Less numbers at the sitting this morning. The walk between buildings is brisk & snow is on the ground. Wind whistles. Outside my door, the breakfast queue queues, but in the anticipation of more rapid access to food & drink.
Comments over breakfast on the performance. A good one: what to do, after a performance, with the energy that becomes available in the performance? And some info from the large Kitchen Team that played Where’s The Nurse? Just before they went on, a first string broke on Steve’s guitar, which was suffering a fret buzz on the first string. The replacement string dropped the buzz. And Pablo, who led the team from the chapel to the ballroom, led them into the performance space in the opposite direction to the one planned. As he entered the ballroom, it was dark on the left where Pablo had expected to walk. So, the performance snake found themselves playing in reverse order to the one anticipated.
Sitting in the audience, one is rarely aware of the difficulties that confront performers & the mechanics of the performance situation. As we know, the performer can never control the performance situation - however much they prepare, practice & plan. In the performance, the event is out of their control and attempts to control the event limit the possibilities.
Despite the impossibility of controlling the situation, the Level One were given the first rule of performers when going into a performance area: protect your space. There may be mischievous & disruptive elements at work. Their performance for the house & course is at 10.30.
But before this we have meetings for the Staff & Mentoring Buddies at 09.00 & the Kitchen Team at 09.15.
There should be no should.
Music is a language of the creative intelligence.
The Level One performance, of two pieces, was supported by a mischievous audience that gave additional support to heeding the injunction protect your space - the avenues of approach to the performance end of the ballroom were blocked by audience members sitting in chairs, or just standing in the way. Senor Nunez appeared to be surprised when the snake attempted to pass him in accessing the stage and, eventually, stepped back.
Behind the performance end of the ballroom are three small rooms with glazed doors; that is, the rooms are directly behind the players. The middle room of these rooms had been secretly commandeered & occupied by a Crafty from Joisey. Once the Level One performance was underway, he switched on the room-light to illuminate his own performance: a performance of the gestural kind.
Another audient, sitting on the floor directly in front of the performance team, blew bubbles towards the guitarists from a soap-bubble container of the full kind. Metronomes went off in unhelpful tempi at unhelpful moments. On various occasions a recorded Spanish voice gave advice, on which subject I am not sure.
Despite this, two pieces were presented.
Cheers brought the Level One back for an encore - the first piece again. The audience were similarly disposed as during the first performance, but this time small objects were also thrown at the performers.
Afterwards, Levels One & Two met to discuss the performance before addressing an exercise for today: to introduce quality into our practice, even our lives. The relevant aphorism for this exercise is:
A quality is ungovernable by number.
My own work this morning has been mainly personal meetings.
At lunch: several performances, including a new Argentinian folk piece from The Big Time Trio. Several comments & an announcement for the merchandise shop operating at tea-time. Receipts are to go to the Argentinian Rescue Fund.
Claude Squerd reported on the meeting of Squerd And How To Make It with the whole Family Squerd, present on this course. Claude is planning to write the guide to parents for making squerd with their children. I confessed that, when at home, I myself make squerd on an almost daily basis: fruit squerd.
Then the question: what to do with the energy that arises in performance? We already knew, from an earlier lunch, that of this energy arising from honourable work, part is available for investing in our future, or for going on a spree. Various responses were put forward from the more experienced among the team...
Be quiet (Steve);
May the results are transubstantiated in me for my being (Cathy).
For myself, I follow the same approach as Cathy. The formulation of this for me is:
May the results of this, our work, be transubstantiated in us for our being.
When I am on the road, touring, I don’t eat before a performance. So my main meal is at the end of the day. This is not ideal, but has the functions of feeding & earthing me. Extensive experience suggests that young professional musicians use the energy available to go on a spree of drinking, taking drugs and making new friends.
At 15.00 anyone is welcome to see the Qualified Alexander Teachers working with the trainee teachers.
Placed on the notice board just before 14.00, this unedited excerpt from lecture notes for the PRS Annual John Lennon Memorial Lecture presented at York University in February 2001, at the invitation of Dr. John Potter (a member of the Hilliard Ensemble) --
the new Crafty
We begin again, having moved on from where we were, and address becoming where we are.
For this, we may now have the outline construction of an interior architecture.
A discipline supports the construction of an interior architecture. This is a body of practice which supports us through our day, however long that day may be.
This begins when our feet hit the floor in the morning, to when our head hits the pillow at night.
Discipline confers the capacity to become effectual in time.
Discipline is knowing what we are able to honourably undertake, and commit to, without any doubt that the undertaking will be discharged with reliability, surety, certainty. We are able to take decisions.
Attention span of 90 minutes.
Freedom from like and dislike.
Integral seeing: sense of the whole of any undertaking.
Something has begun to cohere. We are beginning to be our own person.
Coherence / Presence
The degree to which this is true is governed by our ability to bear suffering.
Necessary & unnecessary suffering.
Necessary suffering: voluntary suffering & intentional suffering
Doing Something Efficiently
This is traditionally where we present ourselves and our work for verification by an authority in the field.
Being Someone Efficient
If our work is successful, we are recognised and accredited at our particular level or degree of capacity.
Being Where We Are
But something can get in the way. So, in beginning again, we recognise that by holding on to who we are, to being something, even this gets in the way of music on download.
So, we let go of who we are and begin again.
Conventionally and traditionally, there are four distinct qualities of working, or experiencing, or doing, or states of presence, or states of consciousness, which are referred to as "worlds".
The automatic, mechanical, or habitual, world.
The world of awareness, or alertness, or sensitivity.
The conscious world, where we become aware of our awareness.
The creative world. I’ll say nothing on this now, assuming that we all know what we understand by the word, while knowing that actually we don’t.
Key words which relate to these worlds:
sleep and accident;
noticing and contact;
separation, judgement, intention and decision;
ex nihilo. Literally, out of nothing. Where did that come from?
Traditionally and conventionally, these different qualities of experiencing are referred to as "worlds". Depending upon the tradition, there are a varying number of worlds which are presented as being available to the human being. Several traditions suggest that there are four worlds which are of primary concern. In this context, I suggest these:
The worlds of the apprentice, craftsman, master musician, genius.
The work of the apprentice mostly addresses working with the automatic. That is, they can play the notes on their instrument. This is where the best that the player might be is a good mechanic. This is, in itself, an achievement in its way. But a mechanic lacks contact with their playing: they are their playing.
The professional is asked to bring an awareness of what they are doing into their playing. Their playing is something they do, rather than being done. For the professional, music serves their own end or aim in life.
For the master, the musician serves the music. Their life is dedicated to following the Muse. This is not so much a profession as a vocation.
The genius is inseparable from the music. In a sense, the genius is the Muse incarnate.
Moving Between Worlds
States and stations
When we enter a practice, or training in discipline, we learn to differentiate between states and stations. States are where we are in this moment, a station is where we live. We might consider a "state" to be where we are visiting.
Even if we live in the basement, it is possible for us to experience a finer world, a world of greater subtlety of perception and experiencing. The subtle world is always present within us: it’s a question of us knowing that directly. The first aim of any discipline is to create a bridge between the subtle and the material.
The creation of this "bridge" then enables the subtle to connect directly with the material world. The creation of the bridge is in potential: there is no inevitability about this taking place, nor does this occur by happy accident.
As our personal "bridge" begins to cohere, and to become increasingly "substantial", our movement between worlds increases. That is, our experiencing becomes deeper, richer. The "existence" of these more subtle "worlds" is no longer a matter of conjecture and argument. This is fact.
Because the worlds interpenetrate, alternatively put, that the more intensive information stream may act within the more extensive, lower down the food chain of musicianship we might find ourselves bumping into higher quality information, even while we are within our own "lower" world. That is, we may experience the action of "higher worlds" even though we live in the world of the Happy Gigster.
Everything changes as we "move world".
The "price of admission" is different in each world.
Each world has a different kind of experiential time.
Communication is different in each world. In the creative world communication is instantaneous.
A "higher" world is a world of greater intensity. Another way of putting this: the information content is much higher, and the information is of greater quality, quantity and intensity.
It is unbearable to experience a higher world while present in a lower.
It is not difficult to have "experiences". The desire for "experiences" is an indication of immaturity in a student. Unless the student is prepared, these experiences may cause emotional and psychological damage. A disciplined opening of doors allows for the doors to close as well.
When we enter a more intense world, as it were from our own initiative, or perhaps because we have paid the price of admission ahead of time, everything changes.
