Musical performance begins with a musical intention, which is translated into a series of movements involving weight, speed, orientation in space, and relationship to gravity. For the music to soar freely, without causing injuries, you, the musician, need to experience the joy of efficient, elegant movement in gravity. This experience will not only protect you from injuries, it will inform and influence your phrasing, your rhythm, and your palette of sound.
Properties of sound – time, space, weight, rhythmical impulse, gesture, momentum towards an action (a leap against gravity), process of speeding gradually and slowing down gradually – are all properties of movement. When, for a musician, these properties are not experienced in their movement, two things happen – the brain does not have the appropriate image of the action needed for the musical gesture, and it cannot send the right impulses to the muscles. The action is then clumsy and can result in injuries.
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….
Passover begins tonight, and I, like most Jews around the world, will be sitting down with family and guests to discuss the mythic liberation of our people from slavery. We’ll use ritual and conversation to explore the idea of liberation in the text before us, in the world around us, and even in our own lives. Amid the joys of food and family, song and conversation, I am always struck by the way in which the central theme of the holiday mirrors the work I do every day as a Feldenkrais teacher, as I help my students free themselves from the compulsions of their habits and the limitations of their own self-images.
This year, the student I am thinking of most is me.
Have I lost you yet? Don’t I teach some sort of movement-improvement method? What does this Jewish holiday and these abstract ideas of freedom and self-image have to do with learning to move better?