I haven’t written about this before, because it has seemed too personal. But being a musician…an artist…a human being……is PERSONAL.
I have been striving for MANY years to integrate all aspects of my self, and that includes my work.
Many people believe in separating “work” from “play”. People talk about leaving the work at the office…. leaving business out of our personal lives.
That works if you want it to be that way, but that means you’re creating a division in your life. That may be good and necessary at times.
But artists – TRUE artists – can’t really do that…not REALLY…
So I believe.
Because EVERYTHING that you are as an artist goes into your art, whether you like it or not. Whether you try to hide it or expose it. Your sound reflects who you are, and there’s just no way around it. Music exposes the heart.
My work is my art. My work is play. My work is what makes me happy, and what makes me happy enlivens and beautifies my work.
Sometimes, life is not easy. Sometimes it’s dreadfully hard. People die. People get sick. People suffer. Relationships end, and people are lonely. Many people have barely enough of what is necessary to survive. Wars and terror happen. Natural disasters strike.
An artist knows that all of our suffering… that “stuff of life”… needs to go into our art, just like the “good stuff”. It really IS all or nothing. And that kind of all-consuming devotion to our art is what saves us and brings hope to the world, because it expresses the truth. It’s REAL.
Credit: Hosam Katan/Reuters
Nathan Milstein, one of the greatest violinists of all time, and with whom I was fortunate enough to spend five summers studying as a teenager, had his violin around him all the time – just close enough to pick it up and figure out the next thing he was working on. He was always experimenting. Always trying out new fingerings, new bowings, new ways to shape a phrase.
I am a violinist. A musician. A mind-body expert who practices the Alexander Technique, which I consider an essential ingredient to creating my art. Practicing it is an art in itself. I call it practicing my “Primary Instrument”, which is myself – the self that I bring to everything I do. It’s with me all the time.
So my life is my art, and I participate in its creation in a sense, because I am aware that I am making choices that shape my life in every moment. Each and every choice is important, because it leads me to the next moment – the next note in my life.
I’ve spoken recently about the extreme stress in my life these days. Without prayer/meditation (which for me is an act of opening myself up to something bigger and more powerful than myself for support and guidance), without the Alexander Technique, and without the presence of those close to me who love me daily, I would be sunk.
I’m going through a long and difficult divorce after 25 years of marriage (I was very young), and my younger son is ill again, with no help whatsoever forthcoming from doctors (please don’t ask, but your moral support is welcome), and I am facing life on my own for the first time in my life, as an artist who doesn’t make much money and is pretty clueless about supporting myself in the world.
That’s the truth. Time to grow up. LOTS to learn – and quick. With patience, and without rushing. Very much like a college student who hasn’t graduated yet, I’m looking at what my options are, and wondering what next month will bring. Except that I’ve got a million responsibilities, including two teenagers who need me.
It takes all the courage in the world to have a clear vision for the future, and to keep sticking to principle, keeping myself healthy and sane despite the stress. In fact, when I manage it well, I actually THRIVE under the pressure – even though I “lose it” sometimes, just like anybody else.
I can honestly say that the difficulty I’m experiencing these days is(and I chuckle at the irony as I write this!) the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
IT SURE DOESN’T FEEL THAT WAY BECAUSE IT FEELS PRETTY DARNED AWFUL RIGHT NOW!!! (The scared and hurt part inside of me screams…..!)
But I know that it is. I know that in a few years I’ll look back and say, WOW, it’s amazing how a period of such difficulty did me so much good, in every way!
I just KNOW it.
And that faith keeps me going, and allows me to laugh and smile, feeling the hope that hides behind the clouds.
The Alexander Technique is an essential resource for me. It reminds me to STOP, OBSERVE, AND ACT:
– STOP everything I’m doing that’s unhelpful, especially when I’m overwhelmed and just can’t handle things anymore, because it’s all too much to bear
– OBSERVE that I am very small and powerless (which confers a necessary humility which opens me up to the infinite All-Possible, through prayer or meditation)
– ACT on what I know, by sticking to Principle. My personal principles, and universal principles, including those of the Alexander Technique. To do what is possible RIGHT NOW, and only RIGHT NOW.
I remember my Freedom Directions: “I am free”, “I don’t have to do anything,” and “I have time and space”, and I pay attention to Ease and my head-neck relationship. And things get easier… INSTANTLY.
Tears are the stuff of good music. So is laughter. I am grateful for both, throughout this difficult time. Grateful for love and light, and for the pressures that only serve to make me stronger, with Grace.
So you see… everything I experience goes into my art. I am not interested in separation. I am interested in unity. Love, not fear.
Mind + Body + Soul + Spirit + Others + World + Play + Work = ME
The Self is all I’ve got, and it’s everything. This is what gets shared through my music, and this is what gets shared through what I write here. That’s why I don’t take much time to edit what I write, by the way. You get it all – including typos when I miss them. 😉
Life isn’t always easy, and that’s OK. It’s what we choose to do with it when we remember that matters. And by writing and making music, I make it easier for myself, and I bring myself a smile of light from the darkness. Hopefully, also for you, my readers and listeners, and fellow human beings.
p.s. Your comments here are always very welcome. I love the personal connection. 🙂
p.p.s. Written later on the same day…
I made a commitment at the beginning of the week to start practicing every day again. It was 11:30pm when I finally took out my violin, and decided to play through the opening of Mozart’s 5th concerto, a piece I haven’t played in many, many years (maybe 26?). My younger son video recorded my run-through for me. Here’s the result, memory slips and all… after a very exhausting day. Music is magical… The world needs it sorely. At least I do! 🙂
Here’s the link: