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Music is a powerful method of communication. With any type of speech, a person may feel the urge to censor the self. And yet, it is this musical suppression that forms a chasm between sounds heard near the soul and those felt distant.
Now, there is even <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-03-04-musician-brain-scans_N.htm">brain imaging research</a> to back up the notion: improvisation is a story of the self told in music without self-censorship.
<td><i>"In jazz music, improvisation is considered to be a highly individual expression of an artist's own musical viewpoint. ... one could argue that improvisation is a way of expressing one's own musical voice or story."</i>
- <a href="http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0001679">Limb and Braun</a>
An improvisation may be described as an effortless meditation of self in sound, as noted by the occasional stumbling into an improv state and "being in the zone." It is often signified by a subsequent nearly universal statement, "hey, that was cool."
After a series of sounds and a feeling that one somehow <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yesterday_%28song%29#_note-y_songs">had little to do with it</a>, at least consciously, it would seem natural to question the purpose of practice. If there are these moments where wonderful melodies emerge with little conscious effort, why practice?
Fundamentally, practice is the learning of a language in order to speak in one's own unique voice. Even the practice of scales and theory can be a method of understanding the communicative abilities of sound. As the language is learned, the ability to reach those golden moments becomes more readily attained.
Where we see errors in practice is in the neglect of the latter half of the phrase - i.e. practice is a path towards speakng one's own voice. After all, we have all seen those with a grasp of only small parts of a language who still say beautiful things and those with near perfect diction with little to say.
Practice is more than mere mechanics. One gains understanding of not only the instrument, but also of one's anxieties and fears in order to navigate the instrument's channel between self and audience. It is an understanding of the differences in the origins of anxiety's chill winds from those of silent mirrored waters ideal for traversing the mind's oceans.
Such a grasp of the mental climates requires several fundamental aspects of practice: presence, observation, and time. Whatever the point of focus in the language, be it chords, melody, song, rhythm, or an exercise made up entirely in one's own style (my personal favorite), the musician must be present at the point of practice, observing with focused attention, and patient in the time it takes for natural growth to occur. These are the very same components found in a <a href="https://www.kouroshdini.com/2008/01/21/what-is-meditation-and-why-is-it-useful/">meditation</a>.
It is along these lines, that practice shapes a goal of presenting good music. It is true that beautiful meanings can often still filter through broken speech. But a higher fidelity of soul is always nice to hear.
Practice is learning the art of allowing the self to present without conflict, censorship, fear, or desire. In so much as these aspects of self are filtered from the sound, what we hear, both as audience and as artist, becomes more pure, beautiful, and true.
See also previous posts on the subject:
<li><a href="https://www.kouroshdini.com/2006/03/27/some-thoughts-on-improvisation-as-self-analysis/">Improvisation as Self-Analysis</a></li>
<li><a href="https://www.kouroshdini.com/2006/09/24/why-write-music/">Why Write Music?</a></li>
Special thanks to Lucy Tornado for sending the article <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-03-04-musician-brain-scans_N.htm">"Brain scans tune in to personal nature of improvising music"</a>.
<a href="http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0001679">Limb CJ, Braun AR (2008) "Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Musical Performance: An fMRI Study of Jazz Improvisation." <i>PLoS ONE</i> 3(2): e1679 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001679</a>
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Music is essential for the soul. The Sikhs were given 1430 pages of words, about how does the soul’s meets God, in classical Raags (notes) which can be improvised. There are no set tunes. Music is the best way to meet God. There has been no study of the minds of the Sikhs who sing them on a daily basis.
Raags are ancient. They were used for dances in the Hindu temples and I think the Mughals prohibited this practice and brought the raags into their courts and then banished the raags to the houses of prostitutes. Guru Nanak brought them back into faith and the whole of Guru Granth is based on Raags.There are writings of Farid who was a sufi in Guru Granth which have been allocated raags by the Gurus. Have you heard of musical instruments such as Sarangi, Dilruba, Sarrodh. These were played by the Gurus and raags sound a lot better on these.
As far as the study of the mind is concerned, brain patterns could be scanned before singing, during and after. The Sikhs also meditate on the word Vahe Guru which is meant to help connect the mind to God.
Music,Repitition of Godly Words , analysis of the words with full attention and utilise them in daily life and serving creation are key to Sikh path to God. Easier said then done of course.
There is something profoundly spiritual in music. Raags are something I thought I heard of in relation to persian music. Your having stimulated my curiosity, it seems Raags have travelled and evolved mainly through India.
The concept is very neat – themes of music that is consciously considered as evolutionary.
I wonder what type of study could be designed to study the growth of mind in Sikhs practicing Raags as you mention.
Raags sound fascinating – like an entire world of study just waiting. Many of the terms you mention are unfamiliar to me, including the instruments noted.
The power of music is tremendous and somehow feels either lost or misplaced in the Western language of sound. Though I know this to be a gross over-simplification, there really isn’t a consciously considered growing body of work such as you describe. Perhaps, it is just as well, since there is one evolving as you mention.
Much of what I do is develop themes that evolve themselves. As they do, I learn more about both the external world and the world of mind. However, it is largely a musical growth confined to myself rather than shared among many with common purpose.
KaurKhalsa, you’ve given me some neat homework 🙂
If there is any recording you could recommend, I’d be most appreciative if you mention it. Thanks!
I’m now looking through: http://www.soundofindia.com/raagas.asp
Please try the above to hear the sounds and see the instruments.
Gurubani from the Golden temple.
Those are excellent! Thanks for the links 🙂
I think you have the right attitude…ALOT of jazz cats made it up as they went along… listen to Ornette Coleman, and you see impovisation at its finest… you just gotta FEEL IT… you dig?
Thanks, Jazz Cat – I just found these: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgTr8Z2ioMk and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72SVN9sO4P4&feature=related. Those are some very nice sounds 🙂
KaurKhalsa – I realized that what I had thought were Raags when I mentioned their relation to persian music, are really radifs. I had the too confused.