Essays and projects
In Halls Where Love is Lost
Is it only in their embittered hearts do youth strive
Falling From grace
If We can hear from the Start of Acrimony
We Will Find
In Halls Where Love is Lost to Fantasy
When will our passion cease to let our minds think
I hear time is a healer but only the ignorant wait
chance can give
In the stillness of the night do birds sing bringing our morning from dark
let love guide
for there exists only before the start
Aesthetics and Opinions
a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
"that, in my opinion, is right"
a set of principles concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty.
the branch of philosophy which deals with questions of beauty and artistic taste
In this article I’m going to examine both notions of opinions and aesthetics. My reasons for doing so are focused on the development of musicians and how we reach what in our society is considered artistry.
I am certain that whilst this article will not make much sense, i do hope that it will raise some important questions in ones mind!
In cultures around the world music is perceived as an everyday part of life. Specifically to focus on African Traditions (e.g. Ewe people of Ghana) Activities of the day have music included as a daily rite. Specific pieces passed on through oral tradition will be played at different ceremonies is the lives of the individuals in the communities. Music for birth, death, marriage, or more simply as generally celebration, music has a function outside that of what we perhaps may call in the west cultural enrichment.
See below the link to a wikipedia on Dunbar's number.
The principles of Dunbar's number are based on what is in theory the maximum cognitive limit to a social group which we live in where we maintain strong social relations (the number being roughly 150). This number is reflected throughout the world in various instances including that of peoples like the Ewe. The problem is thus, with an aesthetic being a principle concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty - something that many strive for in their art - and yet in the west we for the greater part live in massive societies where seemingly disparate opinions, perceptions and expressions all live in mass, how is it that when we express music we can unite and communicate to wider audiences without sacrificing or compromising our own expression.
This problem is further complicated through structured pathways and hierarchy's within artistry institutions like conservatoires, media outlets which place certain individuals on higher platforms than others, schools of teaching, and disparate aesthetics.
Within small self sustained communities like that mirroring Dunbar's number, pathways, aesthetics, values, and opinions all seemingly tie into one. With music being a daily ritual of life shared by all, the role of opinions is reduced and a daily celebration of life and expression as a whole - is given way to. The boundary between performer and audience is not there.
On the flip side, within western society there is brilliance in the fact there is space for many different kinds of musical expressions - Jazz, Classical Music, Metal, Pop the list goes on. To clarify the issue i'm trying to address here, on a personal level i'm talking about the sense of the joy of sharing music with others (listening, dancing, performing) and that being something which I strive to share with others, and yet balancing with this the fact that there are people who won't enjoy my music, will have their own opinions and aesthetics.
So where does the music lie? My answer to this is simple but will take some explaining to put it into context.
Simply you, yourself free of fear, judgement, aesthetics and belief is where your personal expression is and your place in music. I don't intend this to come across as some sort of 'hippy' esoteric message but more as an affirmation of unity within disparity. Also to clarify, by considering oneself as free of aesthetics etc by this i mean awareness over principles. Take for example a musician who finds themselves in pain over what they perceive as their obligation as a musician (I must blend, I must play in time etc.) besides their real reasoning for doing what they do (that being [if it is the case] an actual enjoyment of being part of music. You can slave over your interpretation of Rachmaninoff's 3rd piano concerto and be frustrated at how it doesn't sound like Martha Argerichs or you can enjoy your playing, exploration, practice and delve into those aesthetics through immersion rather than a detached I must.
Consider how the formation of aesthetics and opinions occur. On some fundamental level there is a plain non judgement based observation of what is. Be this you attending a concert for the first time or picking up your instrument for the first time (I use the first time as an example as it is generally at a point when there are no conceptions or judgement's about what is to take place.) For some there is a natural affinity this is not to say they are 'prodigies' but a connection of some sort. For others a connection is found at a different time along the way. For some there is little interest throughout and yet their parents expect them to play regardless. Even then genuine connection is sometimes found. Regardless of any scenario prior to any intellectual consideration of right notes and wrong notes, good tuning and bad tuning, interesting phrasing and boring phrasing there is a connection to music. It is often with the the intake of opinions and aesthetics, notions of right and wrong in music that we mind too much about what we are doing instead of feeling. When we dive into play mode we are free to explore all those things we value in the music like awareness of tuning, phrasing, articulation. The key word here is awareness. It's fundamentally about being open to opinions, aesthetics, right and wrong but holding them in humour...allowing us to be aware and not to be slaves to the process of exploring music.
