Thursday, August 27, 2009

a power stronger than itself

paul klee "insula dulcamara". 1938.

i have loved music for as long as i can remember . . . love, in the sense that i have been grateful for its presence as a reminder of the goodness that connects all and everything. the first time i was aware of the possibility that music didn't necessarily emanate from its players came with my listening to the music of keith jarrett. jarrett has observed that "his best performances were during the times where he had the least amount of preconception of what he was going to play at the next moment. an apocryphal account of one such performance had jarrett staring at the piano for several minutes without playing; as the audience grew increasingly uncomfortable, one member shouted to jarrett, "d sharp!", to which the pianist responded, "thank you!," and launched into an improvisation at speed."

it was something jarrett said, (and the exact words escape me) but its essence was that the real work of the musician is to get out of the way of the music.

extend that into the larger states of living and being. how do i get out of the way of the 'doing' of life and allow the 'being' to become.

robert fripp's aphorism "may we trust the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse" is revealed on a daily basis as i listen to music that (as fripp also points out) so needs to be heard that despite the extraordinary odds against its arriving, somehow manages to do so.

music and love are synonymous in my understanding . . . rabindranath tagore says that "love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. it is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation." it is from the heart of the creation that music flows without condition.


  1. mmmmmm - as with music, so with life - the key is to get out of our own way to arrive at pure being. This principle can be applied across the board to so many aspects of life - step back, get out of the way, allow it to flow, don't think, to come through you, be it life, creativity, magic - we have to get out of our own way. If we can do that we remove all constraints and encounter the spaciousness of being.

  2. hi bonnie - music has been such an entry point for me to begin to understand this world - and others - and especially the world that i have made. it's an intriguing challenge to unpack that artifice and to allow the pure flow of my existence to emerge. so much is connected to expectation - my own and others of me. thanks for this insightful comment!!! steven

  3. Great Post Steven.
    Presence is the teacher, but how does one allow it to manifest? What is in the way? I am reminded of a wonderful line I read by Henri Thomasson where he says, "Me, my only baggage."
    As for music or more specifically, in the art of listening, I feel it is just as important to "get out of the way" and allow music or even the sounds around one at any given time to penetrate in order to take part in a continual mysterious exchange that is beyond my usual awareness.
    Like Robert Fripp says in his journals (which you introduced me to) "Where was the world before it was made? Find that place and you will find music."
    Thank you for the inspiring post. Good food for my lunch hour today.

  4. hi luke - thankyou and it's very nice to read your words again!! i find that there are types of music that don't actually encourage getting out of the way, while there are others that you have to let flow through you. i'm listening to theo travis and robert fripp playing live in a small church in the south of england. i had to stop because i was lost. "lost" meaning scattered all over the place and not inside the piece. there's something essential transpires in real music creation that yes allows you to know something of the world before it was made. steven

  5. Wow, a very elegant, well thought out musing, Steven. It reminded me of something that was "in" in the 80's: gestalt art, dance, music, etc. The idea was to take anything, person, or thought around you and let it become you. (The red hand on the traffic light is you telling yourself to stop what you're doing, for example.) This creates a shift in what you're normally seeing and allows the art to express itself.

  6. Interesting. One could generalize, and say that it is the job of the artist to get out of the way of the art. I'd go along with this totally.

    Can one "trust the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse"? OK, but one has to practise staying out of its way, if the first statement is true.

  7. hello margaret, i remember that phase of expression in the 80's. i'm thinking here of something more general that i can extend from the act of music or art into life even. to allow things to flow through you as much as possible. children have this ability and then are trained into acquiring filters that they then know as "opinions" or "beliefs" or "taste".
    i do think that creative energy is available in the same way as air. it's making yourself available to it that is the challenge. steven

  8. hi dominic - you nailed it!!! nice comment. yes, the creative impulse is available to you if you get as much of "yourself" out of the way as possible. which takes practice. thanks so much for this comment. steven