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Intention and Emotional Inhibitions that affect it

The Sensible Flutist: Intention and Emotional Inhibitions that affect it

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Intention and Emotional Inhibitions that affect it

So sorry for the 2 week gap in blogging, but my lone computer began acting up and I was blessed to get another one so soon. So now I have a new computer that I can dedicate exclusively to my online musical activities.

I stirred up an interesting debate among several flutists on Twitter the other morning when I tweeted about a statement I'd heard the night before. I jam with a group of amateur musicians that just love music and come together to improv and play a variety of folk tunes. I enjoy it because it's such a different environment from a professional aspect, which I find refreshing. In a former life, I would have refused to join these people but I now see it as a unique opportunity to play just to have fun with no pressure.

This violinist, who is a music major at a university out west was discussing why she must practice to the group and stated that as you get closer to the "ideal," you're able to play with more freedom. I agree with this statement in the sense that if you obtain a technical mastery over the instrument, you have a greater awareness of what the instrument can do for maximum expressiveness. I disagree with the statement in that there is no one "ideal." We are constantly shaping ourselves as musicians and our musical identity is always a work in progress. In this mixed group of amateurs, the reaction was one of, "Well, what's the ideal?" Even without a strong music background, they already sensed that there is no true ideal.

While jamming that night, I was tired and didn't feel emotionally involved. I still got something out of going; however, I noted the heightened emotional state of the others there. I am a very private person that has a hard time showing emotion to anyone other than my husband. There are certain tunes, especially some Appalachian folk tunes (from my SW Virginia upbringing), that can bring me to tears. Patriotic outpourings of support for members of the military of any type make me cry. But why is it that I have such a hard time expressing myself, whether it be on a personal level or a musical one? Why do I sometimes feel disconnected from the music even though I, as a classically trained flutist, can interpret the music and present it in a neat package?

Because of this observation from the night before, I continued to tweet, "I'm jealous of amateurs that love music so much, they can play with no cares." Yes, they may be blissfully ignorant, but they love it and that's what I strive to preserve in my own music making. I think it's hard as a professional musician to maintain that element. It could be why even though I'm classically trained, I am very interested in branching other to other genres of music such as folk music that I can connect with on a deeper emotional level. Branching into other genres means interacting with musicians that may not have the same background or education that I do, but they do it for the love of it and invest a lot of themselves into their art. Their varied experiences can help me along my musical metamorphosis.

The debate then took this turn towards the question of professional versus amateur, and what we as professionals know versus the ignorance of amateurs. I am a very open minded person when it comes to hearing new ideas. I think that a young, budding professional can watch an amateur and examine why they do what they do and perhaps draw from that. How amateurs connect with music on a purely emotional level is a lesson to be learned for those of us that once felt that same way, and have lost a connection with the music.

As far as this "ideal" this young violinist referred to, what is it? I think as musicians and artists, we should be constantly exploring new ideas in our playing and never stop learning. I believe that our musical lives are cyclical, and that is the one thing I love most about music. With the number of fantastic flutists in the world today, we have a huge abundance of ideas that can keep things fresh for us.

With all these new ideas, we must have a strong sense of who we are musically with mastery of our instruments in order to keep those new ideas from throwing us into confusion. I discussed this in an earlier blog post ( Open mindedness will keep you from boxing yourself in. Don't be afraid to explore new ideas, and see where they lead you. New ideas will only propel you further in your musical journey, and encourage freedom.

Should we incorporate everything we discover? No. Young students should be given a strong foundational musical education so that they are able to make decisions for themselves as they advance in their studies. These young musicians already love music. They wouldn't be devoting themselves to learning an instrument if that wasn't the case. Hopefully, they have teachers that allow them to creatively explore the limits of their instruments and lead them to perform with freedom and expressiveness.

On a professional level, we shouldn't box ourselves in but allow ourselves freedom. I contribute my own struggles with the difficulty I have displaying my emotions for the world to see. That's an issue in my own performances that I am working through, and which is why a lot of my focus is on this topic at the moment. Allow your students freedom and creativity within an intelligent framework to preserve intention. We flute players must allow musicality and freedom to shape us who we are as musicians, and not who can play the fastest.

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At July 12, 2010 at 5:00 AM , Anonymous Masa Oka said...

I deeply agree with the "ideals" being multiple and capable of transformation.

Your comments about the amateurs often possessing purer passion for music reminded me of what Ken Robbins said on TED talks which I saw on Youtube.

He says everybody is a natural-born artist, but we get "educated out" of that state as we go through today's education system. Maybe that's the kind of thing what makes the violin student believe there's only one ideal to follow, which probably came from the teachings of professors and so on.

At July 12, 2010 at 12:43 PM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

Thank you for the feedback and thanks for the heads up about Ken Robbins' TED talk. Those talks are so amazing. I'll definitely have to look that up.


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