..... poetry .....



"The Great Listening" Suite

II. Voting And Doing

It sounds so simple, like drinking cool clear water,
    but it is so hard.
Time inevitably forces any musician to confront
    the twin towers of 
    Voting and Doing.

The first is like your skin,
    rarely appreciated unless annoyed, or complimented.
Why, you're doing it right now,
    Voting, that is.
It's like asking the fog not to roll into the bay,
    or a moth not to fly toward the flame.
Our history, preferences, and familiarity (and lack of it)
    loves turning music into an instant
    Vote of No Confidence.

And the brain suavely retorts, like a well-endowed
     animated character
    "I'm sorry, I'm just wired this way."
Truth be told, we're built for both—
    to crave the Familiar and embrace the Novel.
How much embracing goes on is really
    up to us.
(Just remember that when you pass the party trays
    and the veggies look at you like lost puppies.)

The second tower is really The Big Lie
    hiding in a Truth.
Pursuing mastery can feel more like trying to line-up spawning     trout than building a house.
Would you, in your right mind, sign on for mastery if you knew
    how much work was actually involved?

Fortunately, when the Cupid's Art Arrow strikes we are left     dumbstruck
    by the singularity of the Moment.
From that Inspiration supersedes Gravity
    and a healthy dose of denial sets in.
Now the impossible seems not only possible,
    but easy.
"Oh, that looked so simple for my brother"
"I'd love to perform at my wedding and have it be a
    complete surprise for everyone!"

Thus begins the Doing >
    the practicing, the lessons, the changing of teachers,
    the practicing, the birthing of ensembles, the performances,
    the practicing, the new (and better) instruments,
    the unlikely collaborations.

So much to Do.
It takes years, if not decades, to make one's practicing
    consistently productive—
    even under the best of circumstances.
So easy to fall off one's own
    fragile trail.

And yet, it's so easy to miss the point.
    What if you became wealthier the less busy you became?
    What if your car actually ran better the less gas it was holding?
    What if you lost weight the more you slept?
(All true statements, though counter-intuitive!)

"Practice makes perf---,
     Practice makes perf---,
        Practice makes perf---,"

Musicians are less frequently told about the power of listening.
Not only by those "above us",
    but also by peers and our juniors in subtler guises.

Whole courses exist in how to listen to music.
Songs passionately exhort listening's romantic value.
Medical advice pleads with us that listening to the body
    is a matter of
    Life and Death.

Considering that each musical act is a ballet of
    precise phys(iolog)ical and emotional coordination,
It's no wonder that listening barely catches its flight,
    if at all.

Is it possible to Listen with the same intensity as
    Doing ?
How do we trust a pet who has
    bitten us in the past?
How do we release the need to control so that
    trust releases our listening?

Acid - Alkaline
Sun - Moon
Male - Female

This is the game of Mastery, my friend.

October 2008




©2010, Michael Smolens