Morning thoughts: Multisensory Musicality

Stables by Franz Marc.

*New fun writing exercise: morning pages go public! So this post may not be much of anything interesting for the reader; it might be more for me. It’s going to be a little rambly (but not entirely unedited) and I’m going to let it be. 

My head is foggy, freshly woken from strange dreams. I was at a concert, Shayne was there. Lots of people and I was kind of having fun, but kind of lost. I was supposed to be on stage (maybe, for a second) but was sort of roaming around in this gigantic and crowded forum.

I was supposed to be playing music. I AM!

There is no guitar here and I miss the feel of the strings under my fingertips. I never thought I’d crave that.

Playing music is a tactile thing too. On my way back from the kitchen this morning, I stopped and played the out of tune piano, smooth white keys. It feels good, but not familiar. Not that feeling that comes with 25 years of (casual) playing, as is the case with my acoustic guitar.

But it’s more than just about touch. The tactile feeling is accompanied by a knowing, a muscle memory, the way the mind and body just connects flows into this way that is unique to you only.  Then, listening.

So then when we play a song we get sight, sound, hearing, touch, mind-and-body-memory. Something so familiar, but still entirely unique.

When I play guitar (for myself), I’m in flow. Something about being so completely immersed and the way my fingers know…it reminds me of something, but makes me forget.

In my yoga class (connecting to yoga through creativity) we have been focussing on the way we interact through the senses. I never realized how much sight really is key for me right now, until I realized how the brightness of colour in the paintings in the art museum the other day changed something inside of me. The photo above is of a painting of my new favourite painter: Franz Marc.

A german expressionist whose primary subject was animals, he was drafted to WWI front lines and then was included on a list of artists that Germany deemed too important to lose in war. But he was killed before they got to him with this information.

Back to music: I never thought about how many of the senses are combined while playing music. One can be (or maybe, must be) completely immersed. So we forget about everything else because our brains need us to.

I’ve heard that musicians tend to have less age-related brain deterioration, likely because of the ways that the brain is used when playing music. I wonder if this has anything to do with the ways that the senses combine in new ways?

Speaking of multisensory, I heard this really interesting story which is a part of this Radiolab podcast-–it’s about a blind woman named Emily who (through a special device) learned to see with her tongue. Supposedly this is representative of the brain’s capacity to build new sensory pathways.

So the senses combine in unexpected ways all the time, especially (maybe) when one of them dies, and especially when we create. It’s important to ‘see’ the art, to listen to music (eg: as ‘input’), but what is really happening when we create, especially at a high level as a skilled musician or artist would?

And what about learning to feel sounds, or taste visions, like Emily? Is it really possible to see with your tongue, or hear with the sense of touch? Does someone lacking one of the senses also continually carve new neural pathways?

We have the observer, but what of the creator? Does that person’s brain use different pathways than another?

Are these two things related, in some way, in terms of showing the capacity that our brains have to interpret and process new senses? Is our brain’s action of carving new pathways an intrinsic part of the entire creative (input and output) process?

And is this why, while listening to music and seeing art is deeply satisfying, it’s not entirely it—at least, not in the way that making it is?


Bashing Yoga Barbie? Guilty As Charged

“That’s why I’ve decided, step one in this campaign to ‘give the yoga body a make-over’ is to acknowledge its powerful hold on our psyche.”

Thank you, Body Divine, for developing an innovative dialogue on this issue, one that does not depend on definitions of skinny or fat but that we all (or at least most of us, I think) can relate to.

It’s just different enough


Snippets from the first month or so:

Walking along the highway-ish road the first day, a black man with bright purple hair (and shoes) speaking French to his young daughter who clutched a stuffed animal.

That was the second child that I’d seen walking along the street holding a stuffie. For some reason it struck me as different. That and the purple hair. I can still see them walking in front of me.

When I bothered to order a sandwich in my clumsy french, and the man at the restaurant spoke with me, slowly. A small and encouraging breakthrough.

There was this loud buzzing sound sometimes. I heard it when the patio doors were open. I asked my niece what it was, thinking of some power line type of issue.

Cicadas, she said.

Little moments of different.

The kids playing on the fenced-in, cement playground at the school on the (busy) corner, French-accent shouts bouncing off brick walls.

The brick seems to sharpen already bold soundscapes.

The way that the neighbors fighting sounds more like a play than a real thing. Maybe it’s the thicker walls, the fact that I don’t know them, the fact that it sounds more like drama than real problems…but I feel more removed, as if it is some sort of performance. My last neighbors were too close to home.

I couldn’t stand the fighting anymore.

The cab drivers are animated, chatty. Most people seem simultaneously more and less friendly…at least, less forced happiness. There’s flairs of charisma but it’s not vacant charm. It’s authentic and vibrant. No sugarcoats.

I feel like I’m in a movie—not acting in it, just watching characters.

The night I flew out was the night the man burned. I went to a party that I wasn’t invited to and watched that on a TV. Surreal, fitting…especially the way the screen separated us and the man, but also ourselves.

I had felt disconnect for a while and this was symbolic of a real distance that I’d been feeling for so long anyhow.

It was fitting of the shit that I’d shed, the new horizons that I couldn’t wait one more minute to miss. I didn’t idealize the other side at all; I knew it would come with it’s own set of imperfections and trials.

But first would come some semblance of clarity that I’d been craving for so long.