Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Riddle For You: You wiggle your toes, and crinckle your nose with delight. What is this stirring in your tummy, what names this funny, tonight?

Did you know that each and every one of us possess our very own unique instrument? An instrument that doesn't even begin to compare to any other instrument belonging to another. An instrument that resembles nothing but thine own self. You may already know the instrument I speak of, the answer to the riddle. The wondrous, infectious roar of laughter.

It really is amazing how if I asked you to remember the first time you laughed, you wouldn't remember. We've been using and enjoying this special instrument since infancy. Since before speech, before walking and even before crawling! We haven't needed to invest a lot of money to buy it, we haven't had to devote endless hours of practice trying to develop it, we haven't had to force learning something that may be quit boring in order to perfect it. No, this instrument was already created in us perfectly.

One of the qualities I most enjoy about laughter is that you haven't much control of it. It bursts forth out of no where! And for us creative types, that can be the most rewarding part of writing music. When an urge so powerful within you, can no longer be contained. It has to explode out of you without much thought or preparation. A sort of outlet for the emotion you're experiencing. Just as laughter is an expression of true joy and happiness.

Laughter is such a mystery. Almost like a cat purring. No one seems to be able to explain it. No one really knows where it comes from. But we can understand to a certain extent what causes it. Happiness and contentment. Laughter resembles an instrument in so many ways. The different tones it can posses, the range of volume and depth (pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff etc..), and even the different time signatures it finds itself in. There's even different emotions involved with laughter just as there are in symphonies. We giggle when nervousness, we laugh with glee, and we wail hysterically, even to the point of passing out from not breathing (better described as quarter rests), when discovering something new for the first time, or sharing in something old. Passed memories, inside jokes, old pictures... :)

And what makes this instrument even more special is it's ability to be contagious. No other instrument holds that quality. No matter what it sounds like, people love to join in on the orchestration. And add their own unique part to it. Some may sound like a beautiful flute, some may sound like a horn or bassoon, some may even screech like a violin being played by a child. But when in unison it's more full and heartwarming than most pleasures in life.

I remember when others began to discover my laugh. Not the most pleasing to some ears. People would actually call me Ed. The laughing hyena from The Lion King. Did I allow them to make me believe my laugh was out of tune? Of coarse not! I knew I wasn't tone deaf. My laugh just happened to billow out of my heart. The tears streaming from my eyes. The sincerity was undeniable. I laughed a lot, and I laughed hard, no matter what people thought of my symphony. And I still do to this day. Have you played your instrument lately?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Carry Me Away, On the Breath of Innocence

How often do we pay attention to our breathing? What would you even say merits a deep breath? Is the only purpose to relieve frustration? Is it only there to sulk in self pity? Have we become immune to sighs of relief? Whatever happened to that innocent child that would gasp for air with excitement? Or that would walk into the living room on Christmas morning to see all their gifts laid out under the tree, and breathes in deeply with awe? That child that sees their mom or dad after the first day of school and inhales with everything they have, to scream out to them with joy. What happened to that child? How does that child maintain that innocent breath? Maybe it's because children don't know where it comes from. They just know how good it feels. That it feels right, so it can't be wrong. They aren't tainted with worry or the hurts of this world. They're pure. Can we ever get it back? I believe we can, but it does take a bit of effort.

First we have to understand how important it is. How we take it for granted. How we waste it. Truly, we waste our breath the most. We waste it on hurting others, airing our own judgements or opinions, we can even waste it with coarse joking. Why is that? Don't we value it? Have we lost control of it? Can we really believe that our breath can change our attitude, our demeanor?

I can honestly say I never really thought about it myself until my piano teacher expressed how important it is in order to achieve the sound you want. At that time I didn't really understand what she meant. I know how important it is for a woodwind instrumentalist to maintain a controlled breathing pattern and also a lyricist. But a piano player?? It seemed sort of bazaar. Was I missing something? Was I supposed to blow on the keys? or maybe the teacher! No, that can't be right. So what did she mean? As she was speaking to me, she walked behind me and she took her hands and placed them on my hunched shoulders and pulled them back, opening my chest. She then relaxed my arms from my shoulder to my wrists and said, "Posture is just as important as your fingers playing the keys." She then told me to begin playing. At first I was thinking much too hard about maintaining this posture she had just placed me in (completely missing the point). I started making mistakes and even began to breathe heavily with frustration. She said, "Don't worry about mistakes. I want you to just close your eyes, breathe, and play."Basically free yourself. Allow yourself to remember who you are when no ones watching, when you aren't even watching. Your true self. Your innocent self. In that moment I let myself go. I felt my ribs expand with each breath, I no longer felt tension in my neck and shoulders, I couldn't even feel my hands touching the keys. I felt relief, I felt rest. And I listened to beauty. Were there mistakes? Yes, but that didn't matter. All that mattered was that innocent breath I was being carried away on. It was an amazing new perspective. Now, allow yourself to be carried away.

