IN SEARCH FOR FREEDOM
A.T. lesson Stephan van Dijk 17-06-16
The A.T. assumes that we live with contradictions.There is a opposition between (fore?)foot, ankle, lower leg, they stand in a triangle balans to each other and are separated from each other. Similarly with jaw, head and neck, similar to the hand, wrist and forearm.
In the music you have the ugly note, a natural reaction would be a physical contraction, the AT helps to work against this response. To say no to this contraction, thinking the right directions and play " the ugly note" .
We are floating in space, the Earth pulls at us, but we draw just as good at the Earth.
A.T. lesson Stephan van Dijk, 29-06-16
To say no to sit down, not knowing where to go.Saying no is really a very uncertain thing, you don't know what will come next.Now you can think your directions. This brings uncertainty and ambiguity, you need boldness to be enable to create the conditions to stop and think your directions to create the space to let the unknown happen.
conversation with Fiona Tree 20-06-16
at her house in Haarlem
How is the connection with the music teacher at the conservatory?
Why do students come in the first place?
Do you talk about AT or also about the music ?
Fiona: "I talk about music all the time, learn to listen, hands should be connected to the ear"
my course in the conservatorium:
1 lesson starts with the student to play ,I will film them, and let them tell me what is bothering them, why they want to have AT lessons
7 e les, performe in class, faulty sensory appreciation, non doing, they are shocked in the difference. Often the reaction of the student is :
I feel stuck…. but is sounds better,
in total my course is 8 lessons workshop, 4 private lessons (until febr.)
AT 2 march -juni 3 workshop, private lessons
" The connection AT to the music teacher is mostly very good, 90 % perfect between teacher and student"
Leo van Oostrum was a bit more difficult, and one fluit player, with too many movements, for showing the music….
Fiona has a practising protocol:
20 min. practise, 2 minutes stop, 25 min. 10 min. lay down, repeat, then 1 hour stop,
" full awareness , if there is mistake you have to stop, pay attention to everything you do, otherwise you practice your mistakes ….."
"no mind wondering- stop and come back- if you really worried or start mind wondering then stop- no point when the brain isn’t working, if you go on, after 20 min. stop again….don’t practise too long, then you are numb…..you aren’t aware…."
"never practice being stressed- better take the score and read or walk, if you would practice while being stressed you program the muscle stress"
To think : you are not going to die, befor the exam, it helps relativing the stress."
Frank de Bruin baroc hobo/fluit?
What do we do about the moving while playing, when you are walking fast, your ears will have to do it"
"There has been a huge progression in the school, over these 20 years"
" 20 years ago nobody talkes about stress or about being in pain, there was a lot of shame about these subjects"
" It's really important to breath while playing , but not with the rhythm of the music"
I should look at Eveline Glennie- TED talk
and read : "the use of the self"
A.T. lessons of Maaike Aarts 20-06-16
at her private practice at home: fingers of the left hand lead into shifts, so fingers first the arm will follow.
Vivien Mackie: Just Play Naturally
Barry Green and Timothy Gallwey: The Inner Game of Music
A.T. lesson Stephan van Dijk, 09-09-16
+primary and secundary directions, als je direct ingaat op 2 richtingen ben je de basis kwijt waarvan uit de bewegingen beginnen. Je kan iets aan je armen willen veranderen, maar dan je buik vast zetten om dit voor elkaar te krijgen. Zonder naar de 1 richtingen te kijken valt er weinig te veranderen aan je manier van doen.
+In het zand lopen, je aanpassen aan de problemen die je tegenkomt, met je partner meelopen en tempo vast houden, niet aan kunnen passen aan de moeilijkheden van het natte of droge zand, mee moeten doen, in patronen vast zitten, gehoorzamen aan wat er van je verwacht wordt,
+opzoeken van het boek naar het doen, als je zware lichamelijke arbeid verricht dat je dan minder goed kan nadenken !
het non doing in het spelen van een concert. Je hoofd leeg maken,
Wat zei Frank Zappa over improviseren?
5’ steeds terug naar de weg er naar toe, en hoe je dit doet. Endgaining tegen gaan: geen haast, maar plannen wanneer je er weer op terug kan komen. geen einddoel afmaken binnen de 5’
the body in motion
mastercircle Den Haag 12-09-16
elective voorstel aan Martin en Henk , plan maken voor Engeland
work in progress present to the master circle group on 11-01-17 and 14-06-17
studieverlof aanvragen , op de lerarenbeurs , Nazima vragen
research process diary, describe: film, recording or writing
Henk Borgdorff Alta Noe writings
object of research : knowledge embodied in art works and practises
Method of research : in and trough making and playing
result of research: art works and practices
context of research : art world and academia
Alexander Technique lesson Stephan van Dijk, 16-09-16
You want to think all your directions , but then let the right thing come by itself. You can be very specific in all your wishes, your directions, but then you don’t want to fix yourself. You don’t know where you are going.
Studying at home can be very specific, you really think about all details, what are the directions your frase is going to, what is the dynamic, what is the tempo etc. But when you play, or perform you don’t want to copy all you have studied, but leave it alone, and let the music come out by itself, as if it’s something totally new. Then you experience the music and tell the music for the first time.
Why is it more difficult to keep my own directions while working with students, who are end gaining themselves?
It’s a big challenge not to go with them, not to end-gain.I must be even more decisive in the way I want to play myself and the way I want to teach them. One can’t expect a instant change.
talk with Anne Scott 20-09-16
real question ? to reveal the real bond between the music teaching and the AT.
Phd resources membership of the library Den Haag, periodical articles about AT
Andrew Wright has AT experience and pianist,
contact him !
WHY TEND THE EYES TO BE SO DOMINANT, MORE THEN THE EARS?
WHY COUNTING OUT-LOUD IS SO GOOD FOR YOUR COORDINATION IN YOUR LEFT HAND? WHAT DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE BRAIN YOU ARE USING WHEN PLAYING AND WHAT WHEN COUTING ?
a short talk with the Alexander Technique teacher at the Royal Conservatorium Den Haag, Wendelien Verbeek de Jongh
here is more homework to be done!
Alexander Technique lesson Stephan van Dijk, 27-09-16
Are the eyes more dominant then the ears? This isn't the real question that matter. You don't want to loose yourself into the details, you want to inhibit and go back to your primary control. Then the right thing can come by itself.
How to teach a student? You will always stay with your own directions and inhibition. Then the student will come with questions or issues, so there will be a field of energie, of electricity so to speak, between your inhibition and the student, where new ideas can grow.By staying in your own directions and inhibition you are able to look at the student with a periferic view.
mastercircle Den Haag 03-10-16, Cathryn Cok
1) www.zotero.org : collect organize and analyze research and lets you share it in a variety of ways
standard software tool
artistic writing online
4) JAR-online: research catalogue
5) MLA style documentation: THE WRITER'S HANDBOOK for research
The chicago Manuel of Style
6) Oxford music online
7) Academia.edu : the easiest way to share papers with millions of people, a sort of JAR
8) www.lib.uwo.ca/music/ : Western Librarys
over muziek, performance
9) NMI inzicht in bibliotheek, manuscripten
10) Groves online, 290 euro lidmaatschap
11) Piccarta :NCC bevat titelbeschrijvingen van alle boeken en tijdschriften in het bezit van meer dan 400 bibliotheken in Nederland.
12) Dublin Descriptors - beschrijven de eindtermen voor de studies aan universiteiten en hogescholen in Europa.
13) Kate Turabian Manuel for writers of research papers, niet te dik en goed te lezen Univ. Chigago
14) taking good interview's
author, title, date published, publisher, and URL
Interview date , why this person ?
maak boxen om notes in op te nemen
why you make the quotes, in what way did this influence you? all comments what you think about this
paraphrasing, information form the text in your own words!
a great book,
scimming, read the sources he used for the book
google the subject !