I do wish to point out there is nothing wrong with expressing opinions or what you believe to be good music or not! But perhaps another light to perceive opinions in is one where an opinion is not a combative stance but rather an attraction or moving away from whatever that is being opined about. Like a magnetic pull or push neither bad or good, right or wrong. It is your expression and that is your key to playing your music as you do which is what Chopin, Coltrane, Horowitz and many others did in their unique way.
It takes a certain relaxation for one to focus on themselves and not who they wish to be, but when this occurs you will find it would be impossible to play music any way other than the way you do so (as you already do) so you have nothing to feel bad about!
The joy and pain of living as a musician in the west is the amount of freedom we have to express ourselves and at the same time the amount of freedom everyone else has to aswell, whilst we may not live in societies akin to that expressed by Dunbar's number where aesthetic and opinion are part of a seemingly more coherent whole, part of our greatest challenge in trying to communicate and express as artists is as one of my teachers said, is to be able to balance opposites (without compromise [my addition]) were both opposite aesthetics and opposite opinions exist and yet we can relax breath and enjoy our music.
George Winstone 2015
Technique and Practise
In this article i plan to address the question of technique the acquisition of it and trying to establish a practice routine which feels good!
"One can function freely ans totally only if he is 'beyond system'. The man who is really serious, with the urge to find out what truth is, has no style at all. He lives only in what is." "Set Patterns, incapable of adaptibility, of pliability offer only a better cage. Truth is outside of all patterns." "Absence of stereotyped technique as substance means to be total and free. All lines and movements are the function." -- Bruce Lee, from Tao of Jeet Kune D
I have taken the above quote from the article link that was posted prior to it.
In a sense if you venture to read the article I have posted the information there will suffice in explaining the key 'non' principles of learning technique. But for the sake of a simplification I will cherry pick some golden phrases and explain them.
'The great pianists (e.g., Liszt, Chopin, Busoni, Rachmaninoff, Horowitz, Gould) all mostly learned their technical skill at an early age and presumably forgot how it was acquired, if they ever really knew to begin with. Children (5-14 years old) are rarely interested in how they accomplish tasks or learn; that it can be done is delight enough.'
'There is some second hand information in what the students of Liszt and Chopin said he said, but substantive detail is lacking. The disciples rarely understand the master'
Both these extracts sum up in many ways the futility of teaching anything! Consider what your aesthetics, your goals, your feelings on music are. Often i find in musicians who are studying at a conservatoire one key hindrance in their 'development as a musician' which is their relationship between themselves and their teacher(s). Often i find their relationship is very much defined by a student who places their learning process (and therefore alongside it the greater part of their potential to absorb, immerse, engage on a level other than appreciation) solely in the hands of their teacher.
This leads to musical dependency. Just as mentioned in previous articles about the pitfalls in socio-aesthetics in hindering the individual to create and explore. Schools of teaching is second hand information which has proved succesful and is passed on, but ultimately it is a school and you are a student. What i'm trying to express here is that true leaning only comes from your own enjoyment, will, passion love for what you are doing. If you aren't enjoying practicing scales slowly why are you doing it? Is short term progress and high maintenance something you will for?
I use scales and slow practice as an example as they are often touted as being the hallmark of any practice routine. However though my own personal experience it wasn't until about 5 months ago that both became part of my practice, despite having played for 7 years and going into my third year at college.
I've included above a link to Eldar Djangirov's version of the Jazz Standard I should Care. The first moment of this track for me is why i started to practise scales and play them slowly - out of sheer awe and amazement at the beauty of how one scale can actually sound. This was my motivator, there was no struggle to practise scales or to practise them slowly after this as I was fully inspired to do so.
So the question arises 'but you probably improved loads after doing slow practice scales etc?'
Or to rephrase surely my development as a musician is due to the fact eventually I actually knuckled down and did some hard graft. Whilst this is a statement that is applicable to all, i write these words with the message that my hard graft and therefore my enjoyment meant nothing without my enjoyment and passion in the first place (and last) and was to have never taken place without thus, so to rephrase once more 'my development as a musician is due to the fact i enjoyed playing music'....
To clarify i'm not telling you to get rid of your teachers, if you enjoy to work with your teacher keep doing so but also bear in mind your enjoyment is also your teacher - both are one. There was no paganini before paganini or after and there was no you before you or after so give yourself the freedom to take your own path of learning!
George Winstone 2015