8 weeks of conscious contact with music improvisation:)
Did you invested your time into improvisation? Following Barbara Hesser steps and guidance, I tried to grasp or even more daring to experience the feeling that comes with improvisation. Coming from the music background: angry classic piano teachers, rigidity and continuous hardship of doing things the right way, I must admit, somewhere I got the feeling of excitement lost… but! Creativity is within each person, it cannot be taken away from him just like love, kindness, hope and other feelings that people chose for themselves as a way to relate to the world within and outside of their existence. So anyway, Here is a testimony of beginning a proces of rediscovery a part of me that is musical and all that came along with it. 8 weeks of observations & thoughts from experiencing music.
Music is a medium of communication; it comes when the words fail to describe feelings. I learned that I am myself; I learned that I feel and I am a creative center at the place and time when I play, listen and sings. My first reaction at the beginning of a practice was fear, fear of breaking the silence. I was afraid I would play the wrong notes while I experienced the aesthetic joy looking at a photograph. Once the silence was broken, the D note took its place; my hands start to move to different places, my soul was singing in joy. The poser of doubt was taking me over, the pause between exercises was unbearable, and I started to question myself. What did I do correctly? Where did I make a mistake? Looking at the same picture again, I realized that I already took a musical journey and sent my thoughts to the universe, I can do more. When I listened to the tape, I found myself pleasantly surprised at what I had done; it only required few more steps of effort in order to start again.
The second week I explored a different exercise, I took a poem by Mikhail Lermontov, “Death of a Poet”. I took the time to read it, to understand the feeling of sorrow, to think about Russia and about my people. I felt heavy in my heart, all those emotions that I experienced throughout the time of reading the poem I put into piano. I was playing without thinking, I was crying after the first time. I experienced emotions from the poem, I experienced the emotions from my improvisation, I felt that I did not release them, I stated the fact of “The Death of a Poet”. Lermontov was killed in a young age, he was called the second Pushkin, although unlike Pushkin, Lermontov did not experience the comfort given by a society. He was truthful in his writing and honest in his thinking. Poetry is another way of improvising, using words to create beats, the context of the words to make a dynamic and the meaning of the sentences to create a feeling. I felt that my improvising process went through similar steps, I was reflecting on the poem as if I wrote it myself. The fact that I was able to experience all these emotions took me to a different level of appreciation for the power of music and the power of improvisation. For the second time, I decided to play music on my poem, my reaction to Death of a Poet, my appreciation to it. I took my feelings and I created the melody that could be my response to the first experience. I took time to reflect on the feelings that I experienced, I had no thoughts while I was playing, only the feeling that music arose in me.
On the third week I experienced emptiness. I was taking steps to understand what is happening within me. It seemed to be more difficult to reflect on yourself rather than to react to somebody’s creation. I took a piece of paper and started to draw. Line by line I found myself drawing bubbles, it made me realize that my feelings were not empty. I had them already, perhaps, I was just afraid to work on them. I started to play, after the drawing my hands were playing major cords, making simple musical interventions, which I found later were accurate to the state of mind I was in. Second week of the third practice I decided to do something else before I played. I drew a small face with curves that looked like flowers on its head. I improvised on the feelings of lightness rather than emptiness. I felt relieved after the practice, this was the first time I was able to sleep soundly after improvisation.
Week four was difficult for me seeing as I was improvising on my dreams. Experiencing fear and running during the sleep makes me tired during the day time. I feel sometimes that my dreams more real than the events of the day. I woke up and went to the piano. I put everything into the improvisation: fear, anxiety, anger, hopelessness. I felt relieved and alert after I finished. The improvisation let me enter my day. The second time, improvisation was interesting but not as tense. I did not have a bad dream, it was a very nice dream, where I was a child and I saw all my friends around me. The music was light, joyful and cheerful.
Fifth Practice was to improvise on a memorable event. I had a difficult time to decide which one I should choose. The feelings of shame and confusion are very common for a child. I remember those feelings and I had a difficult time to cope with them. The music spoke for itself but I was not sure how comfortable I was playing. Later that week I thought about my reaction to the improvisation and I have come to conclusion that it is very difficult to speak about that moment from my childhood as well. Second time I felt more comfortable, I felt that the music was healing me and even if I was the only audience who was listening it, it did not matter.
Week six, I was improvising on issues I would like to work on in therapy. It was always hard for me to experience joy and happiness. I was a very happy child once but in my culture the idea of happiness is utopian while sadness is undeniable. It took me an effort to improvise on this exercise, the music seemed as though it did not sound good nor could I play it well. Every aspect of my personal insecurity came out in front of the instrument. I was not ready to experience happiness yet. After several attempts my music became a channel through which I was able to feel the emotion, a bridge between my mind and my soul, the bridge between my culture and myself. I was overwhelmed by the music, I did experience happiness, I felt it in my heart. The second improvisation that I made was a prayer, an invitation to happiness to enter my life. Everything seemed to be joyful, I was using Lydian mode, vocalizing. I felt like dancing, being a child, being myself.
Week seven was emotional. I was improvising on the issues that I had with my family. I felt sad and misunderstood. First attempt to improvisation made me cry, second attempt helped me to think, and the third attempt released me from the heaviness. At the second practice of the same week I was playing on the feeling of nostalgia. I was thinking about home, I was missing everyone and missing the time when I could have done something for my family. I was playing with gratitude and appreciation to the moment that I had, music helped me to confess: without words I was speaking with such clarity that I could not experienced otherwise.
Week eight was difficult. I was drawing, making sculpture to the song “What does my heart feels so bad” by Moby. After paying the same song for several times, my body became a channel of the singer’s expressions, I felt that I was only a messenger. It was difficult to take myself away from the experience, I intentionally tried to make musical interventions and to resolve them in major; however, it felt wrong. I was taken by the experience and emotions that I that I felt as I listened.
Week nine helped me to think about the musical culture I grew up in. I was listening to different songs and different musical styles that are present in my culture. Some of them brought strong emotions. I was able to make a drawing and to improvise on my experience. Such communication let me reintroduce myself into the culture I felt I lost while being in United States. I was reflecting on the feelings of idealization, pride and glory. The feelings which embody the birth land. I was able to feel those emotions and to reflect upon duality of their meaning; I was introduced to the ideal values while the life experience showed otherwise. I was rejecting my culture without knowing how much I was missing. I felt happy and satisfied at the end of the week.
The last exercise was to take several piece of the music that show specific mood and to choose others to shift the mood into a different level. I made a tape for several times. First, I was surprised by the fact that each three minutes my mood was changing. I was excited on an emotional and physical level. At the end of the tape I felt brave enough to experience the listening again. At that moment it was clear to me that the music does magic; the art of improvisation gives a voice to an emotional experience at a place in time. It cannot get more real than that!