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From these old walls…

June 7, 2017

Sitting on my deck looking out over fields that are under cultivation, with an old terraced mountain behind them, I think of the valley that lies between. I got on a bus nine days ago to come to this village in order to write some music free from distraction. Here, at the busiest time of day I might see ten people in a cafe and be passed by three cars and a motorcycle. No need to hurry, the shopkeeper might keep you waiting for ten minutes as they finish a converasation on the phone.

In the midst of this tranquility I wonder about various kinds of internal suffering. There is of course the Buddhist doctrine, “All life is pain.” Today I seem to equate busy-ness with pain. One of my students told me that he has been able to concentrate much better since he had his knee replaced a couple of years ago. He figured it was the unconscious underlying pain that prevented him from paying more attention when he played guitar.

I have spent decades training myself to pay attention, to the music as I learn it, to my students as they play and to the people that share conversations with me. Since reading about the problems of “internal dialogue” in Carlos Castaneda in the 70’s my life’s work has involved managing my ability to focus.

For all these years of work there has been an underlying theme – to communicate something of musical value. One might say this is about attracting a certain kind of attention. Here, I play my guitar, far away from my friends and colleagues: there is no hope for attention. As I was playing the other day something very interesting began to happen: the melody of the piece started to take on another character. In my imagination it felt like a sustaining instrument. Between these medieval walls in this apartment in an old village, the tune came through as never before.

So, as the melody continues in my imagination as a sustained line, I convince myself that it might be possible to project  this sense to the listener. They might hear a flute or a violin playing the tune. There might be some sleight of ear taking place – there might be magic.IMG_0037IMG_0035

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