Saturday, March 3, 2018

Arranging to Get Tired

The poet David Whyte often suggests that one way to step further beyond the knowns of your life is to arrange to get tired of yourself. Maybe the poem you wrote in a fit of inspiration once felt electric and dazzled the audiences you read it to. But after a year or two of reading the same poem, perhaps it’s losing a little of its luster and you find yourself going through the motions? That’s the moment when the next new thing you need will jump out. But only if you notice that the glorious you from yesterday is now the so-so you of today will the exciting you of tomorrow.

So giving workshop after workshop with some of the same material, I still feel its power to evoke good music and brighten a room, but some part of myself  a bit bored by the same old tricks is hungry for a new dimension. And lo and behold, they have emerged. I’m talking about little things like having the improvisers in Boom Chick a Boom start playing after I sing a phrase as a jumping off point for both ideas and phrase length. Like the class ending a bit early (almost never happens!) so I had the group repeat the dance in super-slow motion. Ha ha! Used up the time and was interesting at the same time! Or the class was longer than I thought and I turned the task over to the kids to make up something new. New little details that will keep all these tried-and-true sequences alive and present in the moment.

Jazz vibraphonist Stefon Harris once said that if he’s not taking risks on the performance bandstand, then he’s just practicing in front of people. Because my work is based on a ping I hit out to the students and the pong they hit back, there’s a built in dynamic of keeping things perpetually new and fresh and present. So many exciting little ideas have emerged, some of which I will remember (also important) and include in my bag of tricks until they get tired and the next emerges. And that’s why five weeks of nearly non-stop teaching to all ages and in many different settings gets me up each morning eager and finds me ending the day refreshed. By arranging to get tired, you plant the seeds of your own awakening.

(Feb. 28)

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