Who has done what?
detailes research plan
a brief description, including planning, chosen methods, and research process
chosen form of documentation and presentation
in bibliography, what sources you used, ask permission
you tube film permission?
paraphrase in your own words
give credits where it came form
quote , literally
publisher page number etc.
editors, volume number
turn of the hyperlinks
footnotes are more important, always with quotes need an footnote!
autor and work, page number, then in bibliography alles
footnotes kan ook iets reflecteren, maybe a text about your idea’s
ibidem, p. 104 ( betekent dat je eerst een footnote uitgebreid hebt behandeld , dan kan je zeggen idem …
vertaling in de tekst, origineel in de footnote.
Italics , opzoeken wat dat is
Hoe kan je een goed interview afnemen? Welk boek hiervoor?
research coach Hans Hogeschool Groningen
HANZE.NL online research coach
Kasper Schipper gaat over de research catalogue
mastercircle Den Haag 05-10-16 Henk Borgdorff
artistic writing online
research notes, author, title, date published, publisher, and URL
Interview date , why this person ?
why you make the quotes, in what way did this influence you ? all comments what you think about the quote you are putting in your research. It's about what you think about it.
paraphrasing, information form the text in your own words!
detailes research plan
Alexander Technique lesson Stephan van Dijk, 12-10-16
I spoke about my masterclass for young students in Amstelveen, about a young girl who was very tight and stiff. Musically interesting, with lots to say, but very restrained.
What can I achieve with such little time, like half a hour? What to say, where to start?
Stephan : "The more you stay with your own directions and wishes, the more clear you are in your message not to push or pull or force yourself into doing something, the more she can feel free to be herself and to listen to what you have to say, to how you play, to your message. "
This is a very comforting and great thought about teaching.
We, as musicians can communicate with our instruments, so the better you use yourself, the better you will play, the better your student will understand what you are talking about.
site om wetenschappelijke onderzoeken te vinden die resultaat van de AT kunnen staven.
Alexander Technique lesson Stephan van Dijk, 04-11-16
The contrary directions are important for strength.
Alexander Technique lesson Stephan van Dijk, 11-11-16
If you let your weight drop, there is less weight to carry.
( guidelines in the handbook for master research)
summary of the research topic
research question method
Alexander Technique lesson Stephan van Dijk, 18-11-16
There is a tension between the powers of opposites, there are always two or three or more directions a body is going to. There has to be a balance, and you can enjoy and use more of this directions or "tension" to lean on to, to use this as a power. You don't have to go away from it, you can meet it and then it will be powerful.
Alexander Technique lesson Stephan van Dijk, 7-12-16
There is space between the bones in your body, there is space from the air in your lungs, there is space in the head with all the thoughts we have.
A clear picture of the different parts of the body will help to create the space in-between, and the different directions these different parts would like to go create more space in-between. But it doesn't have to implicate the different directions pull at each other, but create the space in-between, which gives a more quiet and clear thought.
Alexander Technique lesson Stephan van Dijk, 7-12-16
- Our body is in all layers. The skin, het vetweefsel, de spieren, de aderen, de botten etc. Deze bewegen allemaal onafhankelijk in eigen richtingen van elkaar . Door deze onafhankelijkheid hebben ze ook meer kracht samen. Woud they be all too connected, to strong attached, it will loose a lot of it's vividness and elasticity. Then it would loose it's power to adapt. When something hits you for example, the layers can slide over each other so it reduces the power of the hitting.
- You want to let your body tell you what it wants, you want to listen more and more closely to your body's needs in order to function better.
Alexander Technique lesson Stephan van Dijk, 24-03-17
If you shorten your muscles, they are less flexible and accurate. So what we are aiming for is long muscles, so we are as flexible and sensitive as possible, so every nuance we would like to hear , would be possible to make.
stopping is the inhibiting
thinking in activity - non doing
Non Doing: het betrokken kunnen zijn in activiteit, op zo'n manier dat er geen overmatig doen is in de ledenmaten.Zodat de goedevhoofd- nek-, rug relatie niet wordt belemmerd.
Alexander Technique lesson Stephan van Dijk, 31-03-17
Je hebt rood spierweefsel, dit zijn de ondersteunende, lange spieren die lange termijn werk doen zoals het hart en in de rug , de achterkant van de armen, achterkant benen.
Je hebt wit spierweefsel , dit zijn de biceps, voorkant armen, voorkant benen. Deze zijn voor de korte afstand sprintjes, de snelle krachtige bewegingen.
Als spieren in een tonus zijn, dus opgerekt, dan zijn de spieren vele malen sterker. Dan kan je er tegenaan leunen. Zoals een elastiekje in slappe toestand geen gewicht kan dragen , als deze is opgerekt en op spanning gebracht, kan je wel degelijk iets dragen met deze spier. Zo werkt het ook met de rugspieren, de tonus zal gericht moeten zijn wil je tegen deze spieren aan kunnen leunen, wil je deze kunnen gebruiken.
Alexander Technique lesson Stephan van Dijk, 21-04-17
Een lichaam kan altijd ondersteuning ervaren van oprekking of je tegen een plastic papier denken die onder spanning staat in gebogen toestand. Zodra dit weer recht is kan je hier ook tegenaan leunen bij wijze van spreken . De driesprong of drie hoek in de voet, onderbeen hiel of gezicht achterkant nek en onder je kin of billen voorkant heup bovenbeen. Allemaal vergelijkbare driehoeken.
De lessen gaan altijd uit van positieve feedback. Zo voel je je als leerling het meest vrij om kwetsbaar te kunnen zijn, open te zijn en fouten te durven maken . Stephan vertelde dat het lichaam vol zit met zenuwbanen en zenuwen die snel in de stressmodus kunnen komen waardoor je je afweert en verdedigd tegen datgene wat je " aanvalt" deze verdediging staat het leerproces in de weg.
Ron Brown- "Authorised Summaries of F.M. Alexander's four books" page106 ' .... Reaction is influenced , just as functioning is , by manner of use. Manner of use, manner of reaction and conditions of functioning are so closely associated, that control of one in depends on control of the other's. Overlooking this is our failure to connect existing knowledge and experience with new and unfamiliar knowledge- the reason why the obvious so often escapes us...."
weer een super artikel over het verwoorden van een frase etc.
Het bij de naam noemen van de noot die lastig is, het voorzingen, het op de piano voorspelen, en zo de moeilijke noot/passage instuderen
Als je met een leerling op Bach werkt, eerst naar de hoofdlijnen van de muziek zoeken, de stok volgen, eerste noten van de stok, dan meer noten invullen.
2-06-2017 les Stephan van Dijk
Het thema van de les: “ het in communicatie zijn met”
In communicatie zijn met je eigen lichaam, met je omgeving, met de mensen om je heen, met je muziek als je aan het spelen bent, met je publiek als je op het podium zit.
9-06-2017 les Stephan van Dijk
Als je de juiste richtingen denkt, zal je zo min mogelijk kracht hoeven gebruiken om iets voor elkaar te krijgen, zo makkelijk mogelijk iets voor elkaar kunnen krijgen. Het gaat erom je richtingen steeds helderder te zien, steeds duidelijker bepalen.
Je hebt een kast met lade: als je niet duidelijk weet in welke richting dit landje open gaat en scheef hieraan gaat trekken zal het vele malen meer kracht kosten om de lade open te maken.
In je lichaam zijn ook allerlei krachten aan het trekken aan je . De wens is nu dat al deze krachten er kunnen zijn, en mogen werken, in balans met elkaar, zodat je primaire richtingen rustig kunnen bestaan en in rust kunnen zijn.
9-06-2017 les Stephan van Dijk
Als je de juiste richtingen denkt, zal je zo min mogelijk kracht hoeven gebruiken om iets voor elkaar te krijgen, zo makkelijk mogelijk iets voor elkaar kunnen krijgen. Het gaat erom je richtingen steeds helderder te zien, steeds duidelijker bepalen.
