Polyphony: art as process.Q: What inspired you to write this column about "art as process"?
A: Recently, I participated in a conversation with five individuals who were enrolled in an art workshop. It was at the beginning of the multi-day gathering, and they clearly were eager. Some were professional artists, but most were not, and all were attending a week-long workshop titled "Painting, Passion, Art." They were all ages and from all over the country and had diverse backgrounds and painting experiences, from a young mother who stated that in her experience she had only painted walls; to a woman from Albuquerque in her 60s who painted off and on to express herself; to a man from Chicago who acknowledged himself as an artist and made a living professionally, he said, as a massage therapist and also by selling church collection envelopes to churches (you decide this one).
When I asked about what mediums they would be working with and what the structure of their week looked like, the mother/wall painter quickly told me this was about "art as process." We talked a bit more, and someone else said she had come because it was a week about "process, art as process." It became evident they were clear with what they expected in the workshop, and what they wanted and needed at the time--to connect or reconnect with a love of creating art. They would tell me they had no idea what they would paint that day; no idea the scope or size of the painting; no idea how long it would take them to complete this project; and no idea how many paintings they would do in a week.
It was clear that inclinations toward judging their own and others' work were put away. These were individuals who were most interested in the process and their own experience with the brush, canvas and paints during that week. Little to no viewing, evaluating and critiquing inwardly in·ward·ly
1. On or in the inside; within: a window opening flared inwardly.
2. Privately; to oneself: or at the outer level would be part of the process, this "art as process." The instructor was a facilitator, a convener con·vene
v. con·vened, con·ven·ing, con·venes
To come together usually for an official or public purpose; assemble formally.
1. , and provided the external structure and gentle encouragement to allow the process to occur.
Later, when I saw some of them during this workshop at meals, they clearly were feeling freer and more expansive in their lives. They seemed more relaxed, not only with the group, but in general. They somehow were allowing a process to occur and evolve.
Still later, I saw several of the people in the singing workshop also taking place that week, a workshop for professionals and amateurs alike. This is a world I know more about, and still I was amazed a·maze
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.
2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.
v.intr. to overhear o·ver·hear
v. o·ver·heard , o·ver·hear·ing, o·ver·hears
To hear (speech or someone speaking) without the speaker's awareness or intent.
v.intr. an excited conversation between two singers during a break. One was euphoric euphoric (ūfôr´ik),
n a substance that produces an exaggerated sense of well-being. to be there with a chance to make music, to get some help with his work. He knew what he wanted and couldn't wait to get into the classes. I was not looking at him as a potential student, as we all have in similar situations at times, but only seeing him as an individual ecstatic ec·stat·ic
1. Marked by or expressing ecstasy.
2. Being in a state of ecstasy; joyful or enraptured.
[French extatique, from Greek ekstatikos, from over having a week to delve into something he loved.
Q: Are you alluding to our own return to music making, to some regular practicing, as a way to stay in touch with the reason we started music study in the first place?
A: Yes, in this column I wanted to talk about our own participation in music making as a process--not for our students, but for ourselves--as a means of keeping ourselves grounded and evolving. All of us learned to play an instrument or sing before we became such passionate teachers. That love of music drew us to the instrument and the process of spending time "Spending Time" is the first single released by Christian artist Stellar Kart.
The lyrics describe the band members desire to spend "more time with God". "Sometimes it’s a real struggle to spend time with God. with the musical scores, our ears and our instruments to create sound and music in a meaningful way.
Then we learned to judge ourselves, to become unbalanced critics of our own work, perhaps. And many or most of us ceased practicing. For some, the process left during the college years. The thrill and euphoria An interpreted programming language developed in 1993 by Robert Craig at Rapid Deployment Software that is noted for its execution speed, flexibility and simplicity. It can simulate any programming method including object-oriented constructs. turned into an obligation to practice, and perhaps we were encouraged too strongly to work for goals with undue pressure to reach them--pressure that might or might not have worked with our personalities. We became so critical and judgmental judg·men·tal
1. Of, relating to, or dependent on judgment: a judgmental error.
2. Inclined to make judgments, especially moral or personal ones: of ourselves, that we wouldn't allow ourselves to be balanced musicians after college. We stopped playing or singing because we believed we did not have time and told ourselves conveniently that we were out of practice. We thought we didn't like our playing (or singing), that we had lost the "touch." We had begun to play in our minds for external judges and audiences; what we missed was playing for ourselves, to communicate with our souls, to express our feelings in music.
So, when we had a life change, such as beginning a busy teaching position, or getting married and starting a family or finding work outside the musical profession, we found it easy to have little to no time for making music. We put our music making aside for other events in the life evolution.
Q: It seems impossible to have time in our busy lives to play for our own refreshment and personal nurturing, especially at this time of year when many of us are running ragged rag·ged
1. Tattered, frayed, or torn: ragged clothes.
2. Dressed in tattered or threadbare clothes: a ragged scarecrow.
3. . This is the most pressured time in the teaching year for many of us. There seems to be no way to fit this in.
A: And yet, one might say that after all those years of training, what a shame not to make music any more. It is at the very busiest and the most pressed times of our lives that perhaps we need centering the most. Once, we loved doing it. We don't really lose it even if we become rusty. Being too busy is not to be taken as an excuse, if possible. We are in control of our schedules. One wonders what only twenty minutes a day, with our instrument, just playing and allowing the process to begin to work again, might do in our lives. To do this, the highly judgmental self needs to vacate To annul, set aside, or render void; to surrender possession or occupancy.
The term vacate has two common usages in the law. With respect to real property, to vacate the premises means to give up possession of the property and leave the area totally devoid of contents. , because the purpose is for us to hear and experience the music we choose to play. Music as process.
