To manifest a new reality ...

Create the thought-form you wish to see. Embrace it whole-heartedly. Give thanks for it as if it already exists. Hold on to it and allow it to transform you until you manifest this new reality.

It won't all be easy - if it was, you'd already have it - because part of what creates the new reality is the energy that arises from the stress you experience. Almost always, there's some element, some old pattern, that needs to be purged before this new thought-form can become grounded in reality. This testing (in old language 'temptation') validates both the thought-form and you, and forms the cooking process by which a new alloy is fused from a marriage of different realities.


Signature Sound

Each whale has one song - and this they repeat as their ID. It can evolve over a lifetime, and sometimes a pod of whales synchronises their song, but each individual's version is never identical. We humans think we have many songs, but the reality is that we have only one true heart-song and all the rest are variations on it.

I have been thinking about this over the last 9 months as I have been evolving an idiom for my current opera project: As I was going to Strawberry Fair. The answer always seems to emerge after a process of subconsciousness reconciliation between one's native inner voice and the musical context in which you wish the result to be heard. Yet ultimately, if I look back over my music I find there are consistent, if constantly evolving, harmelodic patterns - a preference for evoking certain qualities of sound & feeling in music, which must qualify as 'my song' when taken as a whole. In Indian music this would be described as a rasa, a flavour or essence. You could compare it to the unique odour each of us gives off.

I am frequently accused of making things too hard. If I write for people I know I tune into them, but there is noone then I write what I hear. With known collaborators I can easily adapt my ideas, indeed much prefer to model something directly for the capacities of an actual human being: but since that isnt an option that my solitary life often yields I feel free to write what I hear, as-it-were for an optimum performer, rather than for the specific limitations of an individual. Unfortunately this tends to result in difficulties for performers. So if more of them made themselves available it would be easier all round ...!

One of the 'decisions' I had to make was exactly what height of brow to pitch the opera at. I found all my initial ideas came out as a bit cheap & cheesy. There's nothing wrong in this per se, except that if one is pitching to the popular end of the musical market things can never be cheap & cheesy enough since the whole thing is entertainment-driven - moreover the market /audience is so segmented by social & idiomatic prejudices I couldnt feel any musical /moral centrewhere my own musical authenticity could ground itself in a collective (musical) awareness. I therefore needed to allow the process of refining my ideas to continue until I felt that what was emerging was calculated to appeal some-how/where/when to the great tradition of opera.

The other point of contention in my mind was, and has always been, the conflict between the natural voice & the produced voice. The essential point is that I'd like my work to be sung by natural voices; however noone who hasnt had training can sing my music, ergo I cannot avoid trained voices. 

As I was going to Strawberry Fair is a working title. The piece is my attempt to express the cognitive dissonance between the magical world of imagination and beauty where people are open to each other (which is the Glastonbury/Avalon of our dreams) and the workaday world of money & contracts where people seem to consider themselves unfettered by any principle of compassion or cooperation. IMO finding a way to pitch this light against the engulfing darkness is a calling for everyone on a spiritual path.

The control which computers have given those who manage money means that more and more of human society can be controled by those who hold the purse strings. People must be taught that they have the power of individuality. It is not obligatory to surrender your existence to a bourgeois concept of career and comfort. To me whatever Glastonbury signifies, for better or worse, it is that there are people for whom the spiritual search is paramount. From where I am it sometimes feels as if noone is searching, but it's important to remind oneself that whatever the adharmic present there is, and has always been a solid core of men and women of goodwill who are seriously searching for their way to connect with the spiritual heart of existence.

To those people my piece is dedicated. Whether I have penetrated to & exprest the deepest archetype/s with my music I may never know. Is there a resonant truth within it? Validation would be a great bonus. There are so many questions I would ask the future, but I just have to put my hand in the hand of my saviour/s and trust.


Native Turf

Visiting the Royal Academy Bronze Exhibition recently I was struck by the fact that while so many of the Italian exhibits had been loaned by the churches and galleries of their indigenous locations, most of the remainder were on loan from galleries or private collections with no indigenous relationship to the artefact. This made me think about the political questions of public ownership, privatisation, and the cultural needs of a country or nation. 

Nowadays the technocratic solution to a nation's or a community's financial woes would be to sell off or lease its cultural assets; but at the end of it what would be left but a series of gutted cities whose heart had quite literally been ript out - like the old market towns of Kingston, Surrey where I grew up, and which the planners eviscerated in the 1980s in favour of the car and in order to fill the empty spaces with soulless shopping malls that all contain the same national retailers? Even as I write this the ENO announces its intention to auction naming rights for the Coliseum. What is not for sale? It might be financially 'efficient', especially to those advisers who would profit from the process, to sell off all the Greek treasures - but where would that leave Greece? Who would take pride in living there, let alone going there?

