May 25, 2011

From Nothing - Something

Last week I ended by saying that if you practice being you’ll find your creativity. And you probably thought, “ugh, there she goes again – she’s always talking about practice…as if practicing my harp isn’t enough work, now she wants me to practice being quiet!”

And many of us don’t want to practice something new. What if we’re not good at it? What if it’s hard to do? What if we fail? What if everyone else thinks we’re being silly? All valid questions, and all questions you probably asked yourself before you started playing the harp. But you didn’t let those questions stop you then – and you shouldn’t let them stop you now.

Being quiet doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a spiritualist – a wise monk once told me that many of us miss the point – the being quiet is not for the sake of being quiet. The point is to get to the quiet so you can pay attention. To see what is at this moment in time. You don’t have to become a yogi or a sufi or a sage…you just have to pay attention to right now. Sometimes this is called being present. You can be present in a lot of ways. You can sit in lotus and chant. You can go for a walk. You can knit a scarf. You can pray. The point is to do something that allows you to focus…and once you’re focused you can grow.

And that growth is what you’re trying to get to – so you can grow your creativity! So practice making nothing (remember that silence is the sound of nothing)…and with enough practice you’ll be able to create – in other words, you’ll make Something out of Nothing.

May 18, 2011

Enjoy the silence II

Last week we talked about silence as necessary to build creativity. For those of you who know me personally, you might be surprised to hear me say that (since you’re so used to hearing me say something – I do talk a lot). But truly – finding quiet is essential to being creative – it is the only way to hear what’s possible inside your head, or your heart, or your hernia for that matter. And whether it’s you brain, your emotions, or your gut, there’s good stuff in there for you to work with to create.

But how do you get to hear the silence? After all we live in a noisy world. And we often don’t even recognize the noisiness. I didn’t until a friend pointed it out. We have sounds and distractions everywhere. In fact we view sitting quietly as being idle – and idleness is bad. But when was the last time you drove somewhere without the radio on, or walked somewhere without your ipod?

Quiet can be found, but you have to seek it and make it happen around you. Spend a little time with no distractions (even if you have to hide in the bathroom to do it). Enjoy the silence – and what you hear in it. We’re not talking about the kind of mental stillness that monks pursue (we could be, but I’m not that ambitious about this). This can be the kind of quiet that comes from a walk alone, a brief sit in the sun, or quiet contemplation. Don’t make it too hard – just a minute or two to start…you might be surprised how refreshing it is. And if you practice being quiet, you’ll find that you’re more creative than you had heard!

May 11, 2011

Enjoy the silence

You might recall that music is made up of sounds and silence. Silence is a very useful thing – grabbing attention of the listener, helping to focus on the upcoming phrase or giving the listener time to reflect on the phrase that has just recently past.

Unfortunately, in our daily lives we have precious little silence – we sing in the shower, turn on the television when we awake, get in the car and put on the radio, and walk around with our phone or music player firmly ensconced in our ears. One might think we are afraid of silence – we do go to great lengths to avoid it.

But silence is more important than being space in our music – it provides a consistent background against which to think. It gives your brain a chance to catch its metaphorical breath. And then, you can create. Whether you’re composing, arranging, interpreting or conjoining music in new ways, you need that space to create – you need that silence.

Of course, finding silence can be a challenge. Even if you have decided to create a quiet place in your world, the others in that world may make it difficult to get there. In addition, even if you get the world around you quiet, it may be difficult to get the world within you quiet. But you do need that quiet – in the quiet you can generate creative new things, or just be, it’s your choice.

How do you find silence in which to be creative?  Let me know - and I'll share some of my paths with you soon.
Let the silence sometimes be your choice - and enjoy the silence.

May 4, 2011

Southern Maryland Celtic Festival Harp Competition Results

We couldn’t have had a better day in Southern Maryland for the Celtic Festival Harp Competition – it was mild and bright and beautiful! We held a Scottish Harp Society of America Sanctioned competition modified for a Celtic field (music from any of the Celtic nations).

Our judge was Sharon Knowles who is a great comment writer. Comments are the real meat of any competition – and Sharon is particularly good at providing excellent feedback for improvement while also pointing out the very best of each performance.

And we had some fantastic performances by the competitors – Sharon remarked on the enhanced standard of play – and she is right. We had a very accomplished field. Remember that the SHSA rules establish a competition against a standard rather than against the other competitors which includes the possibility of no one winning. But that wasn’t possible here – the play was just too good! And the scores were very close indeed. The results:

     Beginner          First Place: Jennifer Plunk
     Novice             First Place: Mary Abbott
                            Second Place: Donna Bennett
     Apprentice       First Place: Barbara Costello
     Journeyman     First Place: Mike Connors
                            Second Place: Saori Nystrom
     Master             First Place: Caroline Kemper

Congratulations to all the winners!

Throughout the day, after the competition, we had many other harp activities. Sharon taught a workshop before she performed on two separate stages. In addition we had an impromptu jam session as well as joining other musicians for a session for the country dancers before the ceilidh.

I’d like to thank Sharon for her wonderful judging. I’d also like to thank the volunteers who helped make the day run so smoothly – Sue Richards – steward, Linda Rice-Johnson – photography, and David Narkevicius – harp schlep, handyman, and gopher as well as John Knowles, wrangler and Donna Bennett, movie extra.

We had a lovely time and I hope you’ll come out to compete next year.