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Tonight we had an amazing lecture at CIIS from Erik Larsen, the creator of the CymaScope – a research tool, analogous to the telescope and microscope, used to “make sound visible”. The science behind the effects of sound on human bodies and human consciousness is both ancient and in its infancy. In some ways the study of sound has been going on since the beginning of human civilization. Perhaps sound is what gave birth to the universe. But we still have only rudimentary models for understanding what we all know intuitively or through experience to be the powerful, holistic effects of sound on the human body as a system.

These and other mysteries are what bent our minds tonight as we watched astounding images of different sounds transduced through water and visualized in still photos and high-definition video. Read the rest of this entry »

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I just recently stepped back into the recording studio, after being away from it for almost two years.

What I noticed is that there is a unique freedom of the first take that I’m challenging myself to recreate on each subsequent take. Here’s how the process goes: I hear the tracks (usually drums, guitar, and perhaps some vocals) once, getting a bodily feel for the groove of the song. I listen for sounds that I want to imitate or converse with. I notice repeating patterns. By the time I’m two and a half minutes into a song, I usually have several ideas of what I might play.

Then I put on headphones, get set up in front of the mikes, and I hear the same tracks played back in my ears as I play my violin. There is such a freedom on that first take, and I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s the lack of judgment. I’ve never played it before, so there’s nothing to compare myself to. I’m just PLAYING. Listening and playing. No thinking. Just trying. And so far, there has always been something (surprisingly) beautiful that comes out of the first take.

The problem is with the second, third, or fourth takes. What happens with these? Well I notice that I’m trying to “live up” to the quality of the first take. Or copy some brilliant idea from that first take, only making it “better” or “more clever’. Or I repeat exactly what I did the first time, thinking too much and making it sound canned. Sometimes, though, when I hit that wall and play about two minutes of what I consider “crap”, I’ll suddenly hear something completely different in the music and go in a totally new direction. A brand new rhythm, a countermelody, or something new in the music to converse with. But as soon as I start attaching too much – liking an idea so much I try to copy and repeat it over and over again, or congratulating myself on my own brilliance so that I start trying to “top” what I’ve just done – I lose the magic. The sound is canned. It sounds scripted. Or like it’s trying too hard. Read the rest of this entry »

Civil rights activist Howard Thurman said: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Do you know what it feels like for you to come alive?

Or are you taking someone else’s word for it?

Start now…go into the silence of your own heart, and start listening for what makes you come alive.

Fearful of Change Jar
I was ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY BLOWN AWAY by today. Let me start backwards, starting with the last thing I just experienced. I just saw Pidge Meade perform in her one-woman show, which she also wrote and produced, called 40 Pounds in 12 Weeks: A Love Story. It’s an autobiographical show framed around the summer after her freshman year at college, when her hard-core gymnastics coach Dad came to pick her up and drive her 800 miles from Wake Forest back home to Carbondale, Illinois. He discovers that she has put on more than the “Freshman Fifteen” and tells her that if she does not lose 40 pounds over the summer, he will not pay for her to return to college in the fall.

I can’t even begin to go into the rest of the details of the show, but I will try to describe to you how raw, how honest, how loving, how soulful an artist Pidge is for creating this show. I know her as a would-be “corporate Escapee” who has worked in a “sensible” job in a Fortune 500 company for the past decade or so, even though she has always had a love of acting. Her list of theater credits is long, so she has kept her passion alive through community theater opportunities, even though she has secretly always longed to be taken “seriously” as an actor. I met her as an attendee at a workshop on escaping corporate imprisonment to start your own entrepreneurial dream. She sat in the front row and I was in the back, but something about her story when I first heard it caught my attention. I ended up talking to Pidge several months later about taking the first real steps toward her dream of creating an authentic business for coaching women on weight loss, based on her own journey and beliefs about weight representing much more than just food and eating, and her desire to have courageous conversations about the underlying issues, not just the numbers on the scale. I’m happy to be hosting Pidge’s first weight-loss workshop for women in my studio space next January!

Seeing the show tonight just made me so glad to know Pidge. She captured ALL the emotions of love and pain and fear and confusion and guilt and power and the defenses we all construct in order to survive. And she made us LAUGH about them! She played every character in the show – herself at various ages from 7 to 19, her mother, her father, several of her friends, her church pastor, and the hilarious narrator of the show, a French chanteuse. There was not one person in the Dragon Theater in Palo Alto who didn’t recognize the emotions she was portraying. The conversations were so real, which is perhaps not surprising as they were peeled from her own memory. But what struck me was her ability to portray every single character with such depth and empathy and love, even in moments of profound pain.

The program for Pidge’s show tonight was a modest 8.5 by 11 sheet of light green pastel paper, folded in half. But the Creator’s Note said it all so eloquently:

This play is not about weight. Except when it is. Just as in real life, I believe that how much we weigh and what we look like doesn’t really matter. Except, of course, when it does. But more than weight, I think this is a play about love: how hard it can be to love each other, and ourselves; how we frequently hurt each other in the name of love; and how desperately we try to find love substitutes, when the real thing eludes us.

You see, I’ve been going through some of my own pain lately. I think the dream I had last night pretty much sums it up. The dominant image in that dream was an inky black sea, swirling with angry-looking waves, billowing endlessly, rising up to such frightening heights that I could see them crest over the glass ceiling in my house (not my real house – just in the dream). I watched them crash and swirl and crest without relenting. But I never got wet or pulled into them. I was inside, looking out. I was safe, even though I felt the anger of those waves. They looked like anger to me. I think my dream finally allowed me to see all my anger.

Turtles

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