Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tuning Slide: Letting Go

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
The key to change... is to let go of fear.
-Rosanne Cash

Letting go means taking risks.
Letting go is taking action, not resisting
Controlling comes from fear - if I am not in charge, things will fall apart.

From Bill Ferguson's Mastery of Life:
Fear is a state of mind and is created by resisting a future event. For example, if you have a fear of losing someone, you are resisting the future event called, “losing the person.” The more you resist losing the person, the bigger your fear. The bigger your fear, the more you feel threatened. The more you feel threatened, the more you hang on and push the person away. By resisting the future event, you tend to make the fear come true.(How to let go and flow with life)
In a business organization book, Yes to the Mess, Frank J. Barrett relates being part of a jazz combo to successful business practices. Letting go is part of it:
Jazz musicians... often speak of letting go of deliberation and control. They employ deliberate, conscious attention in their practice, but at the moment when they are called upon to play, this conscious striving becomes an obstacle. Too much regulation and control restricts the emergence of fresh ideas. To get jazz right, musicians must surrender their conscious striving...
We're back to the practice room again. A natural place to start the process of letting go. We strive in practice and let go in performance. He is of course talking about improvising, but for most of us this letting go begins with any public performance.
In the words of saxophonist Ken Peplowski, "You carry along all the scales and all the chords you learned, and then you take an intuitive leap into the music. Once you take that leap, you forget all about those tools. You just sit back and let divine intervention take over."
I'm not sure about "divine intervention" in my trumpet playing. I'm not sure that God cares that much about what I play. My interpretation is that when I get in touch with the "spiritual" aspect of playing music, I can more easily let go and allow the music to flow.

But there is another aspect of all this letting go. Unless we are in a solo recital, we do not play alone in public performance. Whether it is a duo or trio, a combo or a wind band, our music has to fit into what the others are playing. Hence the statement I saw on Facebook one day:
Practice is to learn your part;
Rehearsal is to learn the other parts
and how your part fits in.

But the letting go is really in the next step, the actual public performance. The time when nerves and stage fright, performance anxiety and just plain old "blanking out" takes over.

Here I have to make a confession: I have a very difficult time practicing what I preach when I get into a solo performance. I know I have talked about this before, but it has raised its ugly countenance again. I had some pieces down cold- in my practice room. I got to rehearsal psyched to play- and it was like I had never seen the piece before.


Now, to be good to myself, I have made progress. I can play in the quintet and not get that fear. I can play in the concert band and, for the most part, allow my part to sing out. But the solos are still bugging me.

I do know that the techniques of letting go work. They have worked for me. I know from from experience that letting go can move me to new places. I also know that what Frank Barrett talks about above are the problems:
  • Striving-
      which means working hard instead of relaxing
  • Regulation and control-
    wanting to remain in charge and not trust the flow of the music
  • Tense muscles-
    caused by the inner tension and growing unceretainty
  • Shallow breathing-
    when we are tense we don't take the time to deeply breathe. We react and the fear cycle of fight or flight kicks in.
  • Losing attention-
    and then we are in full time crisis mode.
I have talked about all these things in the past. But they bear repeating and relearning. The need to "Let Go" at those moments is essential. Taking a deep breath, realigning yourself (easier to do if you're not in the middle of a solo!), focus on what is in front of you.

This is simple. I wish it were as easy!

With time, it may be.

From the movie Frozen:
It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I'm free!

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You'll never see me cry!

Here I stand
And here I'll stay
Let the storm rage on!
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(Sidenote: I know when all this started for me and I'm going to tell that story in a Tuning Slide extra next Monday. By telling the story I may be able to do some exorcising of that demon instead of continually exercising it.)

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