In the world of money there is no loyalty to anything other than money. Its practitioners are like electrical appliances that offer dazzling pictures and sound, but only for as long as they're plugged into the juice. Unplug their 'power' - divorce them from their context - and they're dead. The pursuit of money really is the root of all evil: it eats out people's souls. It isn't surprising that deluded folk  pursue it to the exclusion of all else (there are weirdos everywhere!) what is truly revealing about our culture is the attention lavished by the public on these vacuous people.

Knowing who we are, individually or collectively, depends on knowing who we have been. And even if the most people are content to ignore their national treasures in favour of the latest ephemeral slebrity - as Im sure most Italians do - ultimately even the most culturally insensitive person derives identity from their heritage. The biannual circuses of traditional Christianity may be ignored by the majority, yet they're nevertheless part of a nation's mental furniture.

Like Christianity itself, any thought-form that loses its grounding in the popular psyche loses its currency. If art becomes yet another specialist ghetto of intellectually controlled values, demanding an entrance qualifcation either in the form of an art degree or millions of disposable dollars, then it dies. And if proof of this is wanted, one has only to look at the moral bankruptcy of the 'Turner' Prize, whose winner was announced today. While some cynics might argue that the lazy, fashion-driven, craftlessness of the Turner Prize is a perfect way to connect and reflect contemporary social values, it nonetheless fails at the first hurdle of any definition that a primary function of art is to reflect a transcendant reality of those feelings that lie beyond words.

Just as money is an intellectualised commodity valuation system that drains the emotional reality out of whatever it leaches onto; and you have only to look at ogres like Donald Trump to see how those who worship it lose all contact with their human-ness.


Advice for pupils

Performers demonstrate their mastery by restraint.
    Just blasting away as loud & fast as you can impresses only the ignorant (admittedly 98% of the population) but even they will grow tired of it eventually. Like a racing driver you need to keep power in reserve for when you really need it - when showing off can have maximum effect. In any case, going flat out all the time doesn’t show good judgment & is likely to result in a crash.

Who are you playing to?
    A performer’s career depends on impressing - not the general public - but discerning professionals, be they professors, managers or producers. These are the 'gate-keepers' who control funding &/or college admission. Just as important as learning the notes is 'learning the rules’, discovering the aesthetics as well as the technicalities of performance valued by the ‘gate-keepers’ - and then giving it to them. You may not agree, but you can’t bend the rules until you’ve understood them.
    My personal opinion is that exams don’t really contribute to this process but competitions do as you can hear other performers, receive direct feedback from the adjudicator, and see whom s/he considers the best performer … tho not always why!

The most important thing about SIGHT-READING is to keep the musical narrative clear so that the listener gains an impression of the whole piece, no matter how sketchy. This is far more important than playing all the notes. In practice this means
  1. Keep the beat at all costs - which gives overall coherence to your effort.
  2. Prioritise the melody so that the listener can follow ‘what you're saying’.
  3. Leave out whatever interferes with them. (As your skills improves you’ll find you can include more, but also part of your improved skill shows itself in judging what can be omitted.)
Imagine you were listening to someone reading a chapter that neither of you had seen before. If they read it out in a flat voice stumbling over words & pausing for breath in the middle of phrases you’ll have only the haziest clue about the sense of the piece.
    It’s the same in music. You can sight-read text because you’ve done it every day since the age of 6. To develop the same skill with music demands a similar amount of sight-reading practise.
  • Excellent sight-reading comes from the experience of simply doing it day-in day-out.
  • With experience you learn to perceive recurring patterns.
  • With good pattern recognition you gain an intuitive understanding of how music is structured into sections (governed by cadences in art music & choruses in mass market music) and see how/why certain chord sequences are more frequently used.
  • This all goes into the experience that creates excellent sight-reading.
There are also some very important wider lessons in this about prioritising decision-making on the fly. In the long run, mastery of sight-reading confers an ability to think abstractly - to perceive the underlying patterns not merely in music, but more widely in life, both in terms of making life decisions and assessing probable outcomes of human interaction/s.
    In my observation it is quality of decision-making that most distinguishes people who achieve something worthwhile in their lives & relationships from those who don’t . Successful decision-takers are those who are close to their intuition, but able to interrogate it consciously, and thus avoid the twin traps surrendering to blind instinct or being indecisive 'sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought’. This is exactly the lesson that sight-reading forces you to learn: to perceive patterns intuitively and discard what isn't essential.
    This is also the quality of a good communicator - keeping the narrative clear. Good communicators don’t tell people things they don’t need to know. They listen with a ’third ear’ to avoid deluging the public with unwanted info that only serves to confuse. Music demands the development of this third ear - the ability to listen to the sound you are making independent of the cyber-noise created by your gestures & exertions - and sight-reading helps this almost more than any other musical activity.
Example: Microsoft used to build hugely complex GUIs (graphic user interfaces) because they weren't sure exactly how people would use it. Apple (under Jobs) kept to extremely simple GUIs because they'd worked out what created a user-friendly experience. That is the goal of becoming a musician - giving listeners a user-friendly experience.