Monthly Archives: June 2011

Pour l’Amour de Musique

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I thought I had squelched music after undergrad.  Not squelched it in the sense that I never wanted it in my life anymore, mind you–but squelched in the sense that I thought I was through that part of my life where I needed music in order to breathe and be whole.

This is clearly not the case.

It has become even more apparent in the last few weeks before starting my doctoral program, and now the most prevalent after I’ve finished my first week of classes: I can’t stop thinking about music.  It’s the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of before going to sleep.  If this is where my spirit lies, then I picked the wrong doc program.  Shocking, I know…I’ve spent my entire musical life trying to run away from it in one way or another.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), it has caught up with me and attached itself to my soul.

My mom likes to tell the story of when I was a junior in high school and decided that though it was incredibly icy out, I was going to drive to school.  She said, “you aren’t driving, it’s icy outside.  I will drive you!”  Well, I got upset and walked out, slamming the front door on my way.  It was incredibly icy outside.  I slid off the porch steps and flew partway down the hill in our yard, only being stopped by my shoulder slamming into a tree.  Yes, it hurt.  Did I tell her?  No, not until six months later it  still hurt.  She took me to the doctor and I ended up having torn my entire rotator cuff and had to have it reconstructed.  That means surgery plus four to six months of rehab.  Mom likes to refer to that as the “it’s icy outside” moment, and often brings it up.  Why?  Because every time she tells me something that I don’t pay attention to and then she turns out to be right (which is most of the time), all she has to say to me is, “Lauren, it’s icy outside.”

Music is no different.  I told her today about thinking about going back to music and she replied with, “Lauren…it’s icy outside.”  Why is this?  Because she has told me ever since I was about 10 that I was destined to be in a musical field.  Yes mom, I know, you’re right again.  That being said, it’s not going to be in the realm of piano performance, like most of you would expect.  My performance anxiety is too high to put that kind of stress on my body all the time.  Do I know the specific field I want to pursue?  Not really.  Ethnomusicology, theory, composition…I pretty much want them all.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me, so long as it’s music (though most of you also know that I’m somewhat obsessed with theory).

I know at least one person, maybe two, who will appreciate the on-paper (and possibly aural, as well) beauty of the works that are George Crumb’s Makrokosmos.  This is the kind of stuff that makes me excited.  This is the stuff about which I’m passionate.

So many possibilities within so few tiny black dots.

I guess a decision needs to be made.

 

 

 

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Le Rocher

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In a previous blog, I stated that I believe that everyone who comes into our lives does so for a reason.  This has happened to me for my entire life.  Whether it is a need to learn something, make a change, or see something about myself more clearly,  I get my answering person.  Usually I already know the person; however, at that point in time they clearly emerge as something different than I previously thought.

Many of you know that over the past year, though I have fallen in love with Santa Fe, it has been an incredibly difficult transition for me, especially when it comes to my circle of friends.  Before moving here, I had previously lived in basically the same area for most of my life.  That being said, I have an amazing
circle of friends there; however, it has become increasingly difficult to have the same caliber of conversation via the phone.  Yes, you can talk about many things over the phone, but eventually you need an actual human in front of you to give you feedback.

Somewhat changing gears: I have stated in so many words that the majority of this blog was being written as a healing process.  But what brought me to that point?  In short, a program about healing trauma through the arts.  The person organizing said program needed some people to sing in her choir, so I agreed to do it and didn’t think anything of it.  Unfortunately, not too long into the program, I was starting to have a breakdown concerning some past trauma that had not actually been grieved through.  Sure, I put on the happy face, but I never actually did the work.  Said organizer was the catalyst to starting this process.

I’m going to purposely leave out a plethora of information, as I really just don’t feel the need to share every single detail of my life (if that were the need, I would be on a reality television show…not WordPress).  This person, though has ended up helping me through things that I didn’t even realize were happening.  Two weeks ago when the Joplin tornadoes happened, there is no way that I could have handled all of that myself, being so far away from my childhood home.  She was basically my rock, every time I got a phone call or a text about people dying.  Between her and the church with which we’ve fallen in love, the Joplin news was bearable.

So what can we take from all of this?  Why is it that people always come at the
right time?  And the people who impact our lives in such a profound way…are they drawn to us for the same reason?  I’m a firm believer in everyone having “student” as well as “teacher” moments in life, but can we be both at the same time?  I don’t know that there is a clear answer to that question in my head.  If I had to answer, I guess it would be “yes,” though there have been a few people over the years who have made me wonder.  This particular person would not be one of them.  I’d like to think that if the need ever arose, I would be able to help her in the capacity that she has helped me, but really that will remain an unknown until the situation warrants it.  Or maybe I already have…who knows…but the journey is the fun part.  The fact that it is helping me become a
better person is just icing on the cake.

Amalgamate

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I have been avoiding writing this for many weeks now, but after just over a month, I’ll breach the subject.  We have been going to church–yes, a Jesus church and everything.  Those of you who are close friends of mine know that this is a HUGE deal…not because I have a problem with religion, but because of the qualms I have with (a) many of the denominations’ treatments of the Bible, (b) the general attitude of many denominations toward women and homosexuals, and (c) the attitudes of some religious people.  To this day, my favorite bumper sticker reads:

So my hang-ups aren’t with religion, but with the human treatment (or bastardization) of the message of Jesus.  All of that aside, we have been attending a local United Church of Christ (called United Church of Santa Fe) that came highly recommended by a good friend.  Unlike any church I have ever been to, they are truly and genuinely accepting of everyone from all walks of life.  Now, I don’t say “truly and genuinely” lightly, by any means.  I know that some of you are thinking that other churches are this accepting, and some of them are.  But please don’t confuse “truly and genuinely accepting” with “we will accept you and then pray for you so that you may change.”  These are two completely different things, one of which is why I have resisted going to church for so many years.

