Depression created by compression

> It came to me in meditation today that we humans experience Life in a way analogous to the way audio processing works. The system is set up to transmit the signal /content /lifeforce at full bandwidth. but the mind works like a volume control (in old language a potentiometer) to restrict /repress the transmission to a level it (the mind) can handle - as a result of natural or nurtural programming. hence depression.
> Not until we've experienced the full amplitude of the reciprocal nature of the not-I ('that of God') present within each of us throu grace entering our lives, be it by meditation /awakening /spiritual practice /love or as a free gift, can we really begin to understand how the social mechanisms of education & the limited language of public discourse act like audio compressors bashing our natural signal down to a predetermined level.
> The answer to depression is de-compression. Allowing the natural signal to emerge. Of course that feels extremely unsafe to the depressed person, because they've been programmed to believe there are all sorts of limits that they'll inevitably overstep, causing distortion – & it's correspondingly hard for such a person to accept that after the initial splurge of their repressed /compressed signal things settle down natural to a reasonably balanced flow.


Playing By Heart

> This weekend I'm playing an entire ragtime program by heart, something I've never done before - & it has been the most profound inner journey, in which I've had to encounter all my self-loathing WRT performance [around the cognitive dissonance between how well I think I play & how well I actually do play] as well as my hitherto-unresolved complex of emotions connected with musical language & the/its consequent cultural assumptions.
> And then there's the process of programming the physical memory without literacy, which has been surprisingly easy in general but also extraordinarily difficult around the 'corners' or junction moments. In the long run this has been a very joyous form of self-embrace.
> I feel that by facing my fears (the nightmare of forgetting onstage) & not losing my grip on this very intimate engagement with my inadequacies some profound resolution is taking place where I can allow myself to be within the music even tho, or perhaps because, ragtime is not the obvious choice for a spiritual encounter(!)
> And within all of this I came to realise this morning -with 2 days to go- that by not relying on the music 'as a cheat' I am in some profound way engaging with my life-purpose. And having the courage to overcome my youthful propensity to cheat on Life itself because Life itself seemed out to get me, to do me down, to barricade the avenues down which I'd planned that my life would progress.


A Letter to parents of my pupils

Colourful ideas
> Some will already know that I resigned from the Junior Royal College of Music in 1991 because I felt the whole structure of conservatoire pedagogy was like an awful medieval inquisitorial system designed to stretch children on a rack of musical abstraction. A lot of well-meaning colleags could see that it was not a particularly effective way of teaching but it was politically impregnable since nobody could fault the underlying theology – or dared to try lest they themselves be thought 'unsound'.
> I made myself unpopular by arguing in favour of a more child-centred development pattern – because the smart money is in the highly pressured music-industry-driven approach demands 'winners' at ever earlier ages, & colleges know they have to produce their share to secure their prestige.
> During the 10 years I've taught in Tisbury my principal aim has been to develop an approach that enables musical children to progress, whilst retaining /growing their love of music. Blindingly obvious as such an objective might seem, my observation is that exam-based music learning does not tend to produce those results. Certainly judging by the disaffect individuals to make it to & throu colleges.
> Whilst fully aware of the standards undergraduate music demands, I believe they can be approached differently. But it takes several decades to produce a sufficient body of pupils to demonstrate convincingly that an alernative approach has coherence & validity. The weight of professional skepticism is oppressive - even to 'a natural-born contrarian'. Thus I am tremendously grateful to a parent for this feedback:
> ... a very big thank you for the work that you have put in with J to get his head (and fingers) around Joze Bluze. As you know, he played in the Spring Concert, (put on rather obviously for the inspectors) and he really did everybody proud, not only because he managed to keep his rhythm but also because it was so different from the tedious graded pieces that the other children played -it really did stand out that he is not taught at school and there were many enquiries as to whom his teacher was- perhaps it is time that your Colourmuse scheme be introduced to schools. I certainly know many parents at [school] who simply want their children to enjoy making music, as opposed to making the grade with the Associated Bored of Music!

