The Feldenkrais Method supplies musicians with the missing links that allow them to make the leap from good playing to remarkable playing. These missing links are self-awareness and effective movement patterns at the instrument.
Dr Feldenkrais said that in order to do what you want to do physically, you have to understand what you’re already doing that gets in the way. He developed movement “lessons” which shine light and potency into the “blind spots” of our self-understanding. These gentle but enormously effective lessons, create new neural pathways to make everything easier. They help musicians take the pain, effort and sense of limitation out of making music.
I believe we become musicians because of a vision we have of what we could do – of the music we could make. We might have fallen in love with the sound of the instrument as played by a teacher or on a recording, or we might have been drawn to the simple idea of being a musician. This vision, whatever it is, sustains us through those difficult first steps of learning to make a sound – any sound at all at first, and then a (let’s face it) tolerable sound, and eventually, we hope, a sound which we find satisfying. As we master our art, our sense of what’s possible evolves, the vision evolves, and we can always see a ‘next step’ for our skill.
What’s preventing you right now from realizing your vision? What’s preventing you from reaching your next step?
Injury? Tension? Posture? Anxiety? A lack of flow and ease? Lack of inspiration, of connection to the vision, to the music itself?
All of these impediments to your art are bound up in your most basic habitual movement patterns: from the habits you use to hold yourself up and move around, to those you use to interact with other people, to the very patterns you use to make music….
In my last post, The Paradox of Desire, I talked about how we tend to get in our own way when we really want something. This time we’ll look at the paradox from another angle, and see if we can find a way to resolve it.
The second theme of this series is gevurah – translated as might, power, or discipline. If the first element, chesed, is an outpouring, gevurah balances and channels it by imposing limits and control. But gevurah carries its own paradoxes with it as well.
We musicians tend to think of making music as inherently strenuous. That the way to musical mastery is paved with hard work.
We train through countless hours of solitary practice. We drive ourselves to do better, never accepting ‘good enough.’ We know we should be relaxed as we play or sing, but our tight shoulders, sore necks and tired backs tell a different story, even if our fingers or lips seem as nimble as can be. Like athletes, we drive our bodies to the limits of our ability, to do essentially unnatural things. We hold our breath and grimace with the emotion of the music we are expressing, because otherwise, why bother? How can I express sorrow or suffering if I don’t feel it myself?