Je hebt een kast met lade: als je niet duidelijk weet in welke richting dit landje open gaat en scheef hieraan gaat trekken zal het vele malen meer kracht kosten om de lade open te maken. In je lichaam zijn ook allerlei krachten aan het trekken aan je . De wens is nu dat al deze krachten er kunnen zijn, en mogen werken, in balans met elkaar, zodat je primaire richtingen rustig kunnen bestaan en in rust kunnen zijn.
7-07-2017 les Stephan van Dijk
Het gaat over de weg er naar toe, niet het resultaat. In communicatie blijven met alles , met jezelf, met je omgeving, met je plannen, met alles.
Als je prioriteiten stelt is in je richting blijven, nek vrij eerste prioriteit. De AT zorgt voor diepgang in alles. Dus hoeft het leven er niet rustiger op te worden, dat zou alleen een resultaat kunnen zijn.
Waar ik tegen aan loop is dat het steeds voller en intenser en ook heftiger wordt dan ooit.
Omdat alles wat ik aanga, meer diepgang heeft , maar daardoor ook meer tijd vraagt . Alles wordt meer uitgediept.
Ik merk ook dat omdat ik meer in ga op wat er om mij heen speelt, ik ook weer meer wordt afgeleid door alle onderwerpen. Hierdoor is mijn aandacht toch ook weer versnippert. Wat ook gelijk enorm frustrerend is.
Gesprek met Susan Williams aan de telefoon.
you need to make clear what's your starting point.
then the question, is there a change?
Detacting the change of the recordings before and after
Has the person improved?
What did it bring the person? Did it change anything?
take 7 person- 4 small bits of music with different technical / musical issues,
It can also be a challenging piece , and see what is the difference after a couple of month? Did they change?
How are they experiencing playing and studying this same piece after a couple of month?
big intervals or fast notes or difficult layers in the music etc.
Ask them, what did you do? What was your focus? What is your usual way to practice this small piece of music?
What was you confidence ? Were you engaged? How concentrated were you? mind wondering?
Then you will have to explain why is it important to be engaged? You will have to experience it.
Is the improvement noticeable
Were you bored? Would you like to go back to your old way of studying?
Maybe you can ask them to film their actions?
What do I think are the important issues that have brought the AT to me?
What does the AT improve?
Which aspects of studying are better now with the AT?
What are the indications of a healthy player?
Listening to a AT conversation with Marjory Barlow on you-tube
I learn my students how to work on themselves
hands of the teacher are very very important, you easily could give them the wrong input. the main thing is that you learn them to work by themselves….
nobody wants to use the brain…we are all very lazy in this.
but this is so important
habits are build in the nervous system, it’s the direct connection
inhibition is the key stone of the AT, the stimulus comes, its the automatic hibitory respons to the stimulus, then say no to the first reaction! not to the stimulus, but to the first reaction
then you create a little space of freedom
you see your pupil as if you have never seen them before!
this gives you the freedom to react and be there without hesitation
how difficult it is to be a pupil, we teachers should always remember this
difficult as teacher to be patient with pupils?
if you stick to the principles of the AT, you can’t go wrong.
it’s good to give yourself the orders….. same as planning what and how you want to do
dokter bill barlow
knowing what you are doing, thinking what you are doing en how you are doing it
thinking in activity FM AT
FM: means of learning to control human reaction
to bring the whole person into unity, ordering and giving messages
our attention span is 1, seconds
any fool can think of one thing at a time, then add two then three
long sequence of orders is quite difficult….
AT discipline in sharpening your attention
attentive to all the things around you
not talk bout concentration : it was a forbidden word, concentration is something bringingeverything into one point, but what we need a kind of awareness which as wide as possible, taking into account as many in our awareness
every day like playing your scales….
H. Kissinger. A World Restored.
To devine the direction on a calm sea may prove more difficult than to chart a course through tempestuous waters, where the violence of the elements imparts inspirationthrough the need for survival.
using your brains in activity
inhibition , to be able to react on a stimulus with your conscious mind- freedom!
thinking in activity FM AT
AT discipline in sharpening your attention and be attentive to all the things around you
13-09-2017 group lesson AT Wendelien de Jongh at the Royal Conservatory Den Haag
15-09-2017 group lesson Fiona Tree at the Royal Conservatory Den Haag
Begin van de les , doe je ogen dicht en richt je voeten voor je uit. Dan kijk naar beneden en zie waar je voeten zijn. Mijn voeten stonden een beetje naar buiten .
Dit is je faulty sensory appreciation. Je kan niet op gevoel alleen afgaan als je wil weten waar je voeten zijn. We hebben allemaal zoveel habits”. Ook bijvoorbeeld je armen voor je borst opvouwen. Moeilijk is het om de andere hand boven te laten zijn en op te vouwen. We zijn zo gewend aan bepaalde manieren, habits , en deze voelen ook prima voor onszelf. Alleen kunnen deze gewoonten ook heel schadelijk zijn voor ons, het hangen naar een kant van ons lichaam, hoofd in je nek leggen als we gaan zitten. etc. etc.
Het zoeken naar balans:
waarom is dit zo belangrijk: neem een zware stoel, als je een balanspunt zoekt op een stoelpoot dan wordt de stoel vederlicht om op z’n plek te houden.
Lopen in 8 en met je ogen leiden waar je heen loopt, dit is de meest natuurlijke manier van bewegen, ogen en hoofd leiden, en lichaam volgt.
Waar zit je heup gewricht? Deze is cruciaal voor het gaan zitten, drie scharnieren om te gaan zitten, enkel, knie en heup .
Meeste mensen denken het heupgewricht veel hoger dan het daadwerkelijk is.
Hierdoor bewegen mensen vaak vanuit hun lage rug, het gedeelte wat wel flexibel is, boven de heup, maar waar niet het werkelijke gewricht zit.
Waar is het balans punt van de schedel ? De schedel is 4 á 5 kilo zwaar, maar bij een kleine disbalans wordt deze vele vele malen zwaarder om voor de nek te dragen, kan oplopen tot 12 kilo…
Als je met je vingers achter je oor voelt, het zachte gedeelte, als je met je tong naar achter beweegt en daar het zachte gedeelte. Hier is het balanspunt van je schedel op je wervelkolom.
boekjes niet te hoog leggen, dan knijpt er niets dicht in je keel.
my writing :
“1) the so-called “mental” and “physical” are not separate entities.
2) that for this reason human ills and shortcomings cannot be classified as “mental or “physical” and dealt with specifically as such, but that all training, whether it be educative or otherwise, i.e., whether its object be the prevention or elimination of defect, error or disease, must be based upon the indivisible unity of the human organism.”
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, page 23, this addition first published September 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Isles
“ it is important to remember that the use of a specific part in any activity is closely associated with the use of other parts of the organism, and that the influence exerted by the various parts one upon another is continuously changing in accordance with the manner of use of these parts. If a part directly employed in the activity is being used in a comparatively new way which is still unfamiliar, the stimulus to use this part in the new way is weak in comparison with the stimulus to use the other parts of the organism, which are being indirectly employed in the activity, in the old habitual way….the stimulus to employ the new use of the head and neck was therefore bound to be weak as compared with the stimulus to employ the wrong habitual use …..which had become familias through being cultivated in the act of ….(reciting). Herein lies the difficulty in making changes from unsatisfactory to satisfactory conditions of use and functioning, ….”
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, page 35, this addition first published September 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Isles
Primary direction: “I wish my head to go forward and up”
This proved to be the primary control of my use in all my activities”
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, page 30, this addition first published September 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Isles
“ …when a person has reached a given stage of unsatisfactory use and functioning, his habit of “end-gaining “ will prove to be the impeding factor in all his attempts to profit by any teaching method whatsoever.”
