Sunday, April 17, 2005

Music as Meditation

Continuing on the theme of "Music as Spiritual Discipline":

Music is also meditative. Playing music demands your total focus, and so it has the cleansing effect of forcing your attention away from everything else you might be worrying about, which in turn helps prevent you from falling into ruts of unproductive worry. When, after playing music, you do then turn your attention back to your matters of concern, you can do so afresh now that you have taken a genuine break. You feel better after a good music session, and so that brings you into a better (stronger, clearer) attitude, and puts things into perspective.

It is, of course, possible to fall into bad habits of inattentive playing, especially after you have reached a basic level of competence in your playing. You can go through your scales and other rote exercises mechanically, with part of your mind turned on other things. But this is not good. It's not good for your musical development, and it prevents the refreshing power of good meditation practice (mentioned in the previous paragraph) to take effect. Good musicians keep their attention focused on the music. They are always listening carefully and fully engaged in all dimensions of feeling the music, in a way that integrates both the physical feeling (their breathing, the feel of the instrument in their hands, feeling their fingers moving, etc.) and the emotional feeling (perceiving the emotional flow of the music).

While the repetition of certain practice exercises can seem to become boring once they become pretty easy, it is really at this stage that you are ready to really begin to develop musically. Now that you have mastered the basics of technique, you are ready to move to the new levels of awareness and experience necessary to truly communicate what the music is really all about. Even in playing scales, there are new ways to develop your powers of perception and your ability to better control the nuances of your playing.

Many meditation practices are repetitious for exactly this kind of reason. Repetition enables us, over time, to appreciate how much more there is in something than we may first have noticed. Repetition trains us to perceive in a deeper and more complex way. Repetition strengthens us to be able to perceive more and more and tolerate that increased complexity (that is, not be tempted to shut down some of our awareness because it is too overwhelming).

Next time, I'll continue this discussion by talking about energy.

No comments:

Post a Comment