This week a drummer/Feldenkrais friend of mine, Brian Baraszu, introduced me to the online lessons of Hal Galper. Whether you are a jazz pianist or a classical horn player, this man has some very unusual things to teach you about how music is made and how to improve. Much of what he says in his casual, non-confrontational way hits me over the head like a frontal attack because it’s so very much what I’m looking for that I haven’t had the courage to do.
Out of the many gems I’ve seen so far, there is one point he makes that I’d like to communicate to you. He suggests that everything you do in music is connected. So if you were to practice only what you are interested in, you would find that every aspect of your music making will improve, even if you don’t work on it directly.
While that seems too good to be true, I think it’s quite supportable. In fact, I’d like to go farther.
I have found that working on what excites me in music can impact all areas, not of my music, but of my life. That’s right, my music-making is connected intimately with who I am, and when I improve it, I have an opportunity to work on myself. (If my music making isn’t intimately connected with who I am, then I may not be making music, but only pretending to make it).
Those terrible demons I face, my failed relationships, my broken promises, they all manifest themselves some way in my music, either by paralleling it, or by showing the opposite. Typically, either I am unable to do in my music the same things I am unable to do in my life, or I am able to do in my music exactly what I am unable to do in my life. Does this appear to be a contradiction?
The first case seems more logical. If I can’t focus when I’m having a conversation with someone, it would follow that I might not be able to focus when I’m playing on the bandstand with a jazz group. In that case, it also seems logical that if I improve my ability to focus in one place (conversations), I can take that information to the other (the bandstand).
The second case is harder, but I see examples of it all the time. Someone is timid in their life-choices, and yet when they make music they are brave and outgoing. I believe this occurs because this person finds it easier to tackle to problem in music than they do in other parts of their life.
It may be that the music making environment contains elements which are missing everywhere else to make such success possible. It may also be that the opposite is true, that there is baggage associated with a person’s life that is missing in a musical environment. Perhaps someone carries a trauma in their life, and yet because they took on music making before or after the effects of the trauma, it doesn’t affect them there.
You might ask, if someone is able to succeed in music, or away from music, why can’t they transfer it? That’s a very good question. In fact, the question is the answer.
“What am I doing in the realm of my success that I’m not doing in the realm of my difficulty?” Discovering this does not have to be a logical, linear or even verbal process. In fact, the premise of the Feldenkrais Method, of which I am a practitioner, is that some of these issues can be dealt with on a pre-verbal level where language and logic does not interfere.
However the discovery is made, the fact remains that the music either reflects me or it shadows me. It either reflects my life, or it contains what is missing from it. So as I continue to improve as a writer, as a business person, as an educator, I find what I never could get as a jazz player.
Does this resonate with you? Which way does it ring true for you? Do you find that your life contains, or is completely lacking in, something essential in your music making?