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, page 66, this addition first published September 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Isles
“ The reasoned means to the gaining of an end. These means included the inhibition of the habitual use of the mechanisms of the organism, and the conscious projection of new directions necessary to the performance of the different acts involved in a new and more satisfactory use of these mechanisms.”
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, page 41, this addition first published September 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Isles
Faulty sensory appretiation :
“ …I used myself habitually in the way that felt natural to me. In other words, I like everyone else depended upon “feeling” for the direction of my use. Judging , however, from the results of my experiments, this method of direction had led me into error ( as, for instance, when I put my head back when I intended to put it forward and up), proving that the “felling associated with this direction of my use was untrustworthy”
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, page 35, this addition first published September 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Isles
“The belief is very generally held that if only we are told what to do in order to correct a wrong way of doing something, we can do it, and that if we feel we are doing it, all is well. All my experience, however, goes to show that this belief is a delusion.”
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, page 33, this addition first published September 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Isles
“ I found that although I was able to put the head forward and up and widen the back as acts in themselves, I couldn’t maintain these conditions in speaking or reciting….I saw that at the critical moment when I tried to combine the prevention of shortening with a positive attempt to maintain a lengthening and speak at the same time, I did not put my head forward and up as I intended, but actually put it back. Here then was startling proof that I was doing the opposite of what I believed I was doing and of what I had decided I ought to do”
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, page 31, this addition first published September 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Isles
- that the pulling of my head back and down, when I felt that I was putting it forward and up, was proof that the use of the specific parts concerned was being misdirected, and that this misdirection was associated with untrustworthy feeling;
- that this misdirection was instinctive, and, together with the associated untrustworthy feeling, was part and parcel of my habitual use of myself;
- that this instinctive misdirection leading to wrong habitual use of myself, including most noticeably the wrong use of my head and neck, game into play as the result of a decision to use my voice; this misdirection, in other words, was my instinctive response (reaction) to the stimulus to use my voice. “
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, page 38, this addition first published September 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Isles
The peripheral view:
The conscious control:
“ I must cease to rely upon the feeling associated with my instinctive direction, and in its place employ my reasoning processes, in order
- to analyse the conditions of use present;
- to select (reason out) the means whereby a more satisfactory use could be brought about;
- to project consciously the directions required for putting these means into effect”….
I must replace my old instinctive ( unreasoned ) direction of myself by a new conscious ( reasoned) direction”
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, page 39, this addition first published September 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Isles
Thinking in activity:
“ in working for a given end, we can all project one direction, but to continue to fie this direction as we project the second, and to continue to fie these two while we add a third, and to continue to keep the three directions going as we proceed to gain the end, has proved to be the pons asinorum of every pupil I have so far known….all together, one after the other, expresses the idea of combined activity”
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, page 42, this addition first published September 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Isles
“When you eliminate the wrong, the right thing will happen by itself” The only thing is how to eliminate the wrong: by using your brains. And it’s all about learning how to use your brains.
There is a huge misunderstanding about the AT. When I ask people if they know anything about the At, usually they say it’s something about posture. But this is absolutely not the thing. It’s a consequence of thinking about the optimal way to use yourself that you start using yourself well.
People see a picture of someone who studied the AT, and they have a idea of someone looking upright, they think immediately, this is not moving so not free. But the real work of the AT is creating freedom within yourself. It’s a very subtle and delicate technique. Only with a real trained eye you can see from a picture how someone is using himself, how free the person is.
If you look at the person on the picture with a eye that hasn’t had any experience with the technique, this person will nog be able to see the freedom that’s inside the person.
In this time we are living a life oriented on our visual possibilities. We see a lot of film, pictures etc. The problem with this is the loss of the inner world. The loss of the real inner experiences and knowledge .
We tend to copy what we see and then think we have reached what the other person is doing. We see and hear a lot of musicians on internet and the danger of this is the tendency to copy all, even their bad use. We could even think that the bad use is the consequence of the playing, so to copy this would be a good idea. Here is a big trap laying in front of us.
It becomes a form and not an inner conviction, not an inner knowledge we try to get.
So this form will end up being quite empty.
When we are in a school it’s good to set some rules. To give a student books from where they can learn their things about music. But to create this form, the danger is to hold on to this set of rules. To keep this as the first thing, the most important thing.
We would like to have grip, something to hold on to, when we are learning something new. But the difficulty is keeping the freedom, even if we are learning new things. So you want to learn the rules of a specific subject, but then to let it go at the same time, to create freedom in these set of rules. We should never exclude our intuition, or search for freedom and expression within the format we are working from.
author, titel book, specific page numbers, date, publisher.
Ivan Galamian, Priciples of Violin Playing & Teaching, p. 2, 1962, A Simon & Schuster Company
the foundation of all violin teaching: first it’s individual, everybody is different and there is no one set of rules, second the interdependence , the organic relationship of the two arms, hands vingers, thrid: “the key to facility and accuracy and ultimately , to complete mastery of violin technique is to be found in the relationship mind to muscles. “
Elizabeth Langford, Denken en Bewegen Een handboek voor coördinatie en evenwicht, 1998, Garant, page 250
“De reacties van volwassenen op angst of ongerustheid hebben in elk geval met de reacties van kleine kinderen op de sensatie van vallen gemeen dat een rugwaartse kanteling van het hoofd gecombineerd wordt met een algehele buiging in de torso en in de ledematen. page 252 “De reeks reacties begin met een verandering in de relatie tussen hoofd en hals. Alleen dan, en heel snel, neemt het patroon de rest van het lichaam over. Experimenten met stimuli gaande van het laten vallen van een boek tot een pistoolschot, tonen aan dat als een stimulus sterk genoeg was om een reactie uit te lokken, deze optrad in de halsspieren; in vele gevallen kwam zij nergens anders voor.”
F M Alexander ~ The Use of the Self p.14
Awareness: how do we use our body, our mind and our senses when we are in action. It is a sense of where the body is in space.
Inhibition: the non-doing before coming into action, the moment to direct consciously.
As Alexander stated:
'all those who wish to change something in themselves must learn... to inhibit their immediate reaction to any stimulus to gain a desired end, and in order to stop falling back upon the familiar sensory experiences of their old habitual use in order to gain it, they must continue this inhibition whilst they employ the new direction of their use'.
( FM Alexander ~ The Use of the Self p.115)
The author Aldous Huxley, who had lessons with Alexander, describes the Alexander Technique as being :
'a technique of inhibition, working on the physical level to prevent the body from slipping back, under the influence of greedy 'end-gaining', into its old habits of mal-co-ordination, and working... to inhibit undesirable impulses... on the emotional and intellectual level'.
(Aldous Huxley ~ Ends and Means p. 223)
(Denken en Bewegen, page 59, Elizabeth Langford, 2001,Garant)
“De bekende neuroloog Sir Charles Sherrington benadrukt dat: …zich van een handeling onthouden, is niet minder een handeling dan het uitvoeren ervan, want inhibitie is net als excitatie een zenuwactiviteit.”
Zenuwactiviteit betekent in deze context natuurlijk “ activiteit van het zenuwstelsel”. Inhibitie ( Sherrington gebruikte het woord in zijn technische betekenis) is de partner en het tegengestelde van excitatie; het is het niet activeren van mechanismen. F.M. Alexander bedoelde met “inhibitie “ het niet activeren van mechanismen wanneer hun actie niet geschikt zou zijn voor het gewenste doel…..inhibitie heeft niets te maken met het alledaags taalgebruik waarmee bedoeld wordt het onderdrukken van natuurlijke verlangens. Integendeel, inhibitie is een essentiële functie in alle gezonde mensen….”
Stop ~ Think and Direct ~ Then Move
Direction: the conscious thinking before coming into action. We can direct with our conscious thoughts our directions before coming into action.
Secondary directions are more specific directions, for example in the arm. You think your elbows out and away from your shoulder, your wrists towards each other, your fingers out.
Primary control: a natural postural reflex and organizing force in the human body.
