but with the room reflecting my guitar tones the birds were not as distracting,

Overall I had a great morning, afternoon and evening practices. Feeling as if I will be ready to record with Tony Geballe at the end of the month. Will do some test recording tomorrow.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Why is Rest Difficult?



Rest/Celebrate were the items on the Drill’s lost for today.

Sounded so good at the time I wrote out the drill. Rest - why do I resist? Sure if I was at the beach. But at home? Wish I could go to the National Gallery of Art but the East Building where I long to be is still closed. Skimmed an article of a writer on a train in Japan following Basho the poet’s trail. Prompted the following Haiku:

Basho hit my head.

Spring destination unknown.

Heart still. Open now.

Rest - Restore. I suspect they come from the same root. Now I can rationalize use restore to bring order to parts of my home life. After all it is raining. No long trips to the woods or the bay. Ahhh.

Thinking of the poet Basho reminded me of the guitarist Robbie Basho, who assumed his name. Been a while since I’ve listened to his work. First two titles I selected had Robbie singing - no thanks too early for that. Why am I so quick to judge? Well I am. Found Gypsy Rosary - over 13 minutes long so I know it would be one of his solo guitar works which I prefer. Then listened to Alex Cline - Nourishing Our Roots. Title seemed appropriate to this day.

Overall listened to lots of music, had some walks in the drizzle with my wife, and a couple of conversations. A very interesting meeting with friends from Guitar Craft and a delightful Indian dinner at home while watching Shameless. So it goes.

Photo by JariC

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Constructing Freedom


Playing with ease is paramount to to any given piece of music and to the long term health of the performing musician. Knowing the piece is bottom line. Then what? Can I play with unity of body, mind and feelings? Between my practice with meditation, Qi Gong and the Alexander Technique I know and understand the vitality available if I allow myself the time to settle into the present moment. Yesterday with the work done within the AT Cycle Practice group I was there.

Todays session was led by Daniela Sangiorgio.  When we had completed doing the Cycle practice there was time for reflection and observations. Regarding the practice of constructive thinking Daniela said “ we do what we do so we can find out when we interfere. When we stop interfering ease will flow.” Yet these are words. The experience of this simple but powerful exercise known as the Cycle Practice over the past few months has been worthwhile. 

I took on recording the most difficult of the pieces I am preparing for later this month. I would like a recording of this work titled What is This? to assist my practice. 

Photo by Paul van de Velde

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Learning What it Takes

 Recording Simulation Drill Day 4

During yesterday’s session, the work I did with Taking Flight and When Am I? was not worth saving. I was fine with this, also a bit disheartened. Today I decided to begin with recording Exiled. After an hour I let go, deleted the file. Noticing it was almost 10 am I decided to join the Alexander Technique Cycle Practice group on Zoom led by a group of AT teachers.

At the end of the practice I left the group as I wanted to work from the state that had been induced by Susan Allen’s directions. Body and Mind were quiet. I pressed record and took my place in front of the microphone. I decided to record an old piece of mine - Gathered Hearts. I have performed this piece for over a decade and can play it effortlessly. This ease is what is missing in my current recording efforts. Gathered Hearts was beautiful and from this space I moved to recording Taking Flight. 

This was beautiful. A take that if I had the proper set up going would be a possible release. I did skip over two bars, which required me to skip another two bars. Still the ease remained. I stopped recording and saved the recording. Opening a new file I moved onto When Am I? After two takes I knew that some minor edits could probably yield a piece. If I was actually recording with Tony Geballe to release these works another take would have been in order. But I wanted to savor, explore and use the space I was in. 

Without stopping the recording I began Exiled. A rough start. I paused and then began again. More mistakes. Another pause. I played the opening theme of The Call. Paused and began Exiled. A good take ensued, followed by another. Tired and my attention drifting I decided to call it a morning. I went to end this recording and noticed I had not armed the microphone so nothing was captured. C’es la vie.  What’s is important is what I experienced and learned. Fostering and nourishing that energy once I’m in a good state is vital to the success of this project. Vital to the success of life too!

Photo by Paul Downey