The spiritual side of music...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Blackbird, Aug 4, 2003.

  1. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Ok, humor me here. I posted this as part of the "describe your bass playing with words" thread, but I'd really like to know if anyone sees a validity to my idea or if they think it's hogwash. This is a personal opinion and I don't think I can be swayed from it, but maybe someone here can provide some insight of their own.

    Now for the spiritual/crazy part, sort of. It's kinda hard to put in words, but I'll try.

    Sometimes you hear music of a beauty and expressiveness that goes beyond the technical and mechanical aspects of musicmaking. It touches the listeners deeper than other musics; it makes you feel things that you never thought you could feel in places where you didn't think you could feel anything. It's a place where consciousness ends and dreams begin.

    Since humans only use 10% of their brains, I believe that on an unconscious level, we have an ability to comprehend and express musical ideas in a manner the conscious mind cannot achieve. I also think that those almost magical moments when your hands play an amazing lick or idea that you didn't consciously conceive come from that place.

    These "accidents" are few and far between if they happen to a player at all, but when they do happen, they're amazing.

    My goal is to have as many of these "accidents" as possible, and I believe that the best way to make myself available to them is to become the best musical conduit I can, which right now means knowing my instrument with the same intimacy that I know these words you're reading. It also means that I have to absorb as much music as possible, so that a pool of knowledge is available to draw from, with rules to be followed and eventually transcended. The ultimate goal is to disappear, to surrender completely to this zone, spirit, or whatever you want to call it and become its vehicle, so that it will flow from me effortlessly. I believe it'll amaze me as much as it'll amaze my listeners.

    This is a lifelong goal. To fulfill it properly, I'd have to dedicate a lot more time to it than I do now. Getting there is the fun part and one of the reasons I play music.

    Some real life examples of people I feel touched that plateau, if you will, include Charlie Parker, Mozart and people like them.

    Feel free to comment
  2. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I think there's a lot of truth in that, BB. Have you read Kenny Werner's "Effortless Mastery"?
  3. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    No, but I'm aware of it. I am inspired by the concept, but the book itself worries me. In some ways, reading it might be helpful, but I'm fearful that it'll close more doors than it'll open.

    I'd rather have to sort through a whole haystack than be handed a bunch of needles someone else picked for me.
  4. j_sun23


    Feb 24, 2003
    Baton Rouge LA
    Well the basis of your whole idea rests on the assumption of the existence of the metaphysical. So, to really take what you say, one has to take a lot more.

    Now what you say about knowing you're instrument with the same intimacy as these words you're reading is probably a more useful way of thinking about it. You have ideas. You are able to communicate your ideas through language. They come from you, not from outside of you (I hope). The better you are able to use language as a tool the better you are able to communicate your ideas. I think it could be useful to think of playing your bass in the same way. Think of it as learning a language, learning to speak, expanding your vocabulary. The more you know, the more you'll be able to say.

    Now having something to say is a whole other problem. That you'll have to figure out for yourself. If there is anything spiritual to what you do, I think this is where it would take place, in WHAT you say.

    Interesting stuff. I'll be glad to continue the discussion.
  5. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    Yes Blackbird I pretty much agree with what you said...
  6. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
    I agree very much with what you said. Music is one of the very few things in life that has the ability to move beyond what it really is.

    Very well said. That holds true to many other, if not all, parts of life as well. Can I put that in my sig?
  7. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Be my guest.:)
  8. Blackbird,

    I think what you are describing is the way I feel I write music.

    Keep in mind however, that there is not a SHRED of physical evidence for the "unconcious mind".

    Therefore, in terms of writing that is, you get some folks who feel that the unconcious mind is the creative generator. You get some folks who think that they are in tune with THE creator ( a notion that I find a bit egocentric) and then you get those folks who take the Carl Gustav Jung view that they are just tapping into the collective unconcious of mankind - once again, that's kinda ego centric.

    You have indeed correctly attempted to describe the effect. The bottom line is that NO ONE knows where this comes from.

    When I was a young man I got hung up into this metaphysical thing too much at one point. And you can go TOO far in that direction to the point that you are contemplating your navel instead of making music.

    It has been many many years since I have cared about what it is or how or why it happens. All I know is that I want to make I do.

    I just hope that I can continue to have my accidents happen.
  9. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    To me this is the essence of music. It isn't about clever chord progressions or fancy riffs or tricky syncopation or technical virtuosity... those are simply a means to a particular end, not the end. Yes, I'll listen to some music simply out of intellectual stimulation, but if it doesn't stimulate me emotionally I'll quickly get bored with it.