Contact Time
> In essence, the whole process of piano learning/teaching is the art of creating a virtuous circle. Pupils need to feel enthused in order to practice – they want to practice if/when they can feel themselves making progress – they will make progress if they can be shown how to practise. All 3 parts are as-it-were simultaneously chickens & eggs ... it’s impossible to say which comes first, & a teacher has to be opportunistic about nudging the components into alignment whenever possible. The lesson time is the only opportunity, and if this is rushed it doesn’t allow the child to begin to feel ownership of the process, & this is a necessary precursor to enthusiasm.
> 5 years ago I was introduced to the idea of offering two lessons a week by a colleag –a real antediluvian dragon who lurks at Wells!– She said she would only take beginners if they agreed to come twice a week. Fearing parents would merely think I was trying to pick their pockets I offered this idea tentatively & was pleasantly surprised when a couple of families enthusiastically adopted the idea.
> If I say that progress in the early years of musical learning is defined by tutor contact time I don't mean to flatter myself. It is simply that where a relationship of trust exists pupils will accept being floated over difficulties by a tutor where, left to themselves, they might flounder & sink. Apart from the obvious benefit of never getting stuck for more than 3 days -as opposed to 6 days- the value of a twice-weekly lesson is that an increased 'musical fitness' leads to a significant increase in enthusiasm and thus promotes the virtuous circle, which ultimately leads to self-motivated musicianship.
> This is not a prelude to a commercial, I haven't any more slots at present! No, it's a reflexion on a situation where someone who had had twice weekly lessons for a couple of years has had to slip back to once weekly for school reasons. Parent, child & myself have all noticed that music has suddenly got 'harder' & small discouragements more mountainous. To my mind this unfortunate experience vindicates the two lesson concept.
> Following on, I should say that I'm always mindful that parents are making a substantial monetary & emotional investment in piano lessons, and have a right to expect some return. In my role as devil's advocate I have argued in professional circles that 'qualifications' should not be awarded to teachers for at least 15 years, because their competence can only really be assessed by the number of people still playing 5 years after they stop lessons. Unsurprisingly such a view was as welcome as a fart in a tightly packed room.

Nadder Music Café
> Moving quickly along I need to tell you how wonderful the Nadder Music Café has been. Last saturday night there was a performance of such grandeur by a 21 year old cellist that one of the audience said to me: 'to hear this in Tisbury – I just can't believe it!' ... & I should say that the mood of the evening was brilliantly established by Johnny Murphy. Clips of this will eventually be viewable at Vision-news.tv where there are clips of the previous concerts.
> The point I sought to make to parents & pupils when announcing the concerts is that musical imagination is only really developed by personal encounters with live music. If you want your kids weaned off trashy television & playstations then open their horizons by putting them in direct emotional contact with that strange psychic alchemy that occurs at live events. Recorded entertainment can never replicate this.
> We even made the concerts free to children – but so far only one child (& none of my pupils) has attended. And I'm not saying this to make anyone feel guilty or because we want more audience. We were bursting at the seams last Saturday & as we know the next one will be fuller we’re having to devise a new seating plan. And we are also extremely grateful to those parents who have come themselves, no doubt glad of a night out unencumbered!
> The glory (& horror) of concert-giving is that noone can predict when magic will strike. We've had 3 where it really has -& that's why people have been returning– so they were 3 occasions when little musical ears could have been pricked up. It's really important for kids to begin to make some connection between what they do at a keyboard & a wider musical environment – that begins to make them aware that is more than just another task like schoolwork.
> I would like to see the formation of an 'intelligent' musical culture in Tisbury, by that I don't mean a backward-looking one, or one that appeals only to one sector of society, or one designed to attract an audience that already 'knows what it likes' – I mean one where people come to listen. Hence the strategy of basing it around a meal, which takes some of the pressure off the music itself, and therefore gives the musicians both greater head-space & elbow-room within which to weave their magic collaboratively: as opposed to the 'confrontational' pressure of a concert situation which seeks to differentiate performers & audience.

Music & life
> I just don't think life is about targets & statistical achievement. More than that I think they're a crap way of educating human beings to perceive their function cooperators in social enterprises of mutual value. (The ultimate one being the survival of life forms on the planet.) The question then is, how can anyone change anything?
> The late avantgarde composer John Cage (who 'wrote' the notorious 3'44" work of silence) published a diary which he called How to improve the World (You will only make Matters worse). Despite that prudent advice I think one can, in a very small & local way, set about promoting virtuous circles calculated to encourage the necessary but difficult balance between excelling and cooperating, where personal excellence (eg, piano) is not seen as competitive or divisive but is encouraged within a holistic social context (eg, concert).
> All my life I've worked with the same vision that led the septuagenarian jazzer (now, Sir) John Dankworth to create Wavendon All-Music 30+ years ago. Why not Tisbury All-Music? Change always comes from the margins (& it doesn't get more marginal than Wavendon or Tisbury!) - the centre can never change, it is the property of the status quo. Inevitably.
> I did not discover how to change myself or anything else until I followed my disenchantment all the way throu its own labyrinth to the middle of nowhere (Tisbury). And since utopia means nowhere, what better place to be utopian?