Also unlike any other church I have attended, I not only look forward to going and hearing what the ministers have to say that day, but (and I have told many of you this) if they had services every day, I would move my entire schedule around so that I could attend.  And yes, I actually pay attention to every word that comes out of their mouths (which also shouldn’t be confused with “I would drink the Kool-Aid if only they asked”).  It is very apparent that there is scholarly research that goes into the creation of the sermons, and that, I can get behind.

I have heard them mention Islam, Buddhism, the Navajo religion, and multiple other non-Christian faiths, and not refer to people who practice these faiths as “going to hell.”  They practice “creation care” in many forms, one of the most prevalent being through pressing environmental problems.  They not only accept, but celebrate women, all races, and all sexual orientations…and for those of you playing the home game, that is what Jesus did.  Of course I could mention how brilliant the choir director is as well (along with her musical choices), but that is the subject of a whole blog in itself, I’m sure (insert witty smiley face here with some kind of a tongue sticking out while saying “me likey whitachords”).  All things considered, we have found a fantastic church that we love to attend as well as a bunch of great people go there (including, but not limited to, the choir and the ladies who lunch).

So what prompted this?  First and foremost, living in the high desert.  In a previous post, I said that just living here is a spiritual experience, and I still stand by that statement.  There is nothing like walking out into the desert and just listening.  Something about the near barren surroundings is conducive to a meditative state.  That in combination with my recent emotional flooding (brought on by a program with the previously mentioned choir director) as well as esoteric conversation over a couple of beers pushed me in the direction of church.  Well, nevermind how I got there.  If I explain the whole route, you will need a Garmin just to get back to your own head.

The point is, we got there…and we’re not planning on leaving anytime soon.

Mon Pouvoir

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Power.  This is a big word to some people, and to others, inconsequential.

What gives us our own power and who or what takes it away?  A handful of times in my life, my power has been taken away; however, this only instigated me learning to defend myself.  Personal power though, even when one has to defend oneself, is still left unguarded.  So what happens when you are somewhere that you normally feel safe and your power is taken away?  Recent experiences have dictated, at least for me, that I go into anxiety overdrive.  Things that normally don’t bother me suddenly make me flip out for no apparent reason.  Food is hard to keep down.  Noises of any type make me jump.  These are not things that I want to embrace or welcome into my life.  Anxiety is pretty much my least favorite thing on the planet, and when you take into account the 13 years of playing piano in public, I have definitely had my fair share.

This is pretty much me when put into any performance-type situation (as well as after any traumatic event, which is interesting that I lump “performance” and “traumatic event” in the same category).  Because I am prone to anxiety, I can literally go from completely fine to every worst possible outcome in less than a minute.  Do you know what psychologists say helps?  Aversion and exposure therapy.  I’m sure those work for some people, but apparently not me.  Many people like to say, “oh, you just have to perform more and it’ll get easier.”  Really?  Five times a month for 13 years isn’t enough exposure to performance?

I’d like to think that if the stress-induced anxiety was under control, then maybe when I encountered situations where my power is at a loss (though I hope I don’t have any more of those), I wouldn’t spend the next few days freaking out about anything and everything.  That being said, maybe because it IS stress-induced, I’m just going to have to learn to deal with it in a different way.  Do I know what that way is?  No.  Today though, it included lots of X-Files, at least five rotations of the Bach Cantata 4, fish tacos, a prickly pear margarita, and some hilarious conversations with a friend.  Obviously that’s not something I can do every time I get into a stressful situation (however nice it may be).  As it turned out this past weekend, the hike at Bandelier was exactly what I needed for my then state of mind…so maybe when the anxiety comes, I should be doing more communing with nature.  The desert, specifically, can heal pretty much anything, I’m convinced.

The Double Bar

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Today I finished my first piano piece.  Around 4:30, I officially drew in the double bar; however, I think some of the chords are still going to change.  I thought that I would feel a bit more closure at the end of this composition exercise, but surprisingly, I just felt like I needed to write more music.  While trying to compose in the past week, I somehow got stuck in the key of C-minor and couldn’t figure out how to get out of it.  It should have been a simple fix, but a notation error made it impossible for me to figure out.  This is one of the few times in my life where stepping away from the larger picture and honing in on each minute detail actually helped me.  In essence, I had to “see the forest for the trees.”

So if it didn’t give me a sense of closure, what did composing do?  I guess if I had to pinpoint something, it did help me deal with some emotions, as did my general piano practice.  That being said, if a friend of mine hadn’t been around and available, I might still be huddled in a corner of the piano studio, drooling on myself and mumbling about dead people and left-hand harmonization.  My next logical step then is to figure out where to go with composing from here.  The music is in me, but I have absolutely no clue how to get it out.  I have joked over the past few weeks about how I can only compose one note at a time (and each note takes me about an hour, at that)…but there is some truth to that.  Where other people I know compose in a rounded out linear fashion (meaning that they can just play a bunch of chords they like and it turns into a piece within minutes), I literally think of one note at a time in the melody portion and then have major issues putting an accompaniment with that.  I’m not sure what that says about my personal life, other than I have issues with support (which is very much true).

Maybe then, I need to look at composition more like going hiking: I need a general idea about the terrain, but if I’m only thinking about one step at a time and where each foot is being placed, I don’t get to enjoy the beauty of the hike.  And really, is there anything more important than taking in the beauty and seeing what comes of it?  If I’m always focusing on one note at a time, I’ll never get to enjoy the process of composing…and didn’t I start this because of the process in the first place?