    I'll name Aphex Twin and John Zorn as composers who can take me places I never thought possible. But for me, even simple tunes that don't necessarily break new ground can be emotionally powerful. This is why I often state that no genre is better or worse than another. Jazz is (usually) more complex than punk, but this simply means it's able to describe more complex shades of emotion. I enjoy metal and punk because they typically stimulate rawer emotion. Jazz can do that too, but in a way that's different, not better.

    To put this another way: a painting shouldn't be judged on how many colors or brushstrokes were used, and neither should music. When I listen to music for enjoyment (as opposed to having to learn it) I sit back and relax and let it work on my emotions, and try not to think about how it was made. Sometimes being a musician can hurt music appreciation: you listen with your brain rather than your heart (so to speak).
  10. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Interesting - could you expand on this? In what way is reading this book being handed a bunch of needles someone else picked for you?

    I really think you'd like what that book has to say. I don't see how it could close any doors? :confused:
  11. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Great post, Blackbird!

    I agree, and I take a moment each and everytime I play now (for the past few years), to close my eyes, relax and let go of my ego, and become open to the music that I have learned to let pass through me. I find that by consciously taking that moment, those accidents happen more.
  12. j_sun23


    Feb 24, 2003
    Baton Rouge LA
    I hate to nit pick and even argue against myself, but how would one expect physical evidence of something non-physical, assuming that the "unconscious" is non-physical? And for that matter, what is the "conscious mind", asssuming mind implies something other than brain, and is it a physical structure?

    Where what comes from? What is coming? The feeling of something outside you? The music you make? The notes you play? The movements your fingers make?

    Man, this sounds like I'm fighting, but please don't take it as aggression at all. I just have a bit of a hunger for good discussion sometimes, and this is way better than "...what kind of amp/speaker/bass/string/shoes/etc. will make me play like a bass god?" Remember it's all in good fun and comraderie.

    And NO we are not contemplating our navels...yet...
  13. Greywoulf

    Greywoulf Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2000
    Freehold, NJ. USA
    Absolutely! At times I've been transported into a completely serene and peaceful state while soloing on my congas or djembe!
    It also happens with my bass, but less often; I think maybe it's because I've become good with percussion and am still struggling with bass.

    But sometimes, when I'm not practicing or trying to learn new lines, just doodling with the pure tone of a good bass will transfix me with joy...

    d];>]} Greywoulf
  14. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    This is a short synopsys I got from the internet:

    Self consciousness? Self doubt? Stress? I never think about stuff. I may not be great at all things I want to do, but I think that it's just a matter of time and dedication.

    He suggests ways to let our natural creative powers run freely? Do we all learn the same way? Is his method proven to be the best for everybody? Is it impossible to achieve the same results by means not listed in the book?

    For what it's worth, I like the challenge of pursuing the goal my own way.
  15. j_sun23 wrote

    Ah, perhaps the word "physical" was a poor choice. What I mean is this: There is proof of certain ways that the mind works. We know about left side and right side, we know the general areas and their functions, memory research has taught us that the mind works in certain ways. All of the studies in these areas are old hat and have been verified by many researchers using the scientic method.

    But we have NO evidence of a sub conscious.

    If you re-read my post I think that you will see that I am talking about the act of musical creation:

  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I have experienced this - but my view is like somebody else mentioned that different types of music express differnet types of feeling.

    So - I was into punk as a rebellious youth as it captured angry feelings of frustration, rock music was all about excitment to me and musics for dancing - like Funk, Salsa etc are about sex.

    I could go on - but the kind of "transcendent" or spiritual feeling as a reaction to music has only happened to me with Classical music (in its broadest sense) - so Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 alway makes me feel something spiritual -although I am an agnostic humanist by inclination.

    Similarly - the Symphonies of Mahler, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, etc etc. can make me feel there is something more about the music - something spiritual if you like - but something beyond.

    But my feeling is that what I am experiencing is a different kind of direct communication that is entirely non-verbal and emotional. I feel that when I am fully concentrating on a great performance of a Mahler Symphony (no. 6 especially)- Mahler is communicating to me as a human being in some way I don't fully understand, but is perfectly clear! Mahler is telling me somthing he learned about life that he is able to express in music but which nobody can express in words.

    SI it is some form of communication that transcends ourselves as simple animal beings - hence the quote in my sig. is very relevant to me....