What is in that world may simply appear in front of us. Sometimes, it comes to us as if of its own volition. Sometimes, we come into contact with the inhabitants of that world. Sometimes, we even see that world in its own terms. From the perspective of a "lower" world, when we fall to earth, what we can know and say of this experience is only a distant echo of what is true, an interpretation.
worlds of performance
Playing in public is very different from playing an instrument, and playing music, privately. Guitar Craft incorporates performance as an integral and necessary part of learning to play the instrument.
The practising of discipline is personal, and private. Public performance is public and impersonal, yet may be intimate.
Music does not fully become music until it is heard. Before music is heard, and recognised as music, accepted as what it is for what it is, music is not quite music.
Audience chooses its performer, and therefore mostly its music. We assume the performer is competent. Performer doesn’t choose the audience. This is inherently unfair.
Is the audience competent in listening? Disruptive?
Music so wishes to be heard that it sometimes calls on unlikely characters to give it voice. And, to give it ears.
Until very recently, in historical terms, it was impossible to listen to music in the home of anyone other than the exceptionally wealthy.
Performance may be addressed in terms of its social function - the use to which performances are put - and in terms of its functioning: where any particular performance is considered as a function of the quality, quantity and intensity of the energy supply available to that performance.
Performance may also be seen as a process.
We may say that there are different worlds of performance, and performance as belonging to, or granting access to, different worlds of experiencing.
The act of music is eternal. A particular show is governed by the conditions of time, place & person.
Benny Goodman at the Carnegie Hall in 1938 with two black musicians in his band.
Rolling Stones at Hyde Park in 1969: free.
Live Aid: for charity.
Contemporary performance is where we add a fourth term to the Act of Music - the music industry. This is where performance becomes a battle zone of expectation and demand. Live performance is the front line.
Record industry looks on live performance as a promotional tool. That is, live performance is undermined & its value negated.
Process becomes product. Product is to be promoted. This involves media which, in the UK, is characterised by cynicism, negativity, hostility and opinionation.
The purchase of a ticket turns an exchange into a transaction, the listener becomes a consumer and acquires consumer rights without matching obligations.
Qualities of performance:
Automatic: entertainment, expectation
Awareness: professional event. Clean.
Conscious or creative event. Free festivals
Construction of the performance:
The specific material
The audience: the culture of different countries
The excerpt from the lecture notes ends there. I have made one or two very small edits for this diary - the notes are unedited notes for a lecture, not a formal essay. Also, I was not anticipating putting them on the board until I found my feet carrying me there & my hands pinning pages to the board. The notes seem to have found favour, or at least usefulness: a good number of the team are in front of the board taking notes by hand.
One Crafty suggested that the following was not true of several "traditional" societies where music is widely available --
Until very recently, in historical terms, it was impossible to listen to music in the home of anyone other than the exceptionally wealthy.
There is a cluster of the team outside the door, copying several more pages put on the board after dinner. Several errors have already been pointed out. This is a lightly edited version of the second batch of notes pinned to the board --
This suggests there are alternative futures available to us:
One is the future that is provided by the conditions of our lives - the conditions determined by where we are born, when we are born, and to whom we are born. These conditions are genetic, cultural, historical and, some would say, astrological.
Another future is the future that is possible for us. This is the future which is uniquely available to who we are. This possible future is one we are born to discover and then create for ourselves.
The degree to which we are able to achieve this is significantly determined by the degree to which we acquire discipline.
My life in the act of music, in live performance, began as a student of Kathleen Gartell’s Corfe Mullen School of Music to King Crimson.
This wide, and not quite unequivocally valuable experience, leads me to suggest that:
It is not possible for the musician to play music.
But, it is possible that the musician is played by music.
We may not be able to govern the weather, but it is possible that we push the boat onto the lake & raise the sail. The wind may not blow, but if it does, we are ready and available.
The aim of the musician is to create a construct through which music may enter our world.
The Three Disciplines
The musician has three instruments: the hands, the head and the heart.
Three words commonly describe the functioning of the hands, the head and the heart:
In musical vernacular, these three areas are often simply referred to as technique, ideas, feel.
different functional types
Each of us naturally inclines towards a greater capacity in one, or two, of these instruments.
We may be able to recognise in others, perhaps more easily than ourselves, people of different functional types: people with the tendency towards greater physicality, or cerebration, or emoting.