The primary control refers to the way in which our head-neck-back relationship is a primary influence and dynamic organizer, for the co-ordination of our whole body mechanism and all our movements.
'a master reflex in co-ordinating the whole psychophysical organism'.
This subtle control is only possible when we do not interfere by tightening our neck muscles, but allow the head to balance freely .
“to lengthen, I must put my head forward and up….this proved to be the primary control of my use in all my activities”.
Faulty sensory appreciation: We are used to our own habits of movement and thought. These movements and thoughts are feeling normal and good to us. It’s impossible to realize they are sometimes not good for us at all, and cause ourselves a lot of difficulties.
“Everyone wants to be right, but no one stops to consider if their idea of right is right”(FM Alexander)
“I had proved in my own case and in that of others that instinctive control and direction of use had become so unsatisfactory, and the associated feeling so untrustworthy as a guide, that is could lead us to do the very opposite of what we wished to do or thought we were doing”.
(FM Alexander ~ The Use of the Self p.23)
End-gaining: seeking for a goal without looking at the way how to get there. To look at the “means-whereby” and through inhibition we can stop end-gaining, and change the path going to a certain goal in a better way. It’s about emphasizing the process rather than result.
'increased consciousness of the physical means employed to gain the ends proposed by the will' (Aldous Huxley ~ Ends and Means).
'the act performed is of less consequence than the manner of its performance' (FM Alexander ~ Man's Supreme Inheritance).
'to indicate the reasoned means to the gaining of an end. These means included the inhibition of the habitual use of the mechanisms of the organism, and the conscious projection of new directions necessary to the performance of the different acts involved in a new and more satisfactory use of these mechanisms'.
F.M. Alexander, The Use of the Self , p. 41, first print 1932, third edition 1985, Guernsey Press Co. Ltd
“it is not in that limited sense of the use of any specific part, as for instance, when we speak of the use of an arm of a leg, but in a much wider and more comprehensive sendse applying to the working of the organism in general. For I recognize that the use of ay specific part such as the arm or leg involves of necessity bringing into action the different psycho-physical mechanisms of the organism, this concerted activity bringing about the use of the specific part. “
'We can throw away the habits of a lifetime in a few minutes if we use our brains”
F M Alexander ~ Aphorisms
It’s not getting in and out of chairs even under the best of conditions that is of any value: that is simply physical culture. It is what you have been doing in preparation that counts when it comes to making movements.”
F M Alexander ,Aphorisms - Mouritz 2000
"As soon as people come with the idea of unlearning instead of learning, you have them in the frame of mind you want."
F.M. Alexander, Aphorisms
"You translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual, into muscular tension."
F.M. Alexander, Aphorisms
the most important thing was how we do things, because this influences the functioning of our whole body.
the Alexander Technique as being 'A thinking tool to help us in all our activities' ~ Forward and Away ~ Elisabeth Walker 2008
'When an investigation comes to be made, it will be found that every single thing we are doing in the Work is exactly what is being done in nature where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously'
F M Alexander ~ Aphorisms.
“There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction”
F M Alexander ~ Aphorisms ~ Mouritz 2000
“It's not getting in and out of chairs even under the best of conditions that is of any value: that is simply physical culture. It is what you have been doing in preparation that counts when it comes to making movements.’"
F M Alexander , Aphorisms - Mouritz 2000
My main interest in the AT is the effort to make learning a mental and conscious act.
Playing a instrument and learning about music etc. is a mental and physical action.
Musicians have to play two instruments, first of all their own body, secondly their instrument. The inhibition gives you time to stop and think before you make an action. This creates the space to make your own choice. It creates the freedom of choice.
This freedom of choice is crucial for being creative and original.
As musicians we have to be able to analyse our acts, be sure why, how and what we would like to express. This ability of choice is crucial for our playing.
But then to let it go too, to leave it alone and let the music speak by itself.
Physically your back is your strongest part of your body, not only it’s the biggest part, but also it has the most strong muscles to keep us upwards.
I always felt the work of the AT builds your back-up. You want your back to lengthen and widen, but mentally you create your own back-up too. We say about our family or our best friend, they can give us real back up. The AT can create the same mental and physical back-up for you.
Mentally the AT creates more concentration and creativity, you will get more in charge of yourself and your actions, so you don’t have to back off , and disappear in mind-wondering.Physically you can learn about how to use your body the most economic and optimal way to function.
The non-doing is the moment where the music can speak for itself. Here the music can develop and be created without you intervening. This is the highest reachable for a musician, to let the music speak by itself and for itself.
In the AT you are wishing your directions. The real art is not to do the directions directly, pushing yourself up and forcing a change. This wishing directions and not-doing is a real new, original and fundamental idea, a very controversial and unique thought of Mr. Alexander. This creates the soft, but direct way to a wished undefined open goal. You know your directions, but you don't force an outcome, it’s open to go a certain defined way.
This is the important tool to reach out to something that is not defined, something that is in the future, an aim where you want to go, but you don’t have even to define the goal. It’s open to imagination, for the ultimate freedom. This will create the freedom for the music to speak by itself, the real surprise in a concert, thisdefining and wishing your directions is the road that can develop this real creative and open concert.
The primary control is the control you would like to have while playing. Anything you are doing benefits from this primary control. The movements can be really free and flexible, when the primary control is being wished.
It’s important to realize how much muscular effort you use in an action. When there are too many muscles involved, our brains and ears will not be as attentive, so we can’t hear clearly what sound we produce. This creates a faulty sensory appreciation. We might think we are playing a certain passage well, but when we listen a recording later, we hear totally different things.
End-gaining is a major trap for us, musicians, because there are always deadlines involved. As musicians we have to deal with deadlines all the time. It’s very important to realize our traps and learn tools how to handle the deadlines. The whole idea about “ non- doing” is a great way to work with this stimulus, to say no, to stop before jumping into it. To say no to the stimulus, in order to get rid of the tension that comes from the anxiety of the stimulus. Sometimes it’s very efficient even to fool our brains, to imaging ourselves to not have a deadline at all, in order to get rid of this stimulus.
In an AT lesson you always explore what you are doing, and where you are, by going back to the base of the movement. Your movements are diminished to sitting, standing and laying down. This going back to a base and build up from there will create comfort and trust. You will build up from a good experience. You are creating a certain ease and trust in playing with something relatively easy. The unraveling of movement is something you would like to do with your music. What is the base of a piece? Then build up from this first positive experience. This keeps you interested, open minded and stimulated to make a next step.
The primary and secondary directions in AT are your the wishes you are observing and where you are working on. I see a similarity between the allowing my guiding my body through the directions, and having this clarity and direction in music.
In order to make the music alive you have to be clear in your mind about character of the piece, the structure, the tempo, the colors, one after the other and all together. As a musician you are working and defining them more and more clearly every day, when you are working on a specific piece.
thinking your primary directions, the means-whereby
Inhibit the urge to rush into performing any action, then give yourself directions, Let my neck be free
Let my head go forward and up
Let my back lengthen and widen
Let my knees go out and away, 'one at a time and altogether',
“Stop and Inhibit ~ Think and Direct ~ then Move”
Thought Can Change the Structure of our Brain
Neuroscientists have been researching the capacity of the brain to change and create more connections during learning and mental practice. Baroness Susan Greenfield describes research into the brains of London black cab drivers who learn 'the knowledge' (the names and whereabouts of all streets in central London). The research shows this process of plasticity, with taxi drivers developing larger hippocampi in their brains than do other people.
Greenfield also sites research into the malleability of our brains whilst playing the piano. Researchers discovered that the brain scans of the group of adults who were learning to play the piano showed 'a significant increase in functional brain territory related to the movement of their digits'.
The finding that is perhaps most interesting in relation to giving ourselves 'AT Directions', is that the second group, who were only thinking through the piano exercises, without actually playing them, showed almost identical patterns of change in their brains to the group that had actually played the piano.