    The "music of the spheres" (just a term- no particular meaning) is like the underlying communication in the universe and we can touch/perceive it with some forms of music that were created by the greatest of composers.
  17. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I'm reading it right now. In fact I got it delivered from amazon yesterday and read ten chapters in an evening.

    I'm gonna be completely honest here, dont take offence anyone, OK!

    I think I'm bordering on insane?
    I read all these posts and, like I said, no offence intended, I think it's all a load of pointless hippy crap. Spritual my arse!
    Truthfully, I find the notion that music is channelled through you via some higher force utterly pretentious. Like it's as though you are just the messenger and the music comes from God to the listener via you. That, in itself, is like something from SPinal Tap. It's ridiculous!

    BUT - and this is why I think I'm mad...

    I do know, understand and appreciate, what you, Blackbird, Kenny Werner etc mean. I was reading the book and it all rang true to me, that feeling when you're in the heat of playing and you're not thinking at all, you're just playing... and the unity between the members of the band. It's truly magical. I play music, because nothing else captures the moment so easily and readily for me.
    Making music is amazing, beautiful, spiritual, as is listening to music or seeing something beautiful, my girlfriend asleep, a sunset, a mother and child, friends, people just 'being happy' (cheesey, but you know what I mean!) - stuff that makes you appreciate what life is all about and make you feel genuinely happy for "the moment".

    ...but then again... it's such nonsense!!! My brain is just a sponge full of chemicals -just like depression is a chemical imbalance, happiness is the right balance. I'm just a monkey with a bigger cranium and all this spiritual stuff is just crap. You're born, you live, you die, nothing more.

    That's my dilemma anyhow...

    I was brought up an atheist and I think I'm starting to have difficulty accepting spirituality because of it?!

    Edit(BB) Jeez, Howard, having to edit your post for language sure does take out some of the fun of reading it.
  18. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Blackbird posted

    Reading my post and yours I think it's safe to say I'm a bigger cynic!
    I bought the book in question because i heard a lot of people on TB talk about it, moley, Bruce among others and thought I should give it a try.

    Note, I completely agree that the path is yours to find and no one can find it for you... but if they have already walked down a path further than you, maybe they can give you a few pointers?

    That excert is not neccessarily the best parts of the book to tempt you in, imo.

    there are bots of it so far that i think are plain nonsense, and there are bits which have really helped me in my mind.

    "improvisation is meerely having the courage to move from one not to the next"

    this is somthing that i'm going to try and remember when i play all the time.
    i've been playing 13 years, i know the bass, i know the instrument, yet i still fear 'wrong notes' - ridiculous right.

    yuo shoudl check the book out, i;m reading it and no one is more closed minded than i am ;)
  19. Howard K,

    I think that whatever we are talking about - "spirituality in music", "accidents", "channeling", or that feeling we get when we play or write something that seems over our head, or the feeling we get when playing in a band and all the tumblers seem to click just right..........I think we all agree that it is there, because most of us have experienced it in some form or the other.

    But what it SERIOUSLY not important. You see, I think that books like Effortless Mastery, or Jung's view of the collective unconscious - I think that these are ways in which we communicate the fact that SOMETHING IS there - that we have a common feeling or experience.

    But they don't help us get to that point.

    As I said above, the only thing that really gets us to whatever experience we are talking about comes from the music and nothing else. There is no other way that I personally experience the act of creation in writing music other than doing it. No book, or religion, or psychological theory, or meditation or ANYTHING...except doing the music.

    I honestly can't reject any theory about that experience...because I don't know. I can't prove or disprove any of them. But thinking about it DOES do one negative takes away from the time I have to do music...and I won't put up with that.

    Just MHO.
  20. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Machaut, yes I agree, and a well stated point.

    Like I said the difficulty I have accepting and talking about the spiritual side of music is a conflict in myself, very much handed down to me by my parents.
    It might be that I reject the notion of spirituality because I feel it relates to something beyond my control?

    I mean I'm playing, whether it happens 'automatically' or not, those are my feelings coming out through the instrument, I put in the years or work to get where I am and that voice comes from within me.

    I dont feel a need to connect that to a life-force of somekind although I can can accepts that it may be a form of expression of that force.

    In Q magazine, Chris Martin,lead singer from Coldplay said "I no longer feel nervous when go on stage, just an enormous sense of purpose". I can't abide stuff like that, I really can't, it's so self important!!! :meh: