How to survive as a musician in Contactless times
How to survive as a musician in Contactless times
I am missing touch. I am not a fan of the French ‘bise’, especially at the school gates first thing in the morning when I’ve forgotten to brush my teeth, or when I am trying to warm up in the orchestra at 09.45 and have to keep bobbing up and down out of my slow E flat major scale to kiss stubbly people because, if I don’t, they will take offence. However, hugging is another story. I have gotten to the point, after 18 years now in France, where I have a few friends close enough to really hug, and ouch, how I miss that.
And….I am missing touching my students – feeling the weight of an arm, the breath move in a ribcage, laying a gentle hand on a shoulder with the message ‘It’s OK, you can be quiet now…’
And….I am missing the energetic touch of sound, of vibrations created and shared in a space, resonating in and between bodies and hearts. Souls even. A somatic experience of sound is challenging through the distorted window of Zoom and yet, as is often the case when things (like hugs or good sound quality) are scarce, we come to understand how much we value them. And we look for new ways to experience them.
So, I am trying to become fully ‘in touch’ with myself because, for now, myself is all I’ve got. If we are to communicate and play from the inside-out, that’s a good place to begin, and an oft-forgotten one, so this is what I am paying attention to:
How do my feet feel on the floor? How do I feel the vibration of the string travel through the bow, into my fingers, wrists, and up through my arms? Is there a blockage? What quality does the blockage have? How does the connection feel between my knee and the ribs of the cello? Is it soft? Brittle? Welcoming? Fearful? Can I get interested in the feeling of the string under my second finger or the thumb on the neck of the cello as I shift?
Again, the ‘restrictions’ of Zoom are proving quite a gift. I am checking in less with what I think could help the person and more with what my counter-transference is. What is happening to my breathing in response to what I see and hear? Am I holding somewhere? Shoulders? Pelvis? Thighs? Belly? What images float in my awareness as my student plays, what emotions?
And then there are the words. Since, as teachers, we are now more reliant than ever on words to convey what we mean, can we choose our words more carefully and consciously? As we proceed with online education, what quality of listening and silence can we engage in that ensures that we are not just a collection of heads and headphones exchanging ideas, judgements and opinions in virtual space, but compassionate beings capable of deep listening, physical sensation, and emotional response here and now?
As well as things closing down, we have to (and most of the time I do) trust that a world is opening up, and in that world there is a community, because we are human beings and, in times of crisis, we need community above all. I am participating in classes with my beloved yoga teacher, Peter Blackaby, for the first time in twenty years because they have finally gone online, and at least one of them (hopefully the one with me in it!) will stay there. I am teaching energetic and inspiring people in Australia and California and we are having fun! The challenges are there, but we are resilient. We all passionately believe that music must keep living on in our hearts, and we are finding creative ways through, learning new skills.
In this spirit, I am excited to share some news before it goes public, about a new venture set up by five extraordinary women – InsideOut Musician. You can see a little pre-blurb about it below. We are planning a launch party soon to which everyone on the IOM mailing list will be invited, and I would love you to be there! I will be merging my Breathing Bow mailing list with IOM’s so if you are interested, make sure you are signed up!
Meanwhile, the (formidable) Exhale, goes from strength to strength. I will be doing three more ‘shorts’ on ‘Bow Pranayama’ on the 6th,7th and 8th of October, and joining the forthcoming October intensive with two 90-minute classes on ‘Honesty and Compassion in Practice and Teaching’ later in the month. I attach the details of the latter below as these will be announced on the new website which will be launched on Thursday. For now, please do email Joanne Green at email@example.com if you would like to participate or if you just want more information. As always, you will be able to see the classes on video if you can’t make the times. Also – don’t miss Saskia Rao’s wonderful Introduction to Indian music sessions which started tonight. I had a blast learning to slide beautifully around my new Indian-tuned cello!
