Monday, July 6, 2020

Carl Orff Meets Little Sally Walker

“Search for that which joins us, understand that which separates us.”  —Carl Orff
Yesterday was my 2727 blog post (cool number!). Not all of it is about my life in Orff Schulwerk, but a good deal of it is, either directly or indirectly. Add to that another 100 or so published articles and contributions to 12 books and 9 books of my own and I think it’s safe to say, “I have a lot to say about the subject!”
Carl Orff, by contrast, wrote one book about his ideas, made scattered comments to accompany the five books of composed music for children and gave several speeches. Most of his book was about the story of how things came to be, so I think it’s safe to say that his direct words about the approach probably would fill no more than 10 pages. 
And yet. Each phrase, each sentence, each idea is so articulate and opens up to the 2727 plus expansion I’ve given it. I am always stunning by how succinctly he captures life-changing ideas in a few well-chosen words. 
And because there are so few of them, I’ve mostly memorized, or at least, recognized the key famous phrases. So imagine my surprise when I logged on to the first online International Orff Forum Meeting (usually held in Salzburg) and saw a quote I had never heard. It was like a Mozart devotee discovering an unpublished score or someone digging up an extraordinary Coltrane recording that had lay hidden in someone’s basement.
And with those words above, Carl did it again! Perfectly described my recent Jazz Course, in which we spent time looking at the examples of systematic racism purposefully perpetrated by those who stood (and still stand) to benefit and developing some understanding of how these evil, evil people have succeeded in separating us and continue to do so with 4thof July speeches at Mt. Rushmore and the daily spin on Fox Fake News. And at the same time, to feel uplifted by the music that grew like a lotus from that swamp and did—and does—the work of re-joining what never should have been torn asunder. 
I had already been thinking about this theme. Music teachers who sing saccharine songs about world peace and plea, “Can’t we all just get along? Kumbayah, my Lord, Kumbaya…” are naïve at best and help keep it all going by refusing to look at the dynamics of how all the “isms” work. Conversely, those who work tirelessly to reveal everything that’s broken (don’t get me wrong—worthy work!) often leave us feeling blamed, shamed, despairing and there’s no redemption to lift us up, join us together and inspire us to both move forward toward justice and savor the gift of each precious moment of life. 
And so we need both. Each jazz course usually includes singing and dancing this song:
Little Sally Walker, sittin’ in a saucer, cryin’ and a’weepin’ over all she has done. 
Rise Sally Rise, wipe those cryin’ eyes. Turn to the East, Sally. Turn to the West, Sally, 
Turn to the very one that you love the best.
You can’t rise up until you’ve gone down into grief. But don’t stay down there. Rise up. And then point to someone you love (ie, whoever you point to as you circle with your eyes closed) and invite them to join. 
And so Carl Orff found the words that have informed my teaching, my life, my vision of what’s needed. Worth saying again and in whatever walk of life you travel, think about how you can use this to give a worthy shape and meaning to your work. 
“Search for that which joins us, understand that which separates us.” 

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