Debi Adams, a terrific Alexander Technique teacher I have been working with, says that one of the benefits of being aware and connecting with our environment is that we can sense its support.
I have been looking into how to relax into the support we have when we are playing music. The support others can give us – the support the sound gives us – the support that our body balanced in the field of gravity (on a piano bench) can give us- and the support of silence.
These are essentially non-verbal experiences of the truth of our connection to the world. And if we inquire inwardly… and find the answers silently….we can learn from our experiences of these supports – over and over again that the music itself tells us what to do next when we play it. Not our minds. We understand how we are just a part of a sound that is being expressed. So much of it is not up to us. It has nothing to do with how well we think we are playing. We indeed have enormous responsibility to care for the sounds we make and are part of … and yes we can interrupt it entirely if we get too self absorbed – and see the music only as a reflection of our competency.
It has to to with being part of a sound – and the power of confidence – but also the power of trust – that others are doing their best as well, and in this way they are supporting us. Can we feel their support and then sense our immediate connection to them. Are we trusting their innate goodness (and sense that they are trusting ours) in the way they are creatively connecting to the music. And then can we feel and be aware of the way the group is together valuing this connection above all else. This may not be true for everybody – but it is a core value of my life that I keep learning through music that I work to bring into all of my life…. that it might even be possible to bring this caring openness to all of our relationships with all of the people we interact with.
I always felt that I had a late start as a musician because I didn’t decide to become a pianist until a couple years after I graduated college. Somehow I built into my habitual mental pattern – that no matter how much I practiced, and I practiced a lot – that it would never be enough. So when I played and I made mistakes – I allowed a self-judging mind to believe that it was because I didn’t practice enough. On another level one can appreciate the positive side to all that self criticism, that it got me to practice…. BUT… The intention I bring to practice now has lightened up the process and enabled curiosity and patience to play a much larger role in my growth.
I learned that when I play – that listening is everything. I am truly connecting when I can imagine what I want to hear before I play it – this way I can also be listening for when not to play, and in that rest I can remember to feel my body, to relax my body, and allow the sounds, the phrases, enough time for me and the band and the audience to digest them. Then it is not the self that determining what to play – not the same self that practices and judges – but the larger ungraspable self that remains in awe of the power that we humans have to bridge the gap between us.