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The Sensible Flutist

The Sensible Flutist: August 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Movement in Martinu

I was finally able to spend some quality time with my flute.

In my practice training layout, I had designated that day as a "Whatever" day allowing myself to transition based on what drew me, rather than a prescribed routine of Moyse and scales. I jumped into playing repertoire immediately, which isn't my modus operandi.

Although it takes longer, I've found that giving myself a two to three hour block of time gets me more in a state of flow than if I try to jump into my practice and get it done. Instead, having this block of time lets me rest as I need to while feeling like I'm not pressured for time. This state of flow happened to me as I was practicing the first movement of the Martinu Sonata yesterday, and I stood on the edge of discovering something really truly great about integrating my movement with the music so that the movement frees my body to release the music that is within.

I can't quite describe it yet, but the experience was there. I was grounded, letting the floor support me. And that support resulted in effortless music making. I stopped fighting my body and started letting my body do what it naturally does.

Then I got to the 6/8 section, and I resumed my old movement patterns of tension. But that brief moment of effortless music was enough to motivate me to get through the rest.

It's a process and I'm grateful to be able to start experiencing music in this way now. Through my study of body mapping, Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais, I'm refining my awareness and learning more everyday and those elements are now emerging in my playing.

A side note about my practice routine. If I had used my time yesterday to practice like I usually do, I don't know that I would have ever gotten to the Martinu before I reached my limit. If that had been the case, I wouldn't have had the experience so that's certainly a plus for this practice like you train idea.

Explore your movement. Move purposely, move naturally, and move well.

Here's Dr. Kristen Stoner performing the 1st movement:

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Practice like you Train

I had a perhaps not so novel idea today. Why should we practice the same things every day? Instead, why shouldn't we have a larger purpose for every single practice session and take some ideas from runners?

I'm a lapsed runner of sorts. I still run regularly, but I haven't trained since I was an overly enthusiastic newbie two years ago. I'm in a rut. In this rut I let my subscription to Runner's World expire, too.

I resubscribed in a hope to get some kind of motivational tip that would spur me back into a crazed training phase. I've been reading a few pages here and there and I read today about how and why you should have a purpose before you even begin running. Without a purpose, it's too easy to get bound up in time contraints, the weather, or any of the million other reasons we usually fail to do what we say we're going to do.

Yeah, we should have a purpose when we practice. That part is pretty obvious. But have we related our purpose to longer term goals in a meaningful way?

I run about 3 to 4 times a week. One day consists of a long run, which serves to build up endurance and help strengthen the legs and I do speedwork once a week to get faster. The remaining 2 days are easy runs, where I'm letting the work of the harder two workouts settle in.

I hate doing the same thing every day, so I'm not one for making up a routine. Instead, I tend to go with the flow which sometimes sets me up for failure. Translating my running workouts into my flute workouts might help me reach my goals faster. So here's a quick sketch of how my different training runs relate to my practice sessions:

The Long Run - A longer than average practice session that gives you adequate time to cover all the areas of your playing that need consistent attention. It's also the time to just enjoy the feeling of being able to play your instrument and not have to watch the clock.

Speedwork - Technical practice. Want to bump up your scales a couple notches on the metronome? Treat this "workout" as speedwork and limit to one or two days a week.

The Recovery Run - Focused, slow practice. Practice what you need to, but let your body assimilate the changes you're making in your playing. Enjoy the recovery.

The Social Run - Jam session!

The Whatever Run - Play what you want without pressure. Use it as opportunity to explore different areas of your awareness. Or don't.

I'm going to play around with this idea, and create a weekly practice plan that engages all these elements. I'll let you know how it turns out.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What I learned about audience connection from Gallagher

My husband and I started the weekend by going to see Gallagher, a comedian that was popular back in the 80's. My husband was actually the one who introduced me to his comedy several years ago, and we even bought one of his shows on DVD. When I saw that he was going to be in town, I just had to go.

For two hours, we were entertained by a guy that has some brilliant insights that is encased in non-PC humor; however, I was also taken by how he interacted with his audience before the show.

When we entered the theater, my husband exclaimed, "There he is!" Instead of hanging around backstage, Gallagher was milling around the auditorium engaging with members of the audience. He continued this until about 5 minutes before the show, when he yelled out for someone to come introduce him. At this point, it turned into a comedic bit but I loved how there was no formality but just a simple start to the show that didn't take anything away.

In the show, Gallagher didn't pull any punches. Regardless of whether you find his jokes offensive or an accurate commentary of American culture, Gallagher's ability to stand up and say things that are not necessarily politically correct is rare to find in today's society.

This brings me to why these observations were so exciting for me. We in classical music put ourselves on pedestals which generally makes us miserable. We wonder why our audiences are shrinking, or why we're not getting more work.

Gallagher is a master at audience connection. As classical musicians, we don't have to become comedians to connect with our audiences but we can be out in the audience before the show talking to our audience instead of remaining invisible until it's time to play. By treating the audience as a faceless void, our performance anxiety goes through the roof because we're making our performance the first connection. Even if it's an audience that you don't know (Gallagher didn't know the people he was talking to), you already have something in common - you both love music. It means stepping out of your comfort zone, but your satisfaction level will increase.

Gallagher's creativity and courage to speak his mind is something else we can take. Playing chamber and solo music affords us more opportunity to be creative and explore what the composer intended in his or her music. Lately, I've started reconsidering my path of what I should be doing as a musician. I'm not ready to announce these changes publicly, but it's taking a fair amount of courage to derail from the typical musician track and create my own map. Stand up for the music you believe in, and allow your creativity to shine through. People don't want to hear canned music. They come to hear live performance because there's nothing like it...if you are willing to inject humanity in it instead of a unrealistic perfection.

Go and find a few Gallagher DVDs to watch. Or attend a show. Other comedians may do the same thing, but I have a feeling they don't. This was the first stand-up show I have ever attended, but this guy captivated me within my own context of classical music and how different the show was from the usual concerts I go to. And guess what? This guy filled the theater.

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