An example: at an earnest meeting near Regent’s Park Canal in London during early 1975, I was in a group which discussed Important Issues Of The Universe and Our Place In Them.
The three instruments are necessary in making judgements. Where the senses fail to render a decision - it looks ok, smells ok, but is it ok? Or an argument is persuasive, or not; the feelings can judge: this feels right, or not.
Discipline is also a process.
Discipline is "acquired" in a series of stages. With experience, we begin to recognise the discrete quality of each of these stages. There are three stages: the beginning, the middle & the end. Each stage has itself three steps: the beginning, the middle and the end. This provides nine points in any complete process where qualitative shifts occur.
There are three endings to a process:
A finish, where something is lost;
A conclusion, where nothing is lost;
A completion is a new beginning.
The process of acquiring discipline is a movement from mechanical activity to intentional action. The process of discipline aims to: Co-ordinate the functions - the three kinds of doing - the hands, the head & the heart: this is sometimes called "the harmonisation of functioning"; Achieve coherence in the degree & intensity to which we are what we are: that is, our inner togetherness or "being"; Unify our intention: that all of what we do serves the same aim; that we accept direction from central command at our "World HQ".
We achieve this separation by practising the discipline of each of the functions, their co-ordination, and then their harmonisation.
Through applying ourselves to this practising, we generate energy.
Through the energy made available, we may be able to put some of it in the bank. This "saved currency" is then available for future investment.
stages & steps
The three stages of any discipline are these:
We begin where are, and unfix our moment by doing nothing, and watching while we do nothing.
We move on from where we are, by introducing flexibility to our functioning by letting go of "bad habits" and acquiring "good habits".
We become who we are by doing something with efficiency and becoming someone who is efficient.
Then, we begin again.
0 We begin where we are
1 Doing nothing
2 Watching while doing nothing
3 We move on from where we are
4 Letting go of "bad" habits
5 Acquiring "good" habits
6 Becoming where we are
7 Doing something efficient
8 Being someone who is efficient
9/0 Being where we are
When we arrive at where we are, as if for the first time, we begin to "hang together", or to cohere. We are beginning to be our own person.
But who we are can get in the way. So, beginning again, we recognise that by holding on to who we are, to being something, this gets in the way of music on download. So, we let go of who we are and begin again. At a particular point in a mature life process, this confers:
The degree to which this may be so is governed by our ability to bear suffering.
Practising the Person
So, each stage has a primary focus, and exercises to address:
The degree to which we hang together (being);
The unification of our intention.
This presents six strategies of practising, governed primarily by the stage of our personal process, plus an invisible seventh.
Watching while doing nothing;
Letting go of bad habits;
Acquiring good habits;
Doing something with good habits;
Being someone with good habits.
We begin where we are. So, before moving, better to know where we are. Before we move from A to B, better to know that we are at A.
So, before we do something, we do nothing. Doing nothing is very hard. Even when we believe that we are doing nothing, we put an enormous & unnecessary amount of energy into our doing nothing. Fidgeting, rattling brain, raging passions.
Technique: physical relaxation.
Technique: physical exhaustion: so that we run out of energy and are unable to do something in a habitual fashion.
While we are doing nothing, perhaps in a relaxed fashion, we watch, we look, we observe: ourselves, our surroundings, people around us, and the interactions and interrelationships between these.
We look at ourselves as if we were looking at a friend we love: impartially, without judgement, without criticism. We simply look. In time, we gather information about this animal that we inhabit: what it does in recurrent circumstances, what it feels and thinks about those particular circumstances. We notice how what it feels and thinks and does impact upon each other.
We learn what we may ask the creature to do, notice where it is prepared to accept direction, where it refuses to follow instruction, when it goes on strike.
Although we have done nothing, simply by looking, something has changed. When one small part of a whole changes, the whole is itself changed. One small variation and, as if a butterfly has flapped its wings, there is a change in the overall economy and ecology of the human being.
Four qualities of watching:
An observer is being constructed in personality, where part of us is becoming accustomed to look at other parts of us.
Not all of our energy is flowing into customary channels.
Our attention is being divided.
One day, when looking, a shift takes place. We move from looking to seeing.
