Lesson 6: Musical Impulse

Explanation: Directing your attention

Reading: Impulse, by Olga Averino

In order to work on this week’s practice tactic, it is important that you first take time to stop and come to rest. This allows you to observe your playing with an open mind and calm body. To do this, here is a more advanced version of the Lie Down warm-up: Spinal Awareness in Rest.
There are several of these films which were made for us by Alexander teacher and head of choreography Tony Thatcher of Trinity Laban School of Music and Dance, London, after years of joint work with their dancers and our musicians. You can see that in his version he uses a wall to support his feet, and shows you how to lie down in the most supple way. After you have looked at the film and practice how to get on to the floor, you can begin the film after this initial instruction. If you do not understand the anatomical words, don’t worry, he is usually pointing to the part he is mentioning. You will notice that this film takes you a bit further in learning the lie down than the short version in previous lessons.

Practice Tactics:
In this week’s practice tactics, you explore the two aspects described in the Explanation and Reading sections of the lesson:
Spark the musical impulse by taking a Music Walk.
Witness the basics of your craft of playing and singing through Frames of Attention.

When you use Frames of Attention, you can concentrate on
Micro contacts.
Then go on to add the other two frames:
The whole instrument
The whole space

Answer these questions and send them in a doc or pdf to the teacher. As usual, use the instructions on the class homepage to do this.
1. In the explanation text, the term “micro-contacts” was used as possible focus points during practice. The cellist also showed this in the film. What are the micro-contact points for your instrument (or voice)?

2. What is the second frame, “the whole instrument”, for your instrument or voice?

3. What is the third frame in “Frames of Attention?”

4. “Frames of Attention” allows you to focus on the actual point of contact between you and your instrument, and the tangible, audible results of playing or singing. In the explanation, some things were mentioned that tend to distract us from these subtle sensations. What was mentioned in the article? What are other things that can distract you from what you are doing?

5. Name something that struck you about the film of the cellist. Did he say or demonstrate anything not found in the explanation text, or that made it all clearer to you? What was he showing us that he changed in his playing by using “Frames of Attention?”

6. In Olga Averino’s text about Impulse, she gives a few examples of how to recognize it in performance, and in daily life. Can you give your own example of when impulse is present and can be seen in action?

7. What is the difference between emotion and impulse?

8. Have you ever experienced the spark of musical impulse in your playing or singing? Tell about what that was like.

9. Have you ever felt listless and uninspired in your practice or performance? What could you do to nurture that spark of impulse that the author describes? What clues and tips does she give?

10. In the text, three points in the use of energy are listed. In your own words, can you tell what the three points are for your instrument? If you are singer, describe what you think the author means by what she is writing there.

11. In this week’s warm-up we tried a more detailed version of the Lie Down (or semi-supine). How many times did you try this, and what was the affect on your practice of taking time to do this before you started?

12. When you stood up after doing the lie down, did you notice any changes in your mental or physical state? What did you notice about how you felt, and how the world looked around you?

Practice tactic:
13. The first tactic suggested was the Music Walk. What was it like to walk outside and imagine the music without making sound? Have you ever done this before? What was the affect on your practice afterwards? Did it change how you played or sang?

14. The second tactic was Frames of Attention, focusing on the first frame Micro-contacts. Were you able to identify and sense these small contact points when playing or singing? What are the sensations (described in Lesson 1) that allow you to feel these contact points?

15. The second frame is called “The Whole Instrument.” How does your instrument or voice resonate or magnify the sound? Which structures do this? Which parts of your instrument? What happened when you turned your thoughts to these structures?

16. The third frame is “The Whole Space.” In the space that you now have to play in, what were objects that enhanced your sound the most? Did you move around to find them? What happened when you widened your concept of your playing or singing to include the whole room? Did you sing or play differently?