Thursday, March 29, 2012

Origins and Ends: Keeping Focused

In Zen one is invited to meditate on one’s “original face”.  In the New Testament, St. Paul even mocks those who look into the Word of God (which "in the beginning" was God) , see what they really look like, and then wander off, forgetting that experience and get lost in everyday existence.  Whether one looks to the East or the West, this is an important exercise.  The same is true in music.

And whether Eastern or Western in outlook, keeping one’s goals and the end of any particular process or exercise in mind is equally important.  We do this all the time with reflections on our own Constitution and Bill of Rights, and with the political process of assessing what our vision for our country is.

My previous post involved a recollection of those first primal experiences that grabbed me by the hair and dragged me into the lair of the Muse.  Of course, one is much more likely to have those kinds of thunderbolt experiences in childhood and adolescence.   That doesn't make them any less valid  (see my previous post about the inspiration for "The Glance").  This is the musical equivalent of First Love.  I have likened it to having the top of one’s head cut open, and then rising up to a totally new and unsuspected view of a mysterious landscape, one that speaks directly of feelings and understandings at the root of reality that one never even knew one had.   I think it’s important for all artists and musicians to keep in mind, to cherish and meditate on these powerful seminal events, all along the way.  It is so easy to not follow a path requiring great effort, discipline, and sacrifice.  And then it is almost as easy to get immersed in the pursuit of craft, of technical excellence for their own sake.  My first mentor, Robbie Basho, always used to say, "Vision first; technique later."  And my own experience has been that often, vision creates technique, by its demands that one stretch to express the new thing. 

And having remembered that original First Love inspiration, one can then cherish the blind hope that one's own fumblings in the dark, by staying true to the night vision, may lead to further connections with this deeper reality, so that one might be a channel for others to experience that rising.....

Never forget your original face.  If the thunderbolt experience of music is a falling in love, we must never forget the Beloved.  In pursuit of that hope, of that crazy dream, one has to learn to listen to one’s own heart and the most subtle movements of sound and silence:  we cannot arrive at the goal by re-creating someone else’s path.   My constant guide in the studio is a saying that my first classical guitar instructor from the 1970's (Fred Gibson) used to repeat:

              "You can play as good as you can hear!"

Attention!   Attention!   Or as the old Christian hymn sings, “Wake!  Awake!”

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