Music-self integration

(This text is partly built on a reflection over Free Play and In I Musiken, written autumn 2011 for the FFK-course @ KMH with Sven Åberg.)

Experience is a key in creating a strong music-self integration. I have no knowledge of the psychological or cognitive factors involved in this, and the term is completely my own (though I would be surprised if no-one else has had similar thoughts) and I don’t make any claims that this has got any scientific value. It is, however, slightly based on reflections done after reading Free Play and Into the Music (In i musiken).

Autum 2011, early in the NoFo education I wrote this text for a course we did in Stockholm with Sven Åberg. (Translated spring 2013.)

I’ll try to do a small summary of my own development over the last years, with special regards to music and consciousness.

When I decided to go down the path of professional music making, it was mainly because I experienced that the Music gave me experiences I couldn’t get anywhere else. It was not about a feeling that ‘music is everything to me’ or ‘I have to express myself through music in order to survive’, but at the times when I was making music, especially with others, I could get a feeling of content, peace and satisfaction. Sometimes I would enter the world of music completetly, forgetting everything about time and space, sometimes it was just a comfortable feeling of connection and a strong sense of context.

Since I started studying music, these moments have actually become less frequent. There is more focus on the craft, on developing technique, style, expression etc. And the moments when music really captures me has become less common, and they never occur within the frames of education, but always outside it.

I have been interested in, and spent a lot of energy on acquiring various musics, styles etc, and much less energy on (consciously) developing my general relationship with music and my instrument.

But I have also started thinking a lot more. When I now have re-read the both books (Free Play and Into the Music) I realise that some of the thoughts they contain is stuff that has been present in a latent mode, below the surface, since I read them last time (which was before I started studying at Music Academy). They contain many thoughts that has helped me along the way, above all with getting a grip on the education as a whole (since I often experience music education to be very fragmented).

I experience that there is a long way to go before I reach ‘nirvana’ through music, but over the last years, I have been thinking more and more about how my musicianship affects other sides of life, and how it would be possible to use some sort of ‘spiritual’ development, to also become a better musician.

I’m on my way back to a state of being where music actually gives me transcending experiences, even if it’s a slow process.

At the same time: Does one have to have experienced nirvana to be a full-fledged musician? Is it first then, that music becomes divine? And does the music has to be divine? Always? Everywhere? Could it not just get to be some simple dance music sometimes? Or something which is in the background when you’re eating dinner or washing up?

Now, about a year and a half later, a lot of these thoughts are still relevent, but I have also moved on a bit. To begin with, it is no longer true that I haven’t had any transcending or capturing moments of music making within the frames of education. I would still say that there is something in the imperative of the education, that doesn’t help towards creating a good environment for music making. Something which, most of the time, limits the engagement of most people, limits how much of themselves they actually put into the music making. But during NoFo I have experienced capturing and transcending moments of music making, also within the frame of education.

But more importantly, I have been thinking more about, and also experiencing some aspects of, the connections between the music and the self, the ‘inner’ aspects of music making. And I am even more convinced now, that there is something to gain from developing the ‘spiritual’ side of myself, to develop as a musician. A strong, open and relaxed mind, confident and in contact with itself and in contact with the body, is a good start for making music. For me, there is actually a strong link here to the power of experience, which for me is an idea that in the end is about how body and mind gets connected. And since music making, in the end, is a physical activity (since it involves, and depends on, movement of the body, at least when playing the violin) that aims to express somtehing that begins in the mind, I feel it really helps to have a good mind/body connection.

Music/self, mind/body, feelings/movements. It seems to me like a perspective that is based on the whole, rather than splitting things up into pieces, is beneficial.

The two books, Free Play and Into the Music, has been very influential for me. I’ve read them at least twice each, at different stages in my musical development and education, and I always read them differently, relate to them in different ways. Apart from inspiring me to a lot of the thoughts presented in this text, they have also been very influential in leading me to the belief that ideas, however abstract and far fetched (in relation to music), have direct impact on how you make music, and what kind of music you are making.

Walking 50 meters in one Hour

(Originally posted here, 29 sept 2012)

As Benjamin wrote we’ve been to Kallio-Kuninkala for a week of improvisation together with a group of other students from the Sibelius Academy.

The surface level of what’s happened is fairly easy to describe. Lots of improvisation and contact exercises, exploring ourselves, the others, the group. A process of opening up, accepting, meeting, searching. Lots of strange stuff going on. People screaming or standing silent, crawling on the floor or on each other, running around, standing still, moving s l o w l y, making strange sounds with their instruments and voices, going on and off stage and in and out of rooms, creating beautiful music and soundscapes and horrible music and sounds. Talking about what we do, feel, think, find, experience. Sauna and party and jam sessions.

But this doesn’t really say anything about what actually happened. I’ve experienced a week of incredibly strong meetings with strong people. Opened up to others and let others in, in ways that rarely (never?) happen in everyday life. Learned about myself, life, music, artistry, focus. We have been crying, laughing, smiling, seeing. The strong feeling of being part of a group that supports you, challenges you, meets you, includes you, love you.

I tried to describe it to a friend:
love, improvisation, meetings, physical and mental exhaustion, energy, openness, happiness, time, warmth, eyes, humans, hands, bodies, moment, sounds, music, exploring, extreme, movement, contact, silence, focus, words, dissolving of time, power, non-words, sauna, food, walk, group, human, tears. 
But it probably doesn’t matter how many words I list. There will always be more to add.

Maybe another way to describe is a picture from the very end of the week: we finished with going round, looking everybody in the eyes and silently, without words, telling them what we had experienced with them, learned from them and learned about them. I ended up sitting on the floor, shaking with tears.

Another experience
The frame: a one hour collective improvised performance using the whole building.
Personal task, set by myself: to try to walk as slowly as possible, but still be constantly moving.
Result: ca 50 meters (including a set of stairs).
The tiredness after it is indescribable and had a very strong effect on my body for hours afterwards, somehow I can still feel it, two days later. I recommend everyone to try.

We’re back in Helsinki now.
Trying to digest what we’ve been through. Trying to figure out how to be in the everyday life again.
Grateful for the week that’s been.

/Sven

Playing

Perhaps the most obvious method for artistic development is practicing. There is a lot that could be said about different methods for practicing, how to get the most out of the hours you spend in the practice room, how the practice sessions should be laid out etc. but this is not the main topic of this essay so I will just conclude that I have been practicing a lot, both with very focused attention to technical development, and with the aim to learn a certain stylistic features and tunes.

Moreover, I have been playing a lot, both in the sense of playing my instrument (swe: spela fiol) and in the sense of playing games (swe: leka). Sometimes I have felt bad about it, that it was just a waste of time in the practice room to let the bow, fiddle and fingers play around without any certain goal, but in the end I think it has been a very good thing to do. It has lead me to find new sounds and to get a more relaxed physical relationship with my instrument. It has helped me move away from the all-too-comfortable melodic/harmonic areas I used to be playing around with(in) and served as an opening to (for me) new fields of melodic and harmonic structures and movements.

It also lead me to finding completely new sounds on the fiddle and trying to make use of the ‘ugly’ as a contrast in my music. An example of this is my solo from the term concert in Helsinki:

It is worth to notice that this idea and method of play and playing emerged more or less simultaneously with my change of perspective, towards folk music as Art.