Saturday, July 25, 2015

Time and Boredom


The soul-stirring music I’ve shared with 20 beautiful music teachers this past week mostly came from people not working 9 to 5 jobs. Whether by choice or cultural exclusion, these folks had a lot of time on their hands. Time to do something as useless as playing music. And with enough time and sufficient boredom, they began to change whatever music someone else composed, to find their own way to express it. Or to compose something new.

Try it sometime. Play a song over and over again until the nervous system finds it intolerable to keep playing the same old thing. Or else stumbles into a new idea because you made a mistake. And that’s when things get interesting. You follow the fingers or the ear’s or mind’s inclination to explore a new detail and if you don’t have to rush off to an appointment, you keep following it until it crystalizes into something new and worthy of notice. So you remember it or record it or write it down and voila! the world is refreshed by yet another chronicle of human emotion, imagination and intelligence.

But amongst those key ingredients is time— time to follow those impulses and develop them, time to be bored and see what comes up, time to just try stuff out. And if you have a group of more than one with time, then it starts to take off. And if you have a whole culture that values these kinds of activities, well, then you’re really in luck.

Go thou to your local Youtube and type in “Amazing jam session—three random guys sing together” to see how this works. Note the people who just pass by on their way to their important work or off to the next store. Meanwhile, this guy spends his day sitting on the sidewalk playing his guitar and then another stops and listens and begins to add something from the wellspring of his own imagination and yet later, a third joins the party with his point of view. Art forged by time and boredom unfolding in front of your eyes and ears.

Does anybody in Music Education ever suggest these two key ingredients for success in your students? Leisure time and boredom?

Well, I just did.

1 comment:

  1. Doug,
    Thanks for pointing out the result of leisure time and boredom. (I wouldn't call my experience boredom, but rather, inspiration and freedom). I am a nonstop worker, and your post reminds me that I can place value on leisure time, for the sake of cultivating my creativity as a musician, teacher, and thinker. Thanks for creating the opportunity for us!!!

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