Greenfield sites this as 'an example of a thought or mental event having virtually the same effect - modification of neuronal circuitry - as a physical one'. The control group that merely observed piano playing, showed no changes in the structure of their brains.
The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century - pp 27-29 - Susan Greenfield 2008.
It would follow, therefore, that the process of psychophysical re-education that takes place in Alexander Technique lessons, with the process of directed thought and movements, would be likely to lead to the formation of new neural connections in the brain, as we learn to think about and change the way we move. So the changes do not just take place in the way we move but in our very brains. It is important, therefore, to be aware of what we are thinking and how we are aiming to use ourselves, so that we increase helpful neuronal pathways in the brain rather than ones associated with mis-use
PHYSICAL MOVEMENT MAKES OUR THINKING WEAKER
From the book " Nooit meer te druk" ( never too busy) from Tony Crabbe:
The scientist J.C. Welch has shown that physical movement diminishes the capacity to think. If people have to think real deeply, this reduces their physical capacity for almost 50 %.
Also the professor of psychology at the University of California, Harold Pashler has started a research where the people needed to do a physical effort and at the same time a mental effort. Here the participants seemed to perform worse if they had to do more then one thing at a time. Even if it only were two things at one time.
His conclusion was partly explainable because of the double duty paradigm. Our brains aren't designed to do two things at once, they interfere with each other. Multitasking can reduce the accomplishment from a master- student from Harvard University to the level of an eight year old.
As musician you have to do both at the same time, a physical and mental effort, so it's very important to learn to play with the least physical effort necessary, to keep all your mental space for your music. This is the best way to conduct yourself.
The music-teacher is the best example for his student
It’s important to play for your students. To be able to give the good example. Like an Alexander teacher, who is touching his students all the time, passing on his own directions from body to body, we musicians pass on our music a.o. from ear to ear by playing an instrument, by letting us being watched while playing and by talking and analyzing the directions in music and ways to study in music for our students.
But also it’s good to really let the student feel what’s like to make a bow change. Talking about the change, showing it on a distance, this all helps. But letting a student really feel how little muscular action is necessary to make a bow change is very efficient.
So you can take the bow of the student, and let his/her arm rest on your arm. Then make a bow change. As a teacher you get very good feedback from the direct contact of the student and his actions. You can feel the tension the student have, when and where, if they follow along with your bow change.
The student too gets immediate feedback from the information from your (the teachers) body playing a bow change.
With the left hand, you could let the student feel the energie from the fingers, just by tapping on his back, or arm. And letting a student tap on your arm.
Laying down in the semi supine.
Before the practice I suggest to lay down in the semi-supine, for around 10 minutes. Thinking about your directions.
When you lay down in this semi-supine your head, neck and back can feel the support of the ground.
* You can take the time to think your primary and secondary directionsthoroughly through.
* You can make a plan what you will practice the next 45 minutes.
- You can learn music by memory. While reading music you think about the music, without actually using your muscles. While thinking about the music your brain activity will be the same as when you are actually playing the music with your instrument. So this is one way to relearn how to use your muscles, because your movements are not determined by habits. You can observe your muscles while reading the music and learn new and more clean, quiet way how to use your muscles. And see how little movement is necessary to make an activity in the music.
*You can study rhythm while laying in the “semi-supine”. Tapping rhythm with your fingers alone, away from the instrument. So you first learn the basic rhythm without interferences of difficulties of the instrument. In the “semi-supine” your back has the most support from the floor, the muscles can be the most quiet, so the brain will have all the energy free for thinking and organizing the rhythm, without doing.
* When you listen to a recording of yourself in the semi supine- position, you are more aware of your muscular reactions at certain passages of your playing. You immediately realize in which passage of the music you tense up, where in your body and how much tension there is at a specific difficult passage. And with listening to yourself in the “semi-supine”, you can relearn your body not to use so much muscular tension, with thinking your directions and saying no to the stimuli.
IDEA’S HOW TO PRACTICE
Stopping before you play
Naturally the first important thing is not to study when you feel a deadline coming up. To have quiet time for yourself to experiment and be creative in your search for the optimal.
But there are deadlines all the time, we will feel the concert coming up any moment, the anxiety for the exam next month or the radio recording next week.
It’s very good to think about not playing a concert at all, thinking there won't be a concert, while practicing (until the last moment of the concert). In a certain way you are fooling yourself by telling yourself there will not be a concert at all. This will be a form of non-doing. You think about not actually playing the concert, so you will avoid all the excitement and agitation that comes with it. This way you will be able to practice quietly, without end-gaining. By taking “ time out “ you allow yourself space to choose a different direction and you create space for creativity.
On the other hand you will imagine the upcoming concert in utmost detail.
When you are laying in the semi-supine position, i.e. having a distance from your instrument and not actually playing, it will be a good preparation for the concert to imagine yourself as if you are in the actual moment of the exam or concert.
In all details you can imagine yourselfas if you are playing the exam, walking through the door on stage, looking at the committee sitting at the table with all their papers. Imagine yourself sitting down on your chair in front of the public, putting up your music, tuning your instrument and then play the whole piece; all in utmost detail. This preparation in your head is very useful. You can observe the anxiety, and say no to the stimuli, the muscle tension, the breathing it creates. This is a mental preparation which helps to redirect your thoughts and to choose consciously how you would like to be, how you would like to sound, etc..
All this psycho-physical work is directly related to the AT.
AT is based on the directions/thoughts given to your brain, in order to be able to choose, to direct your muscles and nerve system.
If you only react to your muscles and nervous-system, they really will bring you in trouble, because they lack reason and direction. You wish to consciously determine what you think and how you want to think about the problems you meet.
“We can throw away the habits of a lifetime in a few minutes if we use our brains”
F.M. Alexander ~ Aphorisms
5 minutes practice, no end-gaining
When I had lessons with the cellist Natalia Gutman, she suggested me I should study no longer then 5 minutes on one specific difficult passage. After 5 minutes I could change for another difficult subject, and come back to the same subject or after an hour, or next day.
Actually this is a great idea considering the A.T., because the idea behind this method is not to solve a problem in this one 5 minutes, to be able to play the passage perfectly after 5 minutes.
You may not end-gain to a goal, but just work at the specific passage for 5 minutes, think about this and then leave it alone until the next day or practice time.
This gives you time to really have patience to look at certain notes inside the certain passage, not being stressed to cover the whole passage at once. Because you don’t feel the urge to fix and solve the problem right away, this gives you time to just work on the passage and knowing you will come back to this passage maybe in the next practice hour or the next day.
The moment you think you will have to be able to play the passage without mistakes, perfectly, that’s the moment the stress can come back with all the tension in the muscles too.
By “fooling” yourself, not thinking about the result you would like to have, and staying with your directions, the stress goes away, and you can really be creative in finding solutions how to look at this specific passage. This is the moment you can create different possibilities to study this passage.
Sometimes during dish-washing you can think about this passage again and a new idea about how to study this passage can suddenly pop-up in your mind, you can try the next 5 minutes you will study the passage. Or you will find a new way to look at this passage, while laying down in the “semi-supine” , thinking about the frase.
I notice some students overfocus on one subject in their playing and study this one passage for half a hour, on and on, trying to force an outcome. But this works contra-productive. First of all your concentration can’t stick to one specific passage for half an hour without getting bored and repetitive. And when there is not a real improvement, your muscles and your brain will learn something wrong, because it will hear it over and over again.
Taking a stop, and think about what you are doing, what you would like, make a plan. Inhibit the urge to keep on playing and the urge to make it right. Find the basic structure of the passage. You can sing for yourself , listen to yourself singing and then play.
It will ask more discipline, but with stopping you will create space. Space to think, to invent new idea’s, to really see where you are and what you would like to achieve.
