About a year and a half ago, I started going into a friend’s recording studio late at night and doing improv violin over a variety of tracks. I started voraciously devouring new music on iTunes, hunting for licks, grooves, and melodies to use in my playing. What I didn’t know at the time was that my passion for music and listening was presenting itself to me. The only thing that kept me from throwing myself completely into that arena was the physically grueling schedule of recording from 10pm to 2am, often on weeknights (my recording engineer was also a gigging percussionist and performed on weekends).

There were SO MANY things I didn’t realize about those few months. Tonight I listened to some of our partially completed tracks for the first time in over eighteen months. I abruptly stopped interacting with this friend of mine around April of last year. I can’t explain it to myself, but I was just “done”. I couldn’t find the words to explain it to anyone at the time. I just stopped returning phone calls and emails. I felt bad about the sudden silence, but felt even worse about the idea of trying to find words that might not be accurate, or worse yet, being talked back into doing something I just didn’t want to do anymore.

I still don’t know what it was that drove me away so suddenly and completely. Perhaps it was fear of the magnitude of beauty that I had within me.

As I listen to these tracks, with fresh ears and a newly found level of listening that focuses on SOUND, not CONCEPTS of “right note” or “wrong notes”, “being in tune” or “out of tune”, being “good” or “bad”, I realize that I was good. We were good. There was something very good about the music we were creating. I had NO IDEA what I was doing at the time, and that was the great part. Of course that’s what eventually scared me away from it too. Doing something I didn’t feel “trained” at or “good” at was simply too difficult to accept. Also, being in the presence of someone who was just pure love – no mind, no concepts, just love of music – was something I couldn’t handle either. He was a true musician, just spilling over with ideas. Nothing in his life meant anything without music. He had gotten into a near-fatal car accident that left him with two broken shoulders, unable to feed himself, let alone play. But he worked himself back to playing drums again. It was all he had to live for. I couldn’t understand or accept this. It was too big a leap for my concept-filled mind. I was not yet in my heart or my body. I didn’t trust myself enough.

Then I fell in love with a real person who could make me feel held in the world. I just wanted to love and be loved, like anyone. I’m still struggling with that concept, because I treat it as a concept. I want it to mean something, to make sense, to be explainable to someone else. But pure love is just essence. It’s energy and vibration. It’s not concepts.

I’m just beginning to get that now. I’m loosening up all the tightly bound concepts in my head so that some nooks and crannies are opening up to accept certain things just as they are. Like sound. Who can explain it? You can’t. You just have to be in the presence of it. And then feel it in your body. There’s nothing to talk about afterwards. The sound may be over, but the effect is still in your bones, your muscles, your pulsating head, your ringing ears, your warmed heart, your dewy eyes.

I was part of something very beautiful for those few months. When I turned away from it, I began a journey all the way around myself and back again. Now I melt and crumple at the sound of those recordings, remembering that the sound actually came from ME. Here I am working on making sounds again, listening, improvising “for the first time” when in reality, I did this and produced something workable from it almost two years ago.

Sometimes we get frozen. We don’t even know that we’re being governed by fear. Our brains – so well-evolved for a sense of security – send us signals that we don’t question. We unknowingly “trust” the signals that say, “Give it up. It’s easier this way. Keep going on the path you’ve already started. It’s all right there. Just keep working harder.” We think numbness passes for life. As Mary Oliver says, “Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” Pretty soon, we’re past the age of fifty, sitting in a chair, our bodies barely able to express anything of heart anymore, trying to learn how to breathe again, how to make our voices work for us.

Not for me. I am so so grateful for my body, my feet, my hands, my ears, my heart, my love, my energy, my ability to dance and sing and play.

Today, Like Every Other Day – by Rumi

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty

and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study

and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

 

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

(translation: Coleman Barks)

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