When we have acquired more information while doing nothing, we begin to gently and gradually see what is possible in acquiring an efficient technique.
die that ye might be born
When we have sufficient information about what we are, we have the possibility of choice: do we wish to remain as we are, or will we change?
This second larger stage of the process is where we address the energy supply.
i quantity of energy
Energy is required for each of the instruments to function. A discipline addresses right use of energy; that is, the quantity, quality and intensity of the energy supply, and how it is used: the economy and ecology of the energy supply.
The quantity of energy:
How much is naturally available
how much is necessarily use on specific tasks
the acquisition or generation of more energy if needed
ii quality of energy
There are different kinds of functioning. There are also different qualities of functioning.
Traditionally, a discipline differentiates between four qualities of working, of functioning, with which we need to become familiar; and to recognise when these qualities of working are present.
The four qualities of working are sometimes called the automatic, sensitive, conscious and creative.
iii intensity of energy
This is governed by intention.
Intention defines the boundaries and contains the action or task that is being undertaken.
When we begin to experience the materiality of thought and the tangible effect of feelings, as if they were material actions, more subtle work can begin for us. We begin to address the distinct qualities of the energy available to us.
Firstly, we are ignorant.
Secondly, we know we are ignorant.
Thirdly, we acknowledge our ignorance.
Fourthly, we move to address our ignorance.
We can’t do this through books, although books are useful when we know the way. The aphorism here is: Signposts are useful when you know where you’re going. This suggests that some books are written for those who already know. They may also be written as a flag to wave to anyone interested. If you are interested, but don’t know, the next step is to find someone who does.
So find someone who has been there before.
letting go of bad habits
i The automatic world is the world of habitual responses, of mechanical activity.
Briefly, we have good habits and “bad” habits.
“Good” habits are efficient. An efficient energy economy makes it more likely that we can achieve in a lifetime what is possible for us. That is, our lives may serve the purpose for which we were born.
“Bad” habits, in this context, waste energy. Having “bad” habits does not necessarily imply that we are a “bad person”, nor unworthy, nor immoral, nor nasty, nor that we torment small animals. It means that we are at risk of failing to meet our life’s potential.
A discipline aims to make our habitual responses efficient. Our mechanical and automatic processes are conditioned, or programmed, through training. When our functions operate efficiently, we need invest little attention and energy in the activity of our functions. Our attention is then freed to supervise the task in hand, which includes holding an overview of the three functions working individually and together.
ii The different parts of the body, working mechanically, lock each other into the same habitual pattern.
Almost all our activity in the everyday world can be conducted by the body on automatic, without reference to thinking or feeling. This is both impressive and terrifying.
iii Prejudice. Like and dislike.
The three instruments work together automatically, each triggering the other in a series of mechanical operations, all of which are related to the past.
If we wish to see where we are, change the tempo of any habitual operation.
iv freeing energy b/locked energy
The release of energy locked in physical, psychological and emotional patterns. Most of these are a result of inappropriate experiences in early family life, and through contemporary education.
Blind spot. Stage fright. Who is afraid?
v plugging leaks
Reacting takes energy. Internal and external.
Fidgeting and twitching.
Anger. Expressing anger. The American and English approach.
attracted attention - energy is sucked out of us. Newstands.
hostility and ill-will -a consequence of public life.
Fidgeting & restrained breathing is met by relaxation.
Anger is met by the cultivation of goodwill.
The whirring of mechanical mind is met by stilling the mind.
vi shock: external. Learn to use it. Turn it around.
But we can’t rely upon it. A crying baby. Someone who irritates us. Traffic noise - a horn.
Challenge: internal shock. Pointed stick. We create our own shocks by setting ourselves a challenge.
Lower levels of functioning are best addressed by a small, repeated or ongoing challenge. Hair shirt.
Higher levels of functioning are better addressed by a large challenge, one that can only be addressed by a change in state.
vii one-centred working: different aspects of one centre affects the other parts of that centre.
Les Bouches de Paris.
Terry’s mouth: mouth-hand lock.
Clean sheets & tidy: how we live our life is how we practise our guitar.
Anger and holding goodwill.
Whirring mind and holding an image.
viii two & three centred working:
Work on one centre affects the working of the other centres.
When one centre loosens up, the other centres loosen up in response.
So, we enlist the aid of two centres to act on the third.
