We eased into a place of deep listening by doing a Pauline Oliveros exercise called "Extreme Slow Song", composed by having all participants sing a familiar song as slowly as possible (using one whole exhale per syllable), while walking slowly around the room in any pattern. "Extreme Slow Song" excerpt (2 minutes):
After a couple of hours of exploring the varied terrain of sound organized in time, the 8 of us (plus 16-month-old Lillian) created this piece spontaneously. "Free Improv Circle" (3 excerpts, each under 2 minutes):
And sometimes, great moments emerge without any facilitation at all, like this clip from my recorder being left on long after the class was over...obviously, the music-making wasn't over quite yet: "After Class" (3 minutes):
My greatest learning from this weekend's class was that music means something different to each of us. And, it does mean something to everyone. Each of us has certain lifelong memories associated with music. Maybe we've loved it for as long as we can remember. Maybe it was never allowed in our house. Maybe it was an important escape. Maybe it was our only way of expressing ourselves. Or maybe it was something that only "other people" could do. Maybe we were once told by a teacher or other adult that we were "tone deaf". Perhaps that prevented us from ever trying to sing or participate in anything vaguely "musical". Maybe we allowed that label to cause us to question our own sense of hearing. (By the way, the man who started the class calling himself "tone deaf" turned out to be able to match a pitch without any trouble at all! I was all set to go through an "intervention" to show him how he could do this, but I did nothing! Which means he has been walking around for most of his life believing something about himself that isn't actually true. Interesting, isn't it?) I discovered that as adults, we still have the opportunity, if we choose, to peel back the labels, and examine the thoughts we still hold as a result of them. We can choose to ask, "Does this label still serve and support me today?" Maybe it does, but maybe it's outdated, or untested, given your current reality. What I observed on Saturday gives me the suspicion that if more of us could peel back more of those labels, we might unleash more of what we already have within us to offer the world. And I'm talking about the kind of stuff that we can't buy and can never have too much of - love, light, listening, joy. Take it from the great (and deaf) percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who gave a moving TED talk (see the video below) on how she listens with her whole body, and how she overcame the perceived limitations of being deaf, learning to play music, and eventually studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Whenever I hear people ask me, with expectant looks on their faces, to confirm the things they believe they cannot do in music (or in life), I think of Evelyn Glennie, and I remember, "We truly have no excuses...and no limits!" Enjoy the sound of your own music!