Thursday, December 25, 2008
How dedicated are you? Have you dedicated your life to music? If you wish to make any kind of music that is improvisational and not written down as your strength, then you must dedicate your life to it. You have to marry this music. It must come first above and beyond everything else. With this kind of attitude and perseverance, your success will be assured. There will be mountains to climb, but with your aspirations to succeed, those mountains are surmountable. If you take care of music, then music will take care of you.
If you make your decision to dedicate yourself then move forward. Then your life will be one of fulfillment, contentment and happiness.
SPIRITUALIZING THE SENSES - MENTAL AND PHYSICAL PLAY
The roots of improvisational music stem from African tribal music frequently used in the performance of religious rituals. This music was brought to America by slaves and eventually evolved into Negro Spirituals, and black gospel music. These styles of music are folk music. That is common people created this music and it was passed on to others in the community and to the coming generations by word of mouth rather than by media. Blues, jazz, Soul, Rhythm and Blues, Hip Hop, Rap and other Popular American Commercial music including Rock and Rock and Roll have borrowed from this original music. Essentially all good music has a spiritual quality. This inherent quality is capable of uplifting the soul of man. The listeners as well as the performer are both blessed spiritually. We, who have worked to cultivate the gift of music, love our instrument and dedicate our life to the cultivation of the music and our instrument. The true musician puts musical integrity, love and dedication to his art above fame and fortune. All the love he puts into his music is synonymous with the spirituality that will come out of it.
To perform this kind of music requires intellect. To listen and really hear this kind of music requires intellect as well. You are challenged to concentrate on it to get the most out of it. You are required to let the music into you without filters. This allows the music to get into your spirit. You absorb the music by letting the music consume you. This kind of music stimulates the minds and uplifts the souls of those who perform it as well as those who listen to and immerse themselves in it. As the mind is stimulated and the soul uplifted, the bodies of the producers and listeners reflect this uplifting in improved mental health and well being.
There is a possibility that you have experienced times when you were totally absorbed and moved as you listened to a great performance of music and realized that your physical aches and pains were gone, but returned after the music had ceased. This is an example of the uplifting, stimulating, mind altering, blessing and healing aspects of good music.
Good music is dedicated to truth, purity and principles that line up in harmony with nature and foster a holistic approach to life and can tap into the universal consciousness of humanity.
Some music is for moving your body and some is for listening. Patting your feet, clapping your hands and moving your body are entertainment and healthy exercise for the body. Some music brings joy and happiness to the soul and mind which in turn reflects in the body.
In order to maintain consistent great performance of music, you are required to put all of your spiritual, mental and physical energies into the music. Your love, intellect and strength have to be projected whole heartedly “in and through” the music. You are challenged to give your all! You are required to hold nothing back. Do not accept halfway is good enough in your own musicianship or those musicians which whom you are making music. Try for an A+ every time. B+ effort is not acceptable, so you have to develop, spiritual, mental and physical discipline. Stay in shape and never allow your intellect or physical energy to become dull or lazy. Never allow yourself to become complacent about your art. Always strive to do better. Keep seeking to experience more. Search more and give more. This is SERIOUS PLAY.
If you are a composer of music then you have a great deal of freedom in how to manipulate the elements to create your music, as performers or interpreters we have less freedom, but still have enough freedom to ruin or improve upon the music the composer has written. Egotistical music has no thought of gratification for the listener. It sounds vibrations and frequencies only for self-gratification. It says “see how smart I am and what I can do”.
Strive to develop unselfishness in your music. You have been given a talent to share with the world, that all may be gratified by it. You may have a great talent, but your ego will not permit you to consider the gratification of your listener. Your career may suffer. Your destiny may be unfulfilled. The unfulfilled creator of music suffers a terrible inner pain. Frankly in my opinion Contemporary, Abstract or Modern Serious Music of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries lost its audience because of ego.
Make your music with a conscious desire to gratify the listener, and not as a sell-out or commercial artist seeks out slick music business people to be exploited so as to make the most money he can by dumbing down his music to as simple as he can get it. There are countless Rock Stars who have done this over the years as they use the media to brain wash the unsuspecting public with low quality music. People like this are not musicians they are exploiters of most people’s lack of knowledge about what they are hearing in music.
The conscious desire to gratify the listener will become subconscious and part of your natural way. Think of yourself as a channel through which God strives to uplift mankind. What a privileged and honored position you have been placed in. Become aware of the good that you can do through your talents. Once you become aware of and accept this responsibility, there won’t be any room left for your ego to get in the way of your music. With the right attitude your music will expand to gratify and uplift the listener and lead you to the total fulfillment of your destiny. Strive to make music in such a manner that others may be gratified and that you may be fulfilled.