Monday, September 19, 2011

You Are Pure Potential

So I happened to stumble across a sign this weekend that read, "You Are Pure Potential". I couldn't help but stop and ponder a moment about what that meant. Potential being the key word here means: something that can develop or become actual. How many times have we thought to ourselves that we could never attain something? That we could never ACTUALLY DEVELOPE into something amazing. That we're simply stuck. How many times are we so hard on ourselves that we seem to throw in the towel when no one is even asking us to? Are we in competition with ourselves? Why must we put such pressure on our selves? I remember sitting at my piano trying to write a masterpiece, and sure, I'd come up with a few ideas but none that were quite to my liking. So I'd inevitably give up, walk away and not return. I'd become discouraged and feel defeated, and even begin to question my talent and my dreams. These are not feelings I would wish on anybody while writing. Was I losing faith in myself? Absolutely.
So how do we overcome our very self. How can we defeat this beast that's embedded so deeply within us. The answer is actually quite simple. Taking YOURSELF out of the equation. It's funny,...I panic whenever I have to play in front of people or when I need to record in the studio. My head spins, I forget what I'm doing, I forget why I'm there. My hands shake, my heart pounds rapidly, I can feel my blood running through my veins. I'm completely consumed with being overwhelmed and stressed. I was sharing all this with a friend of mine and she gave me such interesting advice that was passed down to her from her father. She said, "Sometimes, we just have to take our self out of the equation and let the music speak for itself. We're just there so that it can be heard." After hearing that I could feel the pressure melt away. I felt relief. Sure, it's a lot easier said then done. I still get nervous when preforming, but it's getting better. I'm learning to be patient with myself for the music's sake. It's helping me believe that I am capable of overcoming what I feel to be the impossible. The music itself is teaching me that I most certainly am pure potential. And whether it's with music or speaking in public or even changing something in your character, there is in fact potential. If you know what you're good at, that "thing" is just waiting to come out of you. All you have to do is take a step back let go of yourself and allow it to shine. Then it will show you the potential you hold in the palm of your hand.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Glen Keane

I'll never forget going to this inspiring art seminar that featured the renowned Disney animator Glen Keane. (You're probably wondering, "Why write a post about an animator on a music blog?" But this just isn't any post...this was a life changing experience for me. And all artists are welcome to grace my posts anytime.) So I walk into this gallery and it was truly incredible. There were all different kinds of art work on the walls, from all different animators. There were sketches of the first concept of Ariel from the Little Mermaid. Of Jasmine and Aladdin, there was this one haunting sketch of a grizzly bear from The Fox and the Hound and even the newer movie Tangled had a few sketches hanging. Then there was more abstract art from other incredible artists. It was all so breathtaking. Then you walk in this other room where the artists including Glen Keane, had placed their personal sketch books for everyone to look through. Wow. Not only was the art on the walls inspiring, but look through these personal sketch books and envision them sitting on their porch sketching images from their mind of passed memories, or sitting at a park and pulling inspiration from a family having a picnic, or even viewing the animals in these books and knowing they had that sketchbook in hand as they walked through the zoo. I actually got to hold a piece of each of their hearts in my hands. Worn and tarnished. But with such an incredible story to tell. If only you were willing to allow it to enter into you and your imagination. What pure, raw talent. So inspiring. Then I turn to see these artists talking with people, how humble and down to earth they all were. Sharing their journey, and wanting to be there and help others begin their adventure into a world not many have the privilege to visit . How inspiring. So as we made our way through the area with the sketch books, we found people sort of crowding around or sitting on chairs and leaning against the wall waiting for Glen ( I'm on a 1st name basis now) to start speaking. There were plenty of young artists in the crowd with their own sketch books in hand, waiting patiently for him to begin. He walked up and stood next to a drawing board and told us a bit about himself. That his Father had taught him to draw as a child and that he knew that's where his destiny lie, and how much he still enjoys it today. Then it opened up for a Q&A portion. Kids were asking for drawing tips, how to pursue their own dreams and even what schools he would recommend. Then he started drawing Ariel as he was speaking. No big deal, she took oh I donno, a whole 2 minutes or so to become completely alive on that paper, flawless. ( I even tried drawing her when I got home, but it ended up looking more like Ursula and Sebastians love child,..45 minutes later. He just made it look so easy, I couldn't resist.) As I witnessed this great talent I felt a question rise in my chest, and tried to suppress it. I don't ask questions, I'm much to shy and my questions are much to simple for someone of his stature and expertise. But that annoying question kept tormenting my thoughts and I just knew I'd regret walking out of there without knowing the answer. So I finally raised my hand almost hoping not to be called on and anticipating that disappointment that comes with hoping for something your not truly hoping for. When all of a sudden he pointed to me. With sweaty palms and a sweaty brain I asked, " Does a new project ever intimidate you? Do you ever feel you can't accomplish it?" And he looked at me and smiled and said, "Every project intimidates me. The funny thing about artists is, we're always worried that someone, someday will realize we're really just faking it. That we actually don't know what we're doing." His words brought such a comfort, such a new found confidence. Because I was able to relate to such an incredible talent. So although I may fake being a musician. I am a composer. :)