It is a great pleasure to tickle your screens from across The Pond, as they call the Atlantic Ocean here in Great Britain. I am honoured to be invited to add a few views to what is already a splendid site for cellists and a fruitful educational resource. The London Cello Society is an important part of my work, and as a nurturer of the cello world in the United Kingdom, I always celebrate a new addition to the Cello Cloud from which we can benefit. Our members are just getting to know CelloBello and they will no doubt enjoy and learn from it.
It is said that the best things to write about are those you love. Therefore it makes sense in this first blog to introduce my passion for the Alexander Technique. As a cellist I have played for over thirty years and love music more than almost anything I can think of, except for roses and the sunshine, and swimming in the deep blue sea. Coming across the Alexander Technique some twenty years ago, I fell in love for a second time. I knew I had stumbled onto one of the great discoveries of humankind and music had to move over to make space.
Why is the Alexander Technique so rewarding to explore? Because it is about us…about our habits, our reactions, about how, from one moment to the next, we think and move in the way that we do. As musicians, we express ourselves through our instrument, and as players we hold it close to ourselves. It becomes, in time, a part of us and we enter into a relationship with it. The Alexander Technique is a framework within which to look at that relationship, its quirks, its habits, its good and not-so-good aspects. How many of us can say that we are in harmony with our instruments, that we can allow the music to be spoken fully in the moment? That we enjoy playing and do so with ease?
F. M. Alexander, a Shakespearean reciter and actor, spent the better part of nine years observing himself, formulating and refining his Technique, which he referred to as the “use of the self.” He was led to his discoveries by the loss of his stage voice, caused by his poor habits of reciting and moving. He eventually recovered and established a discipline which has helped thousands of musicians, actors, dancers and others on their path to self-knowledge.
What are the fundamentals of the Alexander Technique? That the relationship between the head, neck and spine must be allowed to function freely without interference. This freedom can, in most cases, be recovered through conscious application and study of the principles of the Technique.
Just as we work on our intonation continuously at the cello, the Alexander Technique re-educates our sensory awareness and our inner “pitch.” We become re-tuned through lessons, more sensitive to how we move and how our attention is directed. It is a rediscovery of what Nature intended for us, on a conscious level.
In future blogs I look forward to speaking about the importance of these core principles to cello playing. It is an adventure into the unknown to take a look inward at ourselves as the “first instrument.”