movement

Cultivating Softness, Strength, Clarity, and Calm: 3 Basic Yoga Techniques for Musicians — by Elana Katz

There are many yoga techniques that one can use to cultivate heightened awareness, calm the nervous system, center one’s thoughts, and achieve increased mental clarity. As an artist and performer myself, I can testify that yoga can help to foster creative and artistic clarity as well. What follows is a brief introduction to a few basic principals and practices in yoga that can be useful for musicians, with the instrument and in daily life. 1. Breathing  Deepening the breath calms the nervous system and oxygenates the blood. In physical yoga positions, which are called “asanas”, deep breath is used continuously over the course of the whole practice. "Deepening the breath" means an elongation of both the inhale and the exhale. When we are nervous, the breath becomes shallow. Some people [...]

THINKING IN A NEW WAY—Overcoming Habits (Part 6 of 6): Putting it All Together — by Selma Gokcen

"You get away from all your old preconceived ideas because you are getting away from your old habits." —F.M. Alexander We come to the end of this six part series, having touched on various aspects of cello technique, bringing the principles of the Alexander Technique to the most basic work of balancing the instrument, then using the bow and the left hand. Once this basic work is accomplished, the next stage is to take a new piece of music and to begin to work with it for a few minutes each day.  Instead of aiming for the goal—which is to get the piece learned and which can produce all sorts of accompanying reactions—we can take away the goal entirely, and use those few minutes while we work on the piece [...]

The Force of Habit — by Selma Gokcen

“You translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual, into muscular tension.” “We can throw away the habit of a lifetime in a few minutes if we use our brains.” —F.M. Alexander My Alexander teacher is always speaking about the force of habit and the difficulty of keeping the mind on a new track, when, for example, a simple decision is made not to lift an arm or get out of the chair in the usual way.  Our kinaesthetic sense, the sense of our muscles in movement, is of little help here.  We measure effort by how something feels, and that feeling is our habit.  To give up wanting to feel our way forward in the early stages of Alexander Technique lessons comes down to a battle with habit, which is [...]

The Power of Quietness — by Selma Gokcen

The place to find is within yourself.  I learned a little about this in athletics.  The athlete who is in top form has a quiet place within himself, and it’s around this, somehow, that his action occurs...There’s a center of quietness within, which has to be known and held.  If you lose that center, you are in tension and begin to fall apart. – Joseph Campbell True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward. In this way rest and movement are in agreement with the demands of the time, and thus there is light in life. The hexagram signifies the end and the beginning of all movement. The back is named because in the [...]

The Tools of Embodied Music® – the Feldenkrais Method® for Musicians (Part 2)

The tools of Embodied Music® – the Feldenkrais Method® for Musicians: 1.    Movement 2.    Awareness 3.    Reeducation of perception 4.    Learning to change habits 5.    Learning to use the whole self in playing   Movement Dr. Feldenkrais used to say: “Movement is life. Without it, life is inconceivable. Improve your movement and you improve your life”. One can use the word “music” instead of “life” and the meaning will be as true. Playing an instrument is a succession of movements. The properties of movement are the properties of sound as well: time, space, weight, rhythmical impulse, gesture, momentum towards an action, the process of speeding gradually and slowing down gradually.  Improving these properties in our movements will make it easier to achieve the sounds we want. We derive meaning from [...]

The Tools of Embodied Music® – the Feldenkrais Method for Musicians (Part 1)

  Before discussing what the Feldenkrais Method is and how it can help you make better music without injuring yourself, let me start by asking a few questions. Have you ever observed how very young children respond to music – with rhythmic movement, with sounds, with all sorts of other movements? Do you remember how you felt as a child, when you wanted to make music? Do you ever feel something akin to ecstasy when you hear a piece of a performance you really love? Is the sense of ecstasy only a thought or is it a feeling also in your body? Where in yourself do you feel it? Do you feel the rhythm? Can you feel that sometimes music makes you feel light and sometimes heavy, sometimes it is [...]

Raising the Arms (Part 1) — by Selma Gokcen

You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. - Pablo Casals Pablo Casals, ever aware of the miracle of life and of how gesture can be informed with thought and feeling, could elicit from his cello or from his orchestra sounds that could penetrate the heart. To watch him moving his arms as he played or conducted was to witness the reaching forth from his inner being to the outer world. Arms are conductors of the energy within.  They bear the fruits of our thought [...]

So You Think You Know? (Part 2) — by Selma Gokcen

“Sensory appreciation conditions conception; you can't know a thing by an instrument that is wrong.” -F.M. Alexander. Our body-mind could be called our home. We live in it from the inside, looking out at the world. It provides our orientation, our focus, our sense of what is right and wrong, up and down, around us, beneath us and above us. All day long we are encountering and interacting with the world; stimuli are filtering through our senses and being evaluated against past experience. The question raised within us after only a few lessons in the Alexander Technique is the same one that F.M. Alexander grappled with for nine years as he searched for answers to the mis-use of his voice: what am I doing and how can I know that [...]

So You Think You Know? (Part 1) — by Selma Gokcen

“We think we know what we do, but all our efforts show that unless our sensory appreciation is reliable, this belief is a delusion.” – F.M. Alexander Musicians, like athletes and dancers, work on the basis of muscle memory. Our conventional teaching has taught us to play by "feel," as well as by using the ear, by sensing how far, how near, how long, how short, how much force or weight, how slowly or quickly—the endless  subtle variations of these directions we are called upon to make as we move. We rely on this "sense of where and how things are" not just at the cello but in everyday life. Through constant repetition, the conduits are formed for nerve impulses to activate muscle.  In this process our kinaesthetic sense is [...]

The Eyes Have It (Part 2): More on Attention — by Selma Gokcen

"The obstacle is the goal." - Zen Proverb The training of attention through my line of work—the Alexander Technique—happens in a particular way, through the application of certain principles. We take the obstacles, in this case a pupil’s habits, and work with them moment by moment, observing and undoing the tensions in the neck area and throughout the back and spinal column. In this way the pupil’s habits become rich material for understanding how their attention can be directed. The head is heavy and bears a particular relationship to the spine, as it is either poised (gently balanced) on top of or pulled into the spinal column. Cellists are vulnerable to tightening the neck and pulling the head either forward and down towards the fingers or back and down, shortening the [...]

Looking & Seeing — by Selma Gokcen

In my last column, I mentioned getting to know some of your habits at the cello…the worst ones can become your best friends, in that they will offer the richest material for work on yourself. So now we step into the arena. Looking at oneself is not easy. The same instrument that presents the problems is also doing the observing, so how reliable can our observations be when the instrument itself is faulty? This was F.M. Alexander’s dilemma. His vocal problem was hidden within himself, and so he set about observing himself in a mirror, later three mirrors, to see if he could discover any correlation between what he was doing with his whole body and his specific vocal defects. After long and patient examination, he identified several harmful habits, [...]

The Music of Movement — by Selma Gokcen

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 [...]