Meanwhile, why not come on over to the Breathing Bow and join me virtually in Provence for one off or a series of private sessions on our greatest teacher of 2020 – ZOOM!
InsideOut Musician – a few words from Sophie Renshaw
Welcome to Insideout Musician, a new online musical community dedicated to helping string players keep the language and practice of music and the arts alive in these challenging times.
I am excited to introduce our core team of five expert musicians – Baroque violin specialist and quartet leader Lucy Russell; Baroque and modern cellist and creator of the Breathing Bow Workshops, Ruth Phillips; Composer, violist, singer and theatre maker Mairi Campbell; Composer and musical facilitator Liz Johnson and myself; Sophie Renshaw, violist , chamber musician, arranger and frequent collaborator in cross genre artistic projects.
All string players are welcome here whether you are a professional, or student, teacher, or play music for the love of it.
Here at Insideout Musician you will find a range of creative courses to help you expand on your skills and online performance opportunities at our InsideOut Ceilidh. You can choose from classes in improvisation or learn Scottish traditional fiddling by ear. We offer specific guidance in Baroque performance practice with leading early music specialists, chamber music mentoring and a range of holistic classes which include working with the breath, meditation and yoga-inspired techniques, all of which help us to be present with ourselves and our playing.
If you are interested in learning IT skills to enable you to collaborate across genres and disciplines we can help with our film and audio editing course.
All of us are dedicated to teaching and learning in a spirit of compassion, playfulness and curiosity, and between us we offer you the highest level of expertise and decades of experience. Above all, it is community which is at the heart of everything we do.
The shifting nature of life itself requires us to improvise on a daily basis and connect to ourselves from the inside in order to communicate outwards. This deep listening to self and other is the essence of being a musician inside-out. Come and join us !
Upcoming Classes on The Exhale
Bow Pranayama. 8, 9, 10 October 11.00 CSET
Another word on slow breathing. It goes by another name: ‘prayer’
– James Nestor, Breath
When we play, we should ‘just breathe naturally’. But what does that mean, exactly? And what is ‘natural’?
Many of us have developed emotional or cultural holding patterns that prevent us from breathing freely and fully. In these three shorts we will extend some simple breathing exercises out towards our playing body and mind. A sort of pranayama practice for the bow arm, we will wake up our breathing from its habitual state so that it is alive and supporting our movement and awareness at all times, increasing blood flow to the brain and creating calm. Letting go and ‘just breathing naturally’ will then take on a new meaning.
Other benefits of healthy breathing include the co-ordination to peak efficiency of the heart function, circulation and the nervous system, presence, feeling grounded….let’s go!
1 The Inhale and tension – holding.
2 The Exhale and release – letting go.
3 Heart Resonance (Coherent, slow) Breathing – control.
Honesty and Compassion in Practice and Teaching. 18 October 11.30 – 13.00 CEST and 20 October 12 – 13.30 CEST (email firstname.lastname@example.org)
So often we give mixed messages when we play – conveying joy through physical effort, complicating a simple line with ideas, or shifting easily when there is resistance in the harmony. However, what happens inside us is what happens inside our listeners. If we breathe, our listeners breathe with us. If we are at ease in our bodies, our listeners are at ease. As performers, it is our job to be attentive to and honest about the relationship between what we hear with our inner ear, what we experience in our bodies and what we are communicating. As teachers and performers, we can learn to slow down and listen deeply, observing what is happening – in our ear, our heart, our body and our mind – before articulating it. This process is often enough, but it is is all too often rushed, and replaced with judgement and fixing.
These two 90-minute classes will be divided into 45 minute sessions of a masterclass followed by a group discussion. In both sections, we will focus specifically on helping you as a listener get in touch with your authentic experience, and how you can articulate it in a supportive, honest and compassionate way that has the potential to bring about real transformation in yourself and your students.
Please contact Ruth directly if you would like to play in the masterclass.
As featured in…
Transforming Stage Fright Into Stage Presence
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