Monday, May 28, 2007

waving away the flies

Obviously as a new player, you might need to spend more time learning notes, but my advice (since you asked) would be to focus on some general things in your playing. And that dovetails very nicely into what is my first question back to you. Winning an audition is an affirmation. It is easy to make too much of it. But you seem to be taking the responsibility seriously and not resting on that affirmation. So I want to turn that around and ask what about your playing do you want to improve most, and how do you intend to go about it?

- Michael Hovnanian, from a post on CSO Bass Blog
This question has been rattling around for the last two weeks, searching for a suitable answer - thoughtful, entertaining, maybe slightly amusing, but without being glib. You can see I have the tone all picked out, but I'm still at a loss about the substance!

This last week my new camcorder arrived, so I've gotten to watch and listen to my playing - in excruciating digital clarity and 5.1 channel surround sound. Seriously, it can be a major shock to actually watch myself play, all those bizarre gestures and facial expressions. Once I figure out how, I'll try to post some video up here, so you can all share my embarrassment!

A little humiliation and self-loathing can be good things though, at least in small doses; they drive out all the complacency! Maybe that's what Michael was going for with that question, actually. I'll write a proper answer soon, I hope - please let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions!

An empty mirror and your worst destructive habits,
when they are held up to each other,
that's when the real making begins.
That's what art and crafting are.

A tailor needs a torn garment to practice his expertise.
The trunks of trees must be cut and cut again
so they can be used for fine carpentry.

Your doctor must have a broken leg to doctor.
Your defects are the ways that glory gets manifested.
Whoever sees clearly what's diseased in himself
begins to gallop on the way.

There is nothing worse
than thinking you are well enough.
More than anything, self-complacency
blocks the workmanship.

Put your vileness up to a mirror and weep.
Get that self-satisfaction flowing out of you!
Satan thought, "I am better than Adam,"
and that better than is still strongly in us.

Your stream water may look clean,
but there's unstirred matter on the bottom.
Your sheikh can dig a side channel
that will drain that waste off.

Trust your wound to a teacher's surgery.
Flies collect on a wound. They cover it,
those flies of your self-protecting feelings,
your love for what you think is yours.

Let a teacher wave away the flies
and put a plaster on the wound.

Don't turn your head. Keep looking
at the bandaged place. That's where
the light enters you.
And don't believe for a moment
that you're healing yourself.

- from a poem by Rumi, The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks, p. 141-2


Michael Hovnanian said...


Sorry you are agonizing over my question. I thought I’d lobbed you an easy one, but on second though, maybe not.

BTW, the first time I saw myself on video I almost quit the bass.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you'd better not be one of those guys that starts bitching his ass off and stops practising when he gets tenure. Just kidding. We are all like that. Can I borrow your video camera to make porn?
A bassist