This book , one that I recommend for ALL musicians, no matter your skill level or resume, begins with a simple premise: We ALL carry a song inside–the song that makes us human. We are all born with a song, but often don’t know how to unlock it. This little book has really helped me a great deal the past year as I have coped with vocal fold paralysis as a singer and vocal pedagogue. Talk about unlocking a silent song!
Today’s quotes are from the chapter called Teacher and Student.
“It is said that in any given situation, someone is doing the teaching and someone is doing the learning. This thinking is central to the Way of Zen Guitar.
We are all students and teachers in everything we do, and we are both at the same time. When a child learns from the parent, the parent learns from the child. Each imparts different lessons. We teach the child about the ways of the world while the child teaches us the innocence and wonder of learning. There is nothing more fundamental to life.
In this dojo, you have an obligation to fulfill each role…Seek out knowledge and thirst for it wherever you can find it, letting all things be your teacher…The further you advance on your path, the more you become ‘sensei’-one who has gone before. And as ‘sensei,” you must share what you’ve learned on your journey with those coming up behind you, and realize that everything you do, even unconsciously, teaches by example.
…If you take this responsibility seriously, your teaching will inform your learning, just as your learning will inform your teaching.”
I, Cate, have lived every day of my life like this. This way of living has been especially important in helping me move through this past year, since the diagnosis of the paralysis, with grace and purpose. I have learned beyond what I could have imagined possible, from my singing voice specialist, energy healer/therapist, life coach and many others. I have learned from my students, and in turn, have had one of the most gratifying teaching years of my life, with the promise of more wonderful opportunities in 2014.
And one of the things I have learned from my students, is that my voice is heard. It has not been silenced, and it still calls out to heal and guide and push and inspire and let people feel their own selves buried under far to many expectations, duties and worries. I truly believe that this dojo, put into practice daily over my 50-something years because of who I am, is a spiritual path that can not be taught from ego gratification and instant satisfaction.
And that is what much of music has become. In everything from opera to pop. Ignorance and mediocrity have turned Youtube dribble into a badges of honor.
Following the path of zen guitar has become an act of rebellion. Start your own movement.
There is a recent New York Times’ article about coughers and other distractions during concerts, which I found both amusing and demoralizing. Amusing because the internationally known conductors and performers featured had actually stopped their performances to either chastise the audience, bring attention to it through humor, or actually say something like “my music is a gift to you and you need to be a better audience.”
Well, first of all, no. It wasn’t a gift, the audience had presumably paid for tickets and even though you weren’t paid enough, you were paid, and secondly, concert audiences are aging and holding in coughs is nigh impossible to do.
Having been on both sides of the stage, I think the sound of distractions and movements of late-comers it is far worse for members of the audience than the performers!
There’s no simple solution, but the reason I mentioned the article is because the musicians quoted in the Times’ article were obviously not on the path of Zen Guitar!
Sound and Silence
It doesn’t matter if you’re the greatest guitar player in the world, if you’re not enlightened, forget it. –George Harrison
“For centuries, wondering monks in Japan have played the shakuhachi, a traditional bamboo flute, for the purposes of meditation…
The measure of artistry with the flute is “ichion jobutsu”–the quality of enlightenment in one note. To the player, every note and every space between the notes has equal importance to every other. Nothing-not a single breath through the flute–can go to waste. In the moment of a shakuhachi master, each moment in this world has its distinct existence and then is gone forever; each sound and each silence is an opportunity for enlightenment.”
Perhaps this quality–to be in the moment and include every sound,, as well as silence, as part of the music you are making is something to cultivate. To train students in the quality and encourage it in ourselves seems to be the best way to open the communicate among performers, audience and environment. Then there are no mistakes and no distractions. Live music at its best, even for us classical musicians!
While I work with singers of all musical styles and my instrumental background included many styles of music, my professional life as a singer was predominantly classical. Even so, all the excerpts from Sudo’s book easily apply to all of us who make music.
I saw Bob Dylan getting criticized in Australia by this guy who was saying, “Your new songs aren’t as relevant as your old songs.” And Dylan just said, “Well, I’m out here writing songs–what are you doing? –Tom Petty
“The student of Zen Guitar needs to know but two things about criticism: how to give it and how to take it.
If you must criticize, do so in the spirit of building up, not tearing down. Tearing down is easy. The Way of Zen Guitar is to build. This is extremely difficult. Ignore all criticism which attempts to tear you down; do not allow anything to pierce your armor. Critics can be quick to find fault, but empty when it comes to providing an alternative.
…Avoid leaders, conductors, teachers or colleagues whose criticism stems from ego–that is, a desire to show how clever they are, or a feeling of insecurity, or to cut others down to make themselves feel in control or superior.
Do not beat up on yourself. Even if you think you know your flaws, there is no need to advertise them. Most people won’t have noticed.”