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?


Listing Out the Sore Spots

Today I awoke alone with the same old story running through my head.

I felt sore and sad and stressed out. I realized that I was overdue for a good writing session, but I didn’t want to write my same old story-not here anyways.

I figure, after all, that if I’m sick of telling it then I’d better stop telling it.

But I can’t stop telling it entirely, because it’s my truth. I can change my truth, but not overnight. Not all at once. Even all of that woe-is-me shit that I need so badly to let go of – it’s still a part of me. And it’s a part of me that signals the need for change.

So, finding a new way to tell the story (dear diary) and then maybe, just maybe, smile about it later, once I’ve let it go, is not a bad thing.

Maybe I can actually play with all this soul-stuff. Maybe I can be deep and true and even a bit dramatic and selfish and bitter and then laugh at it all later.

Maybe part of making art is letting go of these weights to laugh (later). Maybe the art of letting go is being able to laugh at yourself.

(The Martha Wainwright-the song/album above has been my main soundtrack of late and this song in particular evokes a sense of this ‘I’m bitter and I have reason to be, but I can laugh about it too’ kind of feeling-a certain playfulness).

Whatever the thing, I was feeling so-well, in it that I figured I had to do something that involved facing it, rather than running away.

So I decided to write a list of all the sore spots, of every single fucking thing that was bothering me right then (now).

I wrote it out so that I could look at it later and see what parts of the story has changed. And maybe some of it will seem absurd, then. Maybe some will be so different. Maybe some things not so much…but things will be different.

I can itemize it to work on each one and cross them off as needed. Tackle them one at a time.

One stretch at a time.

There is no way to write a new narrative without acknowledging these lingering aches and pains…even the ones that are just in our head.

Some of the things:

1. I needed to go camping this weekend but then didn’t/couldn’t.

2. I’m still in love with you but you aren’t with me.

3. You are with me all the time but I’m afraid that you won’t open up.

4. My phone bill is killing me and I’ve borrowed all the money that I can.

5. There is a hole in the wall of my bathroom door that I’m going to have to tell the landlord about when I leave.

6. I’m scared of selling my bike.

7. My bed hurts to sleep in.

The thing I’m sick of saying/hearing is that I need to just go.

But in this, I realized how easy it is to flip my perspective. I thought, for the first time ever: what if something or someone else out there needs me? What if it’s not about me going, but about me entering another place where I’m valued in a whole different way, for all new adventures?

Maybe this will happen in ways that I can’t even imagine right now.

And then after all of this was out of my system (and some coffee was in my system) I chose to see myself in a different light. I put on some nice clothes, I put my hair up. I placed some pretty earrings on my ears and some make up on my face.

I went over to the window.

I took a series of selfies in my living room, feeling a bit silly but spinning around and around to experiment with angles and lighting. It was amazing how different each shot looked, how the light came through my camera and hit my face and showed this space uniquely with each shift, with each click of the button.

As I spun around I started smiling in spite of myself.

I realized that maybe it is not so silly to feel like I matter, that documenting this moment in this space in this light is important to me and there is nothing wrong with showing it-with showing myself-in a new light.

Daily Prompt: A life well-lived

This is my first time using the daily prompt.

When I read the prompt, it scared me that I did not right away come up with a real answer to the question ‘what is a life well-lived to you?’

The first thought I had was about Patti Smith: I just finished reading her memoir Just Kids last night.  As one of those life-changing books, it hit me hard.

In it, she delicately, candidly, poetically writes of her fascinating life: she is/was not only a rock and roll persona, but a poet, visual and performance artist, spending much of her early 20’s around the Chelsea Hotel in it’s heyday.  The story centers around her relationship with artist/photographer Robert Mappelthorpe.

The way that she experienced her (and his) life, art, that love, and the way she has managed to express, build and share her life via creative processes – that is meaningful to me.

The book is written with such absolute presence and clarity that you feel like you are in her shoes, in her head, in her world.  She writes from her innermost soul, and at the same time  manages to be outside of her own head and heart.

Through her story, a procession of vivid moments both inspired and inspiring, the reader can’t help but understand (her) life as the fantastic human experience that it is.

I think the thing I love the most about this book (and about the way she presumably lives her life still today) is that the whole time, she is just free.  Freely creating her life, being herself, doing her own thing, focussed on expressing and sharing and baring her soul every chance she got.  No apologies, no looking back, no regret, always inspired, always helping others, and writing about it all as her truest self.

So, I think a life well-lived means giving yourself the freedom to share real experiences, to create, express, connect, feel, love, be.

Never apologize for who you are.