THE LIE OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
Some would have you believe that drugs and alcohol help a musician to perform better. All of the great musicians that I have had the honor of working with who were into drugs and alcohol performed greatly not because of the drugs and alcohol, but in my opinion, in spite of the handicap of having used them. Drugs and alcohol are no substitute for talent, hard work and practice.
True there were many of the old-timers in years past that were like that, but times have changed. Those musicians gave us clear examples of what not to do, as we have seen how drugs and alcohol have distorted the minds, wrecked the bodies and taken the lives of some of the musical icons over the years.
Drugs and alcohol is a crutch that men use to cope with certain situations in life, or they are used for temporary pleasure which ends in displeasure, discomfort, bad health or death over time. Learn to cope with all situations by having faith in God and in yourself and you won’t need drugs or alcohol.
Music requires dedication, but dedication is of little use without discipline. Unless you discipline yourself and your study habits, your progress will be slow.
You must discipline yourself to practice some things that may seem trivial and boring to you sometimes. You need to concentrate on the effect you are trying to achieve regardless to whatever it is. If you let your mind wander and do not focus then you are wasting your time. You might as well stop practicing and go do something else, because that kind of practice is not going to help you achieve your goals in music and may in fact teach you some bad habits that you will need to unlearn because you have now set yourself further back than if you had never even tried to practice.
Study with a disciplined schedule, so that your energies are focused and you will find that you will make progress. You will be delighted in your progress and you will realize just how important discipline is and start to apply it to other aspects of your life.
GROUP UNITY AND DISCIPLINE
“Do not shuck and jive” when you are singing or playing your instrument. Music is serious business and demands your intensity, concentration, energy and feeling coupled with listening to what is going on around you. Try to blend your sound in with the rest of the sounds you are hearing. As that blending becomes a thing of great beauty. There is no time for ego trips here. Teamwork is the name of the game. If you have section leaders work on your breathing so that your section sounds like just one blended sound. Rehearse group phrasing until it is uniform. The people with whom you perform either add to or detract from your level of performance to some degree. That is why you should always strive to associate yourself with the best musicians; however this is not always possible. Strive to sound your best and give 100% of yourself and your talents always, no matter what the caliber of the musicians with whom you find yourself performing.
Your conduct should uplift the image of the group. I think I have a good sense of humor and like a good laugh and a joke just like many other people. However rehearsal and performance are not the places to try out your comedic skills. You and all the fellow members of your group should regard the group as your musical family and strive for teamwork and togetherness.
Business is business. Tardiness on your part can wind up costing responsible people serious cash money. Chronically tardy musicians end up being fired by whomever is paying them, or if they are the leader they go out of business. If it is a non-profit group they loose their audience.
TAKING DIRECTION FROM YOUR LEADER
As a member of a musical group, always remember that your purpose is to perform the music you are to perform to the very best of your ability, and in the manner in which the leader directs. If you are a person who cannot take direction, you have no business being a musician.
GROUP EFFORT AND SELF-DETERMINATION
When performing in a group, you must unify and harmonize with the group and with all of their concentrated efforts in order to project that group in its most favorable light. The audience is watching and listening to the soloist as well as the performance of the group. You as a soloist must rise above every limitation and press on to build your own reputation as a soloist, regardless of any limitation. You cannot blame others for your lack of projection. A great soloist accepts no limitations and blames no one for his lack of projection, because he is determined to overcome all obstacles and rise above the situation to project himself and build his reputation. The acceptance and utilization of these principles helps to change the amateur into the pro and the mediocre into the great.
Don’t bring your personal problems to rehearsal or a performance. Leave them at home. When you come to work, be prepared to take care of the business at hand, which is to produce great music.
Become the great soloist you want to be. No other person can detract from your greatness if you are determined to rise above each situation and project yourself as a soloist who demands attention. Change your attitude. Don’t be a “musical leech,” waiting to be inspired by other great performers in the group. You must inspire yourself, project yourself and seek to make yourself one who will inspire others. Quit blaming others for your lack. Get with it and project yourself.
Beyond the beginner, apprentice and master of a craft lies the artist professional. A true artist always maintains a level of consistency. In my opinion consistency comes from constant determination to keep your art at the highest level possible at all times. There will be those rare moments when your art rise above the highest level of consistency that you have set for yourself. In those moments you will experience a sense of great self-satisfaction. However don’t allow yourself to linger too long with this self-satisfaction lest you get an inflated head and think that this greatness is coming from you rather than through you.
Then we have the contrary rare moments when your art sinks far below any level of consistency that you have set for yourself. In those moments you will experience great despair. Don’t allow yourself a pity-party. Sing to yourself, read inspirational literature, search for internal and external sources and condition your mind to rise up and find your way back to the channel through which love, beauty and solace may be beamed forth to humanity.