Friday, March 28, 2014

Music

More thoughts on learning an instrument. Speaking as an adult learner.

It's hard.

It takes time -- and patience!

For me, it's all about reclaiming parts of my body, finding ways to jostle the freeze out of muscles that haven't been used in the way I need them -- giving me back lost awarenesses.

As I've mentioned before, I believe there is a strong connection between musclular tension and emotion ("Bioenergetics"), so part of my work as a musician is sifting through the emotions that bubble up (sometimes erupt) from my work at the instrument. Memories from long ago that need to find resolution and peace. I believe this is what Thich Nhat Hanh calls "observation meditation". For me it is engaged when I first awaken in the morning, while I'm still in bed. The previous day's work at the piano and cello, having stretched my muscles and mind -- which has had the night to regroup -- the latter now needs my attention.

My om (observation meditation) moments can be intense, painful, sometimes euphoric, often cathartic and releasing. And finally, relieving. Relief that another stickler that has plagued my psyche for so long has been laid to rest.

I remember years ago I spoke with a therapist who told me it got easier as one progressed. It seems to have taken a long time, but now I would agree with her. It seems to be getting easier. I've reached some important depths, my back is freer, my neck is freer, my head is higher--albeit there's more work, isn't there always?--and my mind seems clearer. And music making seems less laborious.

I think a lot of the difficulty we speak of when playing an instrument involves gravity. To play freely the center of gravity needs to flow about the body with ease. If there is holding in some part of the body, then this center will be impeded, and it takes brain power to figure out how to make the arm or hand or fingers move about the obstruction. That's brain power that would otherwise be focused on the bigger picture of making music, and in the case of the cello: The bow. Bowing is not the breeze one imagines it to be when observing a pro. So, working on the obstructions, that's the work.

I think I'm getting there. I've had a good year musically. In my opinion, lots of progress. More to do--isn't there always?

In a few weeks I'll be playing in my first student cello recital in Manhattan. That'll be a new experience. So different from playing the piano in so many ways. Yet, basically the same principles: Ensuring that the center of gravity can flow from finger to finger, arm to arm with ease. I'm wondering how my nerves will be? I've made a conscious decision to not think about it too much. I have a feeling that sometimes in the past I've tried to "cope" with my nerves so much I stirred myself into a tizzy! I'm going to try to let it flow this time. I'll be nervous, for sure, I just don't want it to be debilitating.

I'll be playing a duet with my teacher, and the 2nd part of the Minuet from Bach's Cello Suite #1 solo.

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