Nothing is wasted

"Nothing is wasted. Allow your natural thankfulness to flow from your heart. Let it spread like a warm flood over everything you do, filling hollows, replenishing the soil, nourishing every aspect of your life. Let it catch you with sudden unexpected joy in the middle of busyness (& business). Let it partner you in moments of relaxation. Let it walk with you in the dawn of each new day. Remember it as you would a lover in the secret recesses of your heart."


We have all the resources we need

What is truthful exists within all of us, but often it requires a Dark Night of the Soul before we can recognise & connect to it. The clarity that comes at such times i its own reward, one which far exceeds the rewards of prosperity. 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven & all these things shall be added unto you.'

The Kingdom of Heaven is surely nothing other than that unshakeable connection to inner truthfulness which is only formed by adversity. The still small voice that comes by night is the surest guide.

If achieving your own authenticity matters more to you than anything else then follow it, no matter where it leads. 'At first wisdom will lead thee by crooked paths; but at last she shall bring thee out to the way that is straight.' In all this, it is your innate truthfulness that is your guide.


Concerts in place of Exams

Every couple of years I remind my pupils (& their parents) of the function that our biannual concerts have in the learning cycle. I was thinking about it this morning & collated these thoughts.

> Whatever we do, it's usually hard to get direct accurate feedback. If you ask someonelse, whatever they say is filtered throu their own perceptions. If you apply for an opinion to a professional (eg an examiner) they will give you a judgment that is based on the aesthetics of their discipline, which states not what is authentic to yourself but how you measure up to an abstract.
> Music however provides its practitioners the purest form of feedback. In performing to other people you know how you have done. In performance, especially in a sympathetic environment, you experience a fusing of the constituent parts you've studied into a coherent experiential whole. And an important component in creating a sense of wholeness is the response of those who love you - primarily & principally your parents, but in professional terms, your admirers. Given the right conditions, I believe this is as true of someone giving their first concert as it is of Daniel Barenboim giving his 4000th.
> Exams cannot supply this missing ingredient. While I taught at the Junior RCM, I knew there was something profoundly unbalanced about how we were educating young musicians & I could see that exam-mania played a part in it but I couldn’t put my finger on the 'logic error'. [For a more detailed analysis see What Role for Exams in a Post-Gutenberg age?
> I actually think that if you wished to create the sense of disconnection which exists between most professional musicians and what they do (& may once have loved) you could find no better way instil it in them than by training them to think that music consists of a series of judgmental encounters. And I submit that those experiences 'writ large' fully account for the emotionally dysfunctional nature of the contemporary art music scene in the UK.

What’s the answer?
> Well, in Of Geist & Grooves there is an analysis I wrote a few years ago about the psycho-musical processes which I think pupils' concert performances cement in place. The presence of a loving consciousness in the audience creates for the young performer the ideal crucible to fuse all the elements involved in musical performance, both artistic & technical - and from that experience s/he emerges with greater self-awareness, just as a soldier does from experiencing battle conditions after training. It becomes a solid 'platform' on which to build future development. Put another way it is the ideal heuristic (optimised solution) on which to base the next stage of the experiment which is learning - & life.

What is the discovery?
> In the system I have evolved, each performer's progress is defined by hirself. What s/he discovers in/by performance is authentically hir own inner 'meaning/s', or sense of self-worth - which I consider the greatest form of empowerment any education can offer. In contrast, the conventional way of learning a musical instrument brings you into contact primarily with the defined aesthetic parameters of a range of 'approved meanings'.
> In the middle ages medicine often involved comparing patients' symptoms with one of the latin treatises, often without actually examining them. I believe that medieval methodology still largely underpins the teaching of conservatoire music (as exemplified in the Grade system) - the difference is that the pupils do indeed get examined -& how- yet the examination is not about uncovering what is authentic in each of them, it's about measuring their conformity to abstract standards which, IMO, have no real place in music - other than to petrify it in some antique past. (How can you examine the fitness of a pop musician to have a 'hit'? It's laughable. When Buddy Holly first broke throu his band only knew 3 songs, & for the first year they never had time to learn any new ones. An obvious fail! Could Ray Charles have passed an exam, & if so, in what?)

I sometimes make the point in a good-natured way when pupils miss concerts that they’d never consider missing an exam. The attitude that an exam as somehow 'important' & thus unmissable, while a concert is merely optional shows how much everyone has been brainwashed by the current misdirection of education, IMO. It's understandable of course because we are trained to believe that the whole hard-edged world exams defines people's access to 'a career' & thus to privilege & money. A premise I dispute, despite the overwhelming evidence(!)
> But actually music (or art) isn't about that, & altho it can be twisted to serve such ends -as what cannot?- to do so is to eviscerate its greatest gift to the individual - namely to put hir in touch with hir true self, to marry hir emotions & skill-set (something 'scientific' education doesn’t even attempt). It makes real a soft-edged world of internal recognition, & this gives the young pianist permission to explore further what s/he senses to be of value within hir.
> That is what all education should be about IMO, and nowhere more than in music - yet Western culture has not evolved learning procedures designed to bring that about. Partly because we still think of education as being about teaching - when it isn't. Things will only change when the learners' view of learning becomes paramount. I’ve used the decade I’ve spent helping beginners learn the piano to experiment with what sparks the most rapid response in young pianists - some ideas worked, some didn’t. But the main thing has been that I’ve been listening to them - and to the music they want to play - not trying to fit them onto some Procrustean piano stool.
> I have no power to change anything in music. All I have is the power each human being has to be a witness to what seems truthful; and it grieves me to see so many colleags participating in a mighty system geared to salami-slicing children's love of music when I believe there are options which produce infinitely more wholesome results in the longterm. If I could manage to establish a 'respectable' educational alternative to the prevailing mindset I should think my life had not been entirely worthless.

So that’s what the concerts are about - creating a permissive environment where there are no hard edges for kids to knock against if they fall, & plenty of elastic to help them jump higher.



> Strange to encounter myself 45 years later. I was 15 when I ran away from school to Paris -no longer a boy, but not yet a man- hoping to study with Messiaen - all of whose organ music I could play by then. I would go to listen to him improvising after High Mass at La Trinité, but there were so many organ-fanciers swarming round the organ loft door that I couldn't face putting myself forward among so many eager & ambitious competitors for his attention. Not really knowing what to do I took the advice of the Australian concierge in the hotel where I was staying & went to Brive La Galliarde. There I lived out a half life for some time, not communicating with anyone, until my money was running out & then, finally, I capitulated & called my parents - who were of course worried sick.
> My father came out to see me & this was the picture he took perhaps just after a lunch which included trufle – whose appeal then & subsequently eluded me as completely as the passing fashion for Beaujolais nouveau.