Your brains need a plan, they need space for creativity, to be able to develop new idea’s how to look at a certain frase.
advantages of the 5 minute practice:
• the work, the study isn't about playing perfect, there is no end-goal, it's about the road towards…. that counts. Always surge for your sound, listen carefully to yourself, play with a good use, not contracting your muscles, so no end-gaining.
• you can study more different subjects in one hour, leave it alone and come back to it later.
• you can always go back to your primary directions, while studying with patience and thought, and when you change your subject after 5 minutes.You create a little break in-between each 5 minutes, while practicing a hour to rethink your directions and make a plan for the next passage.
• it works against RSI problems, because you are not repeating all the time the same, and you are stimulated to think more about how to deal with a specific problem, only 5 minutes.
• by leaving it alone, your mind will afterwards subconsciously or consciously think about the problem you wish to solve. You are forced in this way to use your brain to solve problems, because you may not go on and on, “doing” the frase and hoping with repetition it will improve.
THE PERIPHERAL VIEUW
When you have a difficult passage, you don’t want to loose yourself in smaller details. You want to keep an overview of the whole piece, keep in mind the bigger picture. You work in smaller details, but you inhibit also from those smaller details and see the big structure of the piece.
You want to have an idea about the structure of the piece, character, tempo, dynamic, color etc. These are your directions in music, these are your wishes in music. You want to define them clearly, more and more detailed, aqknollege them, one by one and all of them together.
This is acutely what you are aiming for when you play a piece. You want to see de detailswithin the piece, together with the structure of the whole piece.
In an AT lesson you always examen and explore what you are doing, and where you are, by going back to the base and your directions, your wishes of the movement. Your movements are diminished to sitting standing and laying down.
This going back to the base and build up from there will create comfort and trust, because you all the time will build from a good experience. You are creating a certain ease and trust. The unraveling of movement is something you would like to look at inyour music. What is the base of a piece, and then build from there.
FIXATING WITH YOUR EYES
If you use your eyes to play the right notes with your left hand, your eyes can fixate your fingers and make them less flexible. You are searching for security with your eyes, but this is a fake security. The only security you will have are your ears. And the ears will have a natural “Peripheral View”.
Also, when you look at your fingers of your left hand your head bents down, so your neck is in trouble. Five to seven kilo’s your head weights, so poor neck, who has to carry all this weight with these small muscles in the neck. When the head is right on top of the spine, forward and up, the head creates this great energie for the whole body. Because the weight can fall through your spine, and with this weight you can think an upwards direction.
Students often use their eyes to clamp on to the music in front of them, to hold on to the notes, instead of being at ease with their body and be able to use their ears. Playing by memory might help a great deal. But also awareness about what eyes can do, how they can cling to something. Saying no to staring in the music.
Why are sometimes the eyes so dominant? Why are we using them to hold on to something?
Why are musician's sometimes using more of their eyes and less of their ears?
STUDYING IN LOOPS, Improvising
When we study a difficult passage, we have to keep our head clear and only study what’s necessary.
I have noticed the normal way to study something difficult is to diminish the tempo, so first we try play something slow and gradually we addtempo. Without analyzing and thinking about what’s really difficult, we think it should be fixed this way. Even if we know what’s very difficult, a fast string of notes, this is the way to deal with it. We can get very disappointed when we can’t speed up the tempo. So we lose our concentration and interest because we think we will not make it at all, we back off. This disappointment is a very strong feeling, it can make us down and disillusioned. You want to stay in charge, stay creative and up.
A difficult passage should first be analyzed in the different problems that occur. Then focus first on one of the problems and diminish the problem to a very small part, you are able to play with ease.
You start at the base of the line, when you are able to play this with ease, you build up the difficulties gradually.
For string players it’s very practical to tear apart the difficulties of the left- and the right arm. It’s more easy to play a difficult passage legato, then staccato. For example first all left hand notes on one legato bow with not too many notes. When this is easy and comfortable you can speed up the tempo. Study back and forth, study three notes until it’s comfortable, then adding more notes around those, etc.
Then you learn the bowing separately, for example in a scale. And then bring the two together.
Studying in loops it’s best to choose the tempo related to the piece. Then you choose certain notes that are easy to play from where you van build upyour difficulties. First you create easy loops, and gradually you add difficulties. All the time creatively searching what you are able to play, analyse what is the difficulty and stay challenging yourself , not too easy and not too difficult.
Too easy won’t be interesting enough and makes your mind wandering of, too demanding will create stress and disappointment, what will create mind wandering also.
So inventing loops will keep you awake, in charge and positive, because you are going back to something you can play and build up from there. It’s a creative process, a creative game you will play with.
It’s good to stick to one tempo near the piece you distract your passage from. Don’t take the tempo too slow, and not change this too easily. So to keep your breathing regular, keep yourself quiet and keep the overview. Changing the tempo too much will make you restless and in a hurry.
While trying to keep your calm, you add up difficulties. All the time keeping in mind your directions, and good use. So if you feel you tense up, immediately change for something more easy.
You want to stay flexible and adjust to the music you hear, it’s like improvising on a certain passage of the music you find difficult.
From easy to more challenging and go back to easier, taking small steps, one by one, trying to face the difficult notes in as many forms you can invent.
During a Alexander Technique lesson, we are busy coming back to the base of a movement. We are observing ourselves standing, sitting and the movement going to stand or to sit, sometimes laying down, and let the teacher show you the way.
Only sometimes you will sit down in a very slow, controlled way. More often you will move in a quite light and fast way, coming and going from one position to another. It’s not that you are learning the AT by taking a movement only slow, it’s about the mental processes and directions you would like to think about. You think your primary directions, and then you add the detailed secondary directions.
So from the basic movement you build up to a more complex movement, all the time observing your habits, your thoughts, your movements, your idea’s etc.
KEEP THE RHYTHM IN THE MUSICAL LINE
For playing at ease it’s crucial to feel the pulse.
To understand a musical line, we have to look for the basic structure of the musical line.
To find the basic structure, it's good to find the notes that are on the pulse of the music. When we can play these notes in tempo, just the basic line of the music. Little by little we can add the other notes (off beat notes) to it. This way we keep the musical structure and beat in the music, meanwhile keep our natural use and breathing.
So you can gradually build up the difficulties, and when you feel anxiety you can easily go back to the base of the music, keeping the pulse going.
STUDYING SHIFTS, STUDYING BY ACCIDENT….
When we study shifts we tend to overfocus on the problem, the shift itself. In this way we get stress even by thinking about the difficult passage/shift, so by the time we reach this shift we have so much stress, it can go wrong.
To follow the thought of non-doing, you can leave the problematic, stressful shiftalone and not think about this at all.
First you will study the notes around the shift.
When the notes in the upper position are really comfortable and easy to play you can make the shift, nonchalant, without any focus on the shift, as if you are not playing a shift, and go to the next position. It does not matter if the shift was not the way you want it, out of tune or something else.
Your main concern is to make yourself comfortable in this next position. Play all the notes in this position until you can play these notes with ease, with no stress at all.
This you can repeat.
After you being comfortable and be able to play the notes with ease and no stress you can play the shift, without focussing on it, and go up again.
After a while the notes before and after the shift will be so easy and comfortable, the shift has been studied without you have even noticed you did.
This way you can fool yourself a bit.
The thought of playing something difficult, makes us stressed and stiff. The muscles will tense up, only from the idea it might go wrong.
We can fool ourselves by thinking we don't do any shift, until accidentally we make the shift. So you avoid to think about the shift to avoid the stress that comes with thinking about the shift.
Meanwhile we study the positions before and after the shift. After some time you feel safe up here and down there, and you learned the jump without focussing on this most difficult part.
Stopping the bow
I have noticed it’s very difficult to make the bow change, the up-bow to the down-bow without any stress. Because we want to make an inaudible bow change we tend to speed up right at the bow change, or stiffen up the arm in the bow change.
What works very well with my students, is to separate the two movements.
First make them a separate movement.