Q: How can I make this work?
A: Often it is helpful to look at others who are successful in a similar way. Adult amateur pianists and musicians (who are not music teachers) are rampant today, thankfully, and many of us know several adults studying piano for the experience and process, having as a goal, primarily, the joy of practicing during the week. Or we may know the adult amateur chamber musician who proceeds with commitment and excitement to rehearse re·hearse
v. re·hearsed, re·hears·ing, re·hears·es
a. To practice (a part in a play, for example) in preparation for a public performance.
b. with friends and colleagues. We may have friends who are taking an art class in a local community and become consumed by it.
What seems most feasible for many teachers leading lives that are too full at this point in the year, is they commit to, perhaps, twenty minutes for several days a week to beginning to play or sing again. What they practice will not be an issue, nor will what to play the next day or the next. They simply play when no one will interrupt or disturb them. Most importantly Adv. 1. most importantly - above and beyond all other consideration; "above all, you must be independent"
above all, most especially , they need to check out from the judgmental side so they do not compare what they are doing now with what they did ten, twenty or thirty years ago, but that they enjoy the process and the sound in only the present time.
It is possible for a young teacher with a burgeoning studio and young children to do this--even for twenty minutes or possibly ten minutes a day. It is possible for a teacher who has taught for forty years to do this--to play some portions of pieces he or she may have taught but not played recently or to play some intermediate classics he may someday some·day
At an indefinite time in the future.
Usage Note: The adverbs someday and sometime express future time indefinitely: We'll succeed someday. Come sometime. teach, or play Schubert sonatas The following is a list of musical pieces that belong to the category, Sonata. Classical (ca 1760 – ca 1830)
Q: What are some pitfalls to avoid as we rekindle re·kin·dle
tr.v. re·kin·dled, re·kin·dling, re·kin·dles
1. To relight (a fire).
2. To revive or renew: rekindled an old interest in the sciences. the habit of making music in our lives?
A: One suggestion is to avoid obsessive ob·ses·sive
Of, characteristic of, or causing an obsession.
ob·sessive n. planning of what you will practice. Let what you want to play and practice come to you. Avoid timing your practice, except, perhaps, to limit yourself so you do not overdo it. Allow yourself to want to come back to the practice. You may be at the instrument for twenty or thirty minutes a day, on most days but not all days, and that alone could be transformative. Find music that is meaningful to you, and play it or sing, without judgment. That will allow the meaning to come back into your experience of making music.
We, as musicians, were first called to our instrument and its literature as a way to express ourselves. What a shame to leave it in our adult lives, when the process and transformation and self-growth are often so essential to our emotional health. To do so, our judgmental selves who killed our joy need to take a hiatus hiatus /hi·a·tus/ (hi-a´tus) [L.] an opening, gap, or cleft.hia´tal
aortic hiatus the opening in the diaphragm through which the aorta and thoracic duct pass. so we can allow the transforming nature of just being one with the music to emerge. Try it, even for three months--perhaps for only twenty minutes on most days.
Allow yourself the chance to play what you are drawn to, and do this only for you and for no one else. "Art as process." "Music as process."
And, if you do not now find your way home to making music again at this point, look during May or June for an activity that can work as a process for you. It might be that you take a class this summer in interior or landscape design, sign up for a yoga yoga (yō`gə) [Skt.,=union], general term for spiritual disciplines in Hinduism, Buddhism, and throughout S Asia that are directed toward attaining higher consciousness and liberation from ignorance, suffering, and rebirth. or Pilates class or take up scrap-booking with a group. Perhaps you will try journaling as a way, too, of communicating within oneself. Try something different, and something that allows you to look at life just a bit differently.
Q: What can we do as teachers to allow the process to occur easily in our own students' study?
A: Work in the present time in the lessons. Teach our students what beautiful tone is, how to really hear clarity, what to do and listen for when they practice, how to enjoy what they are doing right now in the learning of a piece and a technique. It is best for teachers to balance the process portion of lessons with the goals, often returning to the moment and process at hand. These are the balanced teachers who help their students recognize what they have and are hearing in the moment.
As musicians, we understand uniquely the passion another musician has with his music. In the most hectic hec·tic
1. Characterized by intense activity, confusion, or haste: "There was nothing feverish or hectic about his vigor" Erik Erikson.
2. times of our lives, as well as in the more peaceful times, music making as a process can return to the original place it served for all of us as a profoundly grounding and communicative com·mu·ni·ca·tive
1. Inclined to communicate readily; talkative.
2. Of or relating to communication.
com·mu experience with ourselves.
Send Us Your Questions
Do you have a teaching question you would like to have answered? Perhaps you have a practice tip for students you would like to share or a studio idea you are trying differently this year. Questions and other items may be sent to: American Music Teacher, Attn: Polyphony polyphony (pəlĭf`ənē), music whose texture is formed by the interweaving of several melodic lines. The lines are independent but sound together harmonically. ; 441 Vine St., Ste. 505, Cincinnati, OH 45202-2811; fax (513) 421-2503; or e-mail to email@example.com.
Jane Magrath, NCTM NCTM National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
NCTM Nationally Certified Teacher of Music
NCTM North Carolina Transportation Museum
NCTM National Capital Trolley Museum
NCTM Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage , is internationally known as a pianist, author, clinician clinician /cli·ni·cian/ (kli-nish´in) an expert clinical physician and teacher.
n. and teacher. She is professor and director of piano pedagogy at the University of Oklahoma University of Oklahoma, abbreviated OU, is a coeducational public research university located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. Founded in 1890, it existed in Oklahoma Territory near Indian Territory 17 years before the two became the state of Oklahoma. in Norman.