Thursday, June 10, 2010

Exercising: Part Two

Exercising: Part Two

Ok, the honeymoon period is over. I’ve been going to the gym for three months now, always twice a week, most of the time thrice, and I don’t see any results! My weight is the same and my pants are still tight.

When I moaned to one of the trainers, he asked, “have you noticed anything different?”

I had to recollect, “Well, I can keep up with my husband on our bike rides better.”

“That’s one. Are you doing the same weights as when you started?”

“Well, no, I’m lifting more weight?”

“That’s two.”

“And more reps.”

“That’s three.”

Ok, there has been change, but not enough fast enough. Does that sound like some of your students? For me and fitness, the hard part is about to begin, I must change some habits with my eating: how much and what.

With students the habits are often how they practice. I remember the quote, “if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

How often do students play the same part over and over hoping that they will get it right? Then they get it right once and go on. I think my smart students do this the most often because they know that they can “get it.” Then they beat themselves up because they didn’t get it AGAIN. I want to instill in them to “work it” rather than “get it.”

The brain doesn’t discriminate. If you get it wrong four times and right once, the next time the brain has to pick which way to play there is only a 20% chance of getting the correct repetition. I have been told to do cardio for twenty+ minutes. I think when I stop at sixteen minutes it’s like the students stopping after playing a section one time correctly; I’m only giving my body a small chance for success.

When you are practicing and you get it right, do it three more times then the brain has better odds of grabbing the correct version. When I’m working on a section I go for three times in a row or ten times total. I came up with that because some days I just couldn’t get it that third time, and I didn’t want to be a failure.

For my students, I rephrased it in a more positive way that actually is less stressful and makes it a game with the potential of a reward: play it ten times correct, and if you get it three times in a row, you can stop. For myself it works better too! I have a more playful attitude, seeing if I can buck the system to get that third time. Rousing my rebel spirit gets the adrenaline going: I work better, more efficiently and for longer stretches.

Often, when I think “nothing” is different, what I’m really saying is, “I haven’t reached my goal.” To really address that I need to determine why. Usually, it’s because my goal and my habits can’t coexist. Then I need to be honest and ask some hard questions. What needs do my habits serve? Is that need still relevant? Am I ready to move beyond what I think I am to what I can become? Can I deal with some discomfort? What needs will reaching my goal satisfy? Are those needs mine or someone else’s? (Often a parent, partner, teacher, peer, religious leader or social mores impose values on us, that we don’t question.) What am I willing to spend (money, time, effort, sacrificing an easy pleasure) to achieve my goal?

Sometimes the answers are something we don’t want to hear—we aren’t ready or willing to change, the price is too high, the goal wasn’t really our own… Then it’s time to move on. Don’t hold on to a goal because you think you should. Sometimes the answers support the goal and free up energy to accomplish them with ease.

The next time you or your student thinks nothing has changed, look back and be honest. You might not have reached your goals yet, but I’m sure you can find at least three things that are different.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Daily Musing: piccolo Cedar Flute

I let the scale of this small version of a Native American cedar flute take me where it wanted to.
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This Is It

Yes, I know this movie was released Oct. 2009. Ok, if I'm a little behind the times. (I'm used to that.) Sure it might be an overly positive posthumous reflection on Michael Jackson. But you know what—it inspired me. It made me honor being a performer, reminded me to take charge of producing my vision and that I entertain for the audience, not myself.

Steve and I watched all of the extras. The music director said that Michael stated, “We use our gifts to help other people find their gifts.” Wow! Maybe that’s why people have idols. Maybe that’s what mythic figures and Hindu gods are—beings that recognize their gifts so that others may see a way to access theirs.

When I watch MJ dance, I love how he stops. It’s the silence after the stop that grabs me. There is such a presence of pulling in all of the energy to that point, that a void is created. That void creates a combination of suspense and sustain at the same time.

Listening to him sing “Human Nature,” I just loved how the second utterance of “why” comes on the and of two. Musically it creates that same experience. Yes, there is the push of energy and surprise from the syncopation; if you divide the 4/4 measure into eighths notes, that syncopation actually creates a wonderfully arrhythmic 3/8 & 5/8. Still, for me the beauty is in the absence of the expected pulse—the void.

The movie showed a wonderful duality of him listening at times and asserting his vision at others. When his earphones were too loud, he was visibly upset, but took the stance that he would have to get used to it. He was so generous with those who worked with him. Yet he took control. He wanted to cue the start of a song that would line up with a video change behind him. When the director asked MJ how he would do that without seeing the video, MJ simply said that he would feel when to come in. He knew when insisting on creating what he wanted would raised the bar for all involved, and when being directed was the right thing for the sake of the show.

You can see MJ dance and you know it’s him. It’s his style. At times though, it seemed his moves weren’t appropriate to the song lyrics, and it looked like his dance was a caricature of himself. I often wonder when is something we do our style or our habit? I’m always looking to play differently: to stretch myself and my ears. Sometimes that’s great. At other times it ties me in a knot because everything sounds like something I’ve heard or done before. Then there’s the dilemma of giving the audience what they want.

There’s a song that Steve and I play, “I Wanna Be Like You” from the Disney movie the Jungle Book. It started around a camp fire one Thanksgiving. We were goofing around and I took a flute solo singing and playing with ingressive singing that sounded like a monkey. It was fun, and loved by all. That was four years ago, and now my challenge is to still play my “monkey” solo while keeping it fresh for me. Sometimes it works better then others. Through my doubts and negative self-talk I keep coming back to, “Ellen, just play what you hear (or feel) and keep practicing so that you have the chops to do it!”

I look forward to reading some comments about how other musicians, actors, dancers, stay true to their inner searching while developing a style at the same time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Daily Musing: Improv on Harmonics

Hi There,
still working out the kinks, so here's another improv from last year.
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Daily Musing: Parakeet Lullaby

Hi There,
Here's another improv that I created last year for my baby birdies. (I'm practicing uploading my improv's. Come back to get a new improv each morning!!)
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Daily Musing: Headjoint Breathing

Hi There,
Here's another improvisation. Warning, some say it's scarey. Listen with the lights on!
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Daily Musing: Long Tone Improvisation

Hi there!
This is the first of my daily musings. Please enjoy.
Listen here.