Wednesday, January 17, 2018

3.30- The Tuning Slide- The Worst Sin

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Seeking new levels of technical mastery should be a life long pursuit -
not because you want to impress, but to facilitate any direction
the great spirit inside you wants to go.
― Kenny Werner
I continue talking about goals and goal setting for the month as well as using a number of the quotes from the end of Trumpet Workshop summary. First here is what was noted from the summary board:

✓ The worst sin is feeling sorry for yourself- because it’s all about me.

What does that have to do with goal setting anyway? How does a “poor me” attitude get in the way of being a better musician and person? I know I have gotten to the point where I say to myself “Enough is enough! What’s the use?”

That usually occurs when I hit one of those regular plateaus of progress or even those days when it seems that I have gone backwards. “Damn! I played better last week!” But to achieve goals we can’t allow such self-pity to get in the way. One of the surest things that can get in the way of my goals is “poor me!” Self-pity, pure and simple, is being selfish. Everything becomes focused on me. That means that I cannot focus on the music, the audience or potential audience, or my fellow musicians. It’s me and me alone that is getting all my attention.

That is just plain counter-productive.

As I was working on this post I also started reading a book I picked up last summer. Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within by jazz pianist Kenny Werner (1996, Jamey Aebersold Jazz) starts right off with what I was thinking about. He says that one of the reasons that many musicians never achieve mastery is the false idea that runs around our society. He starts the Preface this way:
The realm of the gifted has always seemed to be an exclusive club. The common belief is that, “Some of us have it, some of us don’t.” Implicit in that statement is the assumption that “most of us don’t.” (p. 9)
Most of us then assume that we are in the group that doesn’t have the gift. We remain mediocre. “Poor me.” He goes on in the Preface to mention two ways we approach music. He talks about
Good players who, for some reason, have little impact when they play. Everything works fine. That are “swinging” and all that, but still, something is not landing in the hearts of the audience. They are trapped in their minds. There is no nectar because they are merely plotting and planning an approach along acceptable, “valid” lines of jazz style. (p. 10)
He is saying, in other words, that they are being controlled, “dominated” he says, by their conscious minds. Sound familiar? It is on the same track as the Inner Game approach we have talked about often on this blog. We are looking at another example of Self One and Self Two at odds with each other. What we must do, Werner says, is
Practice surrendering control to a larger, higher force. It’s scary at first, but eventually liberating…. [L]iberation is attainable through the surrender of the small self to the larger “Self.” … After one taste of [liberation] through the medium of music, one will never want to return to a life of “thinking music.” As one moves beyond the acceptable to the inevitable, creativity flows. Personal power will increase manyfold. (p. 10)
Wow! I want that, is my response as I read that. Where can I find it? The answer is obviously in the “Self” or as Inner Game refers to it, Self Two, the intuitive, natural musician within each of us. It is the movement from “Thinking Music” to “Playing or Living Music.” Thinking music can probably be seen as
• Over analyzing
• Relying on the conscious mind
• Over thinking what we are doing
• Worrying about being perfect
• Worrying about what others will think.
Playing or Living Music is deeper than that. It is
• Feeling the music
• Letting the rhythm carry you
• Channeling the music of the Self
• Trusting Self Two to guide you since Self Two knows what to do and when to ask for help.
Back to Werner’s Preface…
True musical depth is not about better playing, but about more “organic” playing…. [The] intuitive self… is very much about “forgetting” one’s self…. Music can shoot through the musician like lightning through the sky if that music is unobstructed by thoughts. Therefore, the elimination of thoughts is a very relevant issue. (p. 11)
That’s a lot of stuff from just three short pages at the beginning of the book. It does, however, sum up our problems. Many times they are of our own making because we are unwilling or unable to let go surrender to Self Two and the music. Which brings me to another of the Trumpet Camp summary ideas:

✓ Obstacles appear if we take our minds away from the goal. Therefore we must always be shooting for a trajectory.

Every time we hit an obstacle we get thrown off-track into ourselves. We lose sight of our goal, worry about ourselves, dig into the “poor me” pity pot and lose the music. We go back into “thinking” music and lose sight of the living music.

In reality this takes a lot of practice. It takes the seemingly endless hours of long tones and scales, chromatics and thirds, Clarke and Arban.

This past week I did some improvisational noodling for the first time in a few weeks. I started doing some very basic blues progressions in a couple of different keys. I went from C to F back to C then to G, F, and back to C. You know. Just the basics. I then did it in F and again in Bb and finally G. Nothing new or outstanding. I was part way through when I realized that for the first time I had stopped thinking about what I was doing. My fingers kind of knew which note was next. Self One is actually the one that noticed and told me. At which point Self Two took a bow, told me to shut up and get back to playing.

When I got to the end I thought about it. What had happened? I had never before had that happen. I then realized I had added two new exercises to my daily routine over the past month. I was working ascending thirds in each key and working on a jazz pattern of triplet thirds, again in all keys. I have practiced one or both of those most days in the past month. They have become second-nature, intuitive to some extent.

I was channeling the music of my Self Two be surrendering to the music- living it instead of thinking it. Yes, I spent a month of thinking and visualizing; yes, I had to work on it daily. Although I didn’t kick myself for being slow or imperfect. I didn’t over analyze, I just let the patterns and music flow as it should- and as Self Two knew how to make it flow. And now it was real.

A short-term goal has been reached!

I was told that by Mr. Baca and others in the past. I had to trust them. It is happening because they have shown me that setting goals and moving ahead is important. Stop playing “poor me!” Stop whining and moaning about what you can’t yet do. Set the goal, let go of the selfishness and move forward. There are lightning bolts of music waiting to shoot through me- and you.

[Note: I may do a month of posts on Kenny Werner’s book on Effortless Mastery later in the spring. It looks like a good addition to the Inner Game training we have been doing.]

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