25 July 2019:: Cafe Oto, London:: Peter Urpeth / Ollie Brice / Terry Day / NB
You Live & learn. This is a statement that often comes with a pinch of .. condescension. As though life will help deal with your naivety. This may just be my defensive take on it. However, another angle is to realise that living gives you the opportunity to learn (we can maybe argue about what that actually means) new ideas and also to revaluate existing ideas. If I wanted to sell books in airports, I’d say life is a classroom that never closes. And this is true. The only limitation on this is your own openness and alertness. I raise all this in connection with the lessons I learned (or should have learned) from actors whilst performing on a touring theatre production. I was part of the pit band, and the first, and perhaps biggest lesson was that it wasn’t all about us, the musicians. People had come to experience Shakespeare. The second lesson, as this was a relatively long run, was the energy and invention the actors were able to continually bring to it. The production started with a market scene and Ricky Fearon (I’m sure he won’t mind me name checking him) started the action and set the tone for the whole show, no minor feat. He had several parts and I remember him saying that his favourite of the characters he was playing kept changing. As the curtain fell, he was already thinking how he’d play them differently the next night. In contrast, once the show settled, I started moaning internally (and, let’s be honest, externally) about having to play the same music each night. In the event, all the musicians would rise to the occasion, but we didn’t, or at least I didn’t, start each performance with total enthusiasm. I knew this was lazy thinking on my part, but I still kept on being bored at the idea of playing the same set. Another thing that became immediately clear was that the actors were all much more intellectually and emotionally involved with what they were doing and were you to challenge them on performance decisions they had taken, they would be able to easily defend their positions. I may be wrong, but I don’t think we musicians scrutinise our art in the same way, especially when not performing our own material.
But life’s lessons are constant and can be very small but very effective, if we take them on. After all, isn’t it all about trying to continually undo the knots in our psyches that we’ve had from early life? I assume we’re born un “knotted” , we acquire insecurities and irrationality in our formative life, and then we spend the rest of our lives trying to get rid of these.
So, what was the point in this rambling, I wonder? You don’t need shelves of self help books etc claiming to have definitive answers (there are no answers, folks), your experiences have lessons a plenty.
I stole this title from somewhere, perhaps one of the early Jane Campion shorts.. but maybe not. But I did steal it… actually, I have just remembered: it’s from Richard Linklater’s “Slacker”. A character in the movie has a pack of cards with messages that she invites people to select from at random, and she refers to these as “oblique strategies”.. it’s not plagiarism if you declare your sources..
The last time I ventured in this direction was to suggest that I’d finally, after years of trying, solved the “practise music at home and maintain good relations with your neighbours” riddle. The earlier suggestion was that I took liberties with the space / time continuum in my front room and thus created a large practice room in a hidden and unused dimension. I did suffer some time lapse anomalies every time I entered and left this “space”, but these were minor. I also suggested at this earlier time that it had come to my attention that my landlord would occasionally come and hang out in my (or his, to be fair) flat during the day when I was out, and wander around in his underwear. This raised the slight concern that he may blunder into the hidden dimension and once aware of it, would probably be compelled to report it to Nato.
Obvioisly this is all nonsense, I am just trying to make cowardly amends for having a pretty blank gig diary at the moment. But this will change and there will be less of this rubbish on here quite soon..
Another oblique strategy occurred to me whist thinking about my Castaneda books, in particular, “the journey of the dream body”. Anyone who has read the books will know that they are very thought provoking and whether or not taken literally, they are full of fertile ideas that one could at least think about whilst navigating their lives. The premise of the journey of the dream body is similar to, but more advanced than, the concept of lucid dreaming. As we all know, most of us are helpless spectators in our dreams – if there is a driver at all, it is the unconscious mind that does whatever the hell it sees fit to. So you can be walking along with one person who gradually becomes someone else, in a landscape that is changing in a seemingly arbitrary way. Lucid dreamers, to my knowledge, try to set up a task before going to sleep, such as meeting other lucid dreamers at a chosen location, and they all compare notes, during their waking hours, to see if they experienced the same thing. The Native American “seers” in Castaneda’s books took it a lot further. One trains oneself to wake up the dream body from the actual place one went to bed, by first training oneself to open the eyes and look at the hands. Once “awake” in this fashion, one sets out with purpose and carries out tasks that one wants to, rather than being blown about by random events as in ordinary dreams.
So the oblique strategy would be to get the dream body to do all the music practice. Choose the material to be covered before hand, and then wake up (i.e. really wake up) having done the work, without disturbing the neighbours. I guess one might , whilst practising using the dream body, possibly disturb the other dream bodies wandering around, but that’s something that would need to be looked into as and when.
Obviously, I’m trivialising the whole matter: apparently almost every encounter that Castaneda had with Don Genaro was actually with the latter’s dream body.
I know, this is no way for a grown man to spend his time. I’m getting my festival list out and starting the hustling process all over again, yet again.. it’s a full time job: if you’re not writing music, or playing, you should be actively creating the next musical projects.. things don’t often just drop in your lap, although the more active you are, the more “happenings” you attract.. it’s not rocket science. And you can only start complaining after having hustled – not in place of (note to self)