It’s very good to slow down, and in the end of the bow to stop, right before you change the bow. Here you create a moment inhibit, to redirect, to wish, to sing for yourself the next note. And then play the next bow. This stopping is the moment to learn, to think before you play, to direct , to make clear wishes of note, sound, color etc.
You can observe yourself, and see if you are feeling any anxiety in your arm.
After a while, when there is no more stress for changing a bow, you can learn to connect the up- and down bow again.
study fast notes in a slow pace.
When I ask students how they study, normally I will hear: slowly.
I have noticed that with studying slowly, the brain function slows down together with the music. So the one slow note sounds good, but how to make a connection to the next note?
This is something very important to consider. If you would like to study a fast passage, you can play for example three notes, and prepare the next one with your fingers, but not actually play this note.
This is the moment your brain will think about the next note, imagine this note, but not actually play the note. These three notes and preparation of the next note, can be very fast. But after the preparation there is again time to think, to redirect, to think about the past notes, then direct your thoughts, neck to be free, head forward and upetc. then think about the next three notes and preparation of the fourth note. Or you will repeat the first three, but now you will see it differently because of your directions and thought.
Naming the note you are preparing is a very good addition of using your brain more. This makes the preparation of the note even more conscious.
PERFORM IN A CONCERT AND STUDYING AT HOME
Studying at home can be very specific, you really think about all details, what are the directions your frase is going to, what is the character, dynamic, tempo etc.
But when you play, or perform in a concert, you don’t want to copy all you have studied, but leave it alone, and let the music come out by itself, as if it’s something totally new. Then new things can happen, things you didn't plan, you experience the music and tell the music to the public as if it is the first time you hear the music.
That's non doing in the performance.
FINGERS LEAD THE MOVEMENT FROM THE ARM
In the Alexander Technique you have primary and secondary directions.
The primary directions are the first directions to think of, the most important ones, from where you will lead all your activities.
Your primary direction are the neck to be free, the head to go forward and up, etc.
With your head you listen, you think, you direct, the most important part of your body to keep sound and healthy.
Secondary directions are for example the directions of the arms.
In the arm your fingers lead the movement, your fingers are the first to go forward and out. Fingers will go first and the underarm follows, the upper arm follows after that, etc.
Listening in between the notes
The road towards a goal is much more important then reaching the goal. Actually it’s not important at all if you reach the next note unless you are listening to the road towards this next note. So you don’t want to hit any next note you are playing, but you want to listen to the road going to the specific next note.
If you think in terms of the AT principles you don’t want to end gain on the notes to play, but concentrate on your way how you are reaching a specific end.
Here you will create a lot of space for your music to develop and to come to life.
Hands on back of chair
Hands on the back of the chair is a special procedure of the AT.
Generally this is a way to get your attention back to your directions, observing your use, learn about your inhibition, but more specific carefully and seriously observe the directions of the whole arm and the hand with all the fingers.
You are in a standing/ monkey position or sitting, with your four fingers of the hands over the back of the chair, put the hands bend at the knuckles joint, the fingers long and out, downwards.
The thumbs are behind the back of the chair, gently pitching the chair, gently, directing your wrist in and your elbows out, a opposite contrasting direction, widening and broadening your back, a great direction outwards, releasing your neck , your shoulders wide, your elbows outwards, away from each other, your wrists towards each other.
Then you have the role of the opposability of the thumb.
If you will observe the anatomy of the hand well, you will notice the thumb has only three bones/phalanges, all the other fingers four. Because the thumb has only three phalanges, this makes it the most flexible finger. It has the most freedom and rotation.
We humans have an opposable thumb, meaning that the thumb is able to simultaneously flex, abduct and medially rotate. The thumb can bring its tip into opposition with the tips of any of the other digits. This opposability of the thumb is the crucial movement that makes us humans special. This makes us able to play an instrument. Freedom of the thumb is crucial for freedom of the bow arm.
This procedure, hands on back of chair, is a special procedure to create this freedom.
I have noticed that if I think of this procedure, and specially wrist towards each other, while playing a bow stroke, this will create the most freedom of movement. Immediately the weight of your upper arm can drop.
So learning this procedure I learn directly how to have a ideal and free bow-arm.
While reading Missy Vineyard's book "How you stand, how you move, how you live" "Learning the Alexander Technic", in-between I was walking on a wide beach in France. Generally the book is about "non doing"
Here is one experience of "non doing" of my own while walking on the beach:
The sand on the beach isn't always the same. Sometimes it's more tough to walk on, sometimes it's easier.
After reading this whole book, and realizing we all are such do-ers , even then it was difficult for me to adapt my walking speed to the sand I was walking on. If I didn't want to force myself into walking I had to adapt my speed of walking to the sand my feet were walking on.
Maybe because me wanting to keep the same speed, to keep up a specific tempo while meeting more difficulties, or to keep up walking in the same pace as my neighbor- walker, I realized we humans are very likely to force ourselves into doing too much!
How do we deal with tempo, speed and learning music?
How do we deal with all the people around us, who can play the piece you are studying yourself ? How can we except ourselves and stay with your own pace?
WEIGHT OF THE HEAD AND THE ARM?
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“ it would be necessary for me to make the experience of receiving the stimulus to speak and of refusing to do anything in response...... I therefore decided to confine my work to giving myself the directions for the new "means-whereby", instead of actually trying to "do" them or to relate them to the "end" of speaking.'
F M Alexander ~ The Use of the Self p.27
My own practice
In Londen I was caught by the idea’s ofNelly Ben-Or about mental practicing. Trying to make a discipline with time and vary my time between the actual playing and laying down in the semi-supine, 20 minutes practicing behind my instrument and 10 minutes laying down.
I need a table for my books and computer, so I don’t have to use my arm to lift up my book.
And to concentrate on my breathing doesn’t help me one bit, but to try to wish my neck to be free, this is a major difference. So this will be more practical to concentrate on.
The practicing 10 min. 20 min. etc. is difficult to really discipline myself to stop. The last couple of days I kind of cheated to play 20 minutes and then make a recording of myself . This also took like 7,8 minutes extra playing time….
I noticed it’s really very hard to step out of the usual and try something new.
14 juli AT les STephan
Het in communicatie zijn met jezelf en je omgeving.
Hoe kan ik een onderzoek opstarten als ik zelf al mij niet kan houden aan het schema 10,20min. 10 liggen etc.
Ik merk dat ik zelf heel gefrustreerd raak bij de 20 minuten studie, vaak is het veel te kort, en rek ik wat tijd, 10 min. extra max. Maar om dan daarna weer te gaan liggen, het is heel fijn, maar er zijn altijd 10.000 zaken te doen, regelen etc.
En dan de resultaten, deze zijn absoluut niet meetbaar, en zeker niet positief. Ik heb een keer van de 7 dagen die ik nu op deze manier heb gewerkt, een keer een goede 20 minuten gehad waarin ik mij goed kon concentreren en geïnspireerd kon werken. Mijn aandachtspunt was ademen. Ik weet dat dit niet direct te regelen is, het ademen in totaal afhankelijk van de manier waarop op je je lichaam gebruikt en een direct gevolg hiervan. Dus met veel stoppen en richtingen denken kwam ik toch tot een opmerkelijke en voldoening gevende rustige manier van studeren.
Maar nu komt het:
Ik was heel tevreden , ging weer liggen.
De volgende 20 minuten studie en daarop volgende waren onbruikbaar. Ik kon mij niet ergens op focussen en deze studie tijden waren wat mij betreft zinloos.
En dan zegt Stephan: “dit is juist goed. Dit is een prima ontdekking. Je leert hieruit dat je niets kan vast houden, dat je niets kan doen. Het is in communicatie zijn en blijven met jezelf en datgene waar je mee bezig bent. “
“ Maar als ik dit nou inderdaad voornemens was te doen.”
“ Nee , want je probeerde iets te reproduceren…. Je was niet en geïnspireerd