Physical habits: the wish to change, and the information held in front of us of what to do, while physically relaxing.
Emotional habits: dislike or anger. Harder in a relaxed physical state and watching a picture of someone we love while cultivating a feeling of goodwill.
Whirring of mechanical mind: relaxed, present physical state, while cultivating a sense of goodwill and holding an image.
The human instrument has in-built protection devices for when download from a higher world (a world where the information content is greater, faster, and more intense) takes place when we are receiving in a lower state. We pass out, for example.
The degree to which we are able to manage information downloads is governed by our being. Some drugs open doors to quality information files, but they also suspend our capacity to close the doors when the download is too great, or the light is too bright, or the experience too intense to be borne and absorbed. Practice prepares us psychologically, emotionally and physically for those times of high information download. Otherwise, perhaps the system crashes. In serious cases, default programmes don’t reactivate. Re-booting loses a lot of information and time. In the human system, when fuses blow they may be irreplaceable.
x the great divide
Experientially, the period of letting go of bad habits, before there are good habits to take their place, lasts forever plus a year.
Acquiring good habits
i Craft information is needed. A teacher or instructor. Otherwise, we’ll replace bad habits by other bad habits.
Life is too short to learn by our own mistakes.
Efficient practice regime. Nothing wasted.
Relaxation. Development of bodily stillness.
Moving with relaxation & sensation.
Independence of the hands, the eye and the mouth.
Stilling the mind
Counting and playing. Visual display.
Stillness: effortless effort: our energies begin to cohere.
Our thinking is thrown upon a clear screen.
Seeing integrally: expansion of the present moment.
Seeing a process through.
Cultivation of goodwill
Division of attention.
The assumption of virtue.
The exercise of quality: set yourself to do one small thing superbly.
A small piece of quality. A quality is ungovernable by number.
Job for the day.
iii generating energy
“The higher acts upon the lower to activate the middle”.
We confront habitual behaviour with a demand. This creates a friction, a tension, from which a kind of heat is released. Part of this heat is available to us. We may then put this in the bank, invest it for the future, or have a party.
Where we meet an intentional challenge, energy is released from that work.
Through the energy made available, we may be able to put some of it in the bank. This “new currency” is then available for future investment.
iv accessing energy
There are places and people who are reservoirs of energy, if we know the places, if we know the people.
23.34 This afternoon, my final personal meetings.
A meeting with Frank & Cathy after tea for Frank’s view of a possible future for Guitar Craft & the Alexander Teaching; and Frank’s personal plans.
iThen at 17.50 a presentation by Levels One & Two of their piece of work. And a first – the Maestros’s proud boast was put to the test. I have always claimed that pliers could not take the pick from between my thumb & first finger, even though no unnecessary energy went into holding the pick. Joe the soloist put this claim to the test: twice. The pick didn’t even move. I asked for chocolates.
Then to dinner, several performances including by a new formation of The Hellboys, and comments.
The Final Meeting of the Level One was held in the ballroom at 21.30. My opening words… “It only seems like a week since we first met here a year ago”. Checking my diary for the beginning of the course, it was fascinating to read the concerns of that time – heating, access to food, full dormitories, and even my own room was very cold. How we all suffered.
Thanks were due to Hernan, Alain, the Kitchen Supervisor & Coordinator, heroic work by Frank, Cathy, Mariella & trainee Maude, and then comments were offered.
Hernan announced the course for the summer, to be held in this house: 6 weeks in July & August; and Martin announced the project in Buenos Aires.
At the completion of the course it was legitimate to go on a spree, within the limitations of an ongoing course. Otherwise there was an opportunity to bring the energy home – cleaning the space. Tom Hellboy offered to direct work on toilets, corridors & dormitories.
It is appalling to see what we are. Several comments this week, in personal meetings, meal comments & group situations, have referred to seeing what we are when the veil slips aside. We see how we are unworthy of our aim/s. Robert’s seat is privileged, and I am unworthy of it. But in this I am no different from any other seat in the room or cushion on the floor. We are all in the same boat. We are all the same. We are all at the beginning. We begin where we are. Better then to know where we are beginning. Then our beginning has clarity, and less illusion & delusion.
The Level One was declared completed at 22.29.
A meeting with Hernan afterwards, with tasty little cakes from yesterday, to discuss future Guitar Craft plans, short & mid-term.