When studying trombone with Frank Crisafulli at Northwestern, I got in the habit of going to the practice room immediately after the lesson to review our work together, and begin practice on the next week's work. When I did so, I found I retained a great deal more from the lesson, and the following week's practice was more effective.
Last week, I took a four-day seminar, and thought how I could complete that experience. As I sat down with some generous quiet time to go over my notes from the course, the following questions came to me:
- What resonated with me?
- What did I learn about myself?
- What do I want to retain/implement going forward?
- What next actions or areas of further investigation are indicated?
1. What resonated with me?
After settling at my desk, beginning with the end of the course and going back in reverse chronological order, I spent time with the moments that stood out for me during the course. I noted words, phrases, and connections that stood out. Writing in the present tense, I described concrete details and clear thoughts that came to me. For example: "As I sit in the black cushioned chair, I notice the mix of fluorescent and natural light from the window. I notice a tingling in my feet, and hear the word "completion" repeated in the presentation. I ask what they mean by that, and receive the answer: 'Completion is time, space, and opportunity'."
2. What did I learn about myself?
Here I list insights (if any) about how I work, what moves me, and where my interests are. For example: "As I stand up after sitting all day, I move my eyes around the room. I notice that my mind begins to clear, and details come more fully into focus. As I walk to the snack area, I keep attention in my feet. I realize that I am more present when walking, and make a connection with the support that walking provided in ON FOOT (Switzerland), and ON FOOT: BROOKLYN."
3. What do I want to retain/implement going forward?
In going back through my notes, I also note anything that I may want to retain going forward. It could be a way of working, a strategy, technique, and/or viewpoint. One example from the past weekend was limiting my participation to six hours each day. I took long lunches, including a nap, missing the early afternoon module. Allowing myself more space, I was more present during the other sessions. I intend to increase the practice of pauses during the work-day, while practicing and composing, and between larger projects.
4. What next actions or areas of further investigation are indicated?
When reviewing the course, I noticed clear follow-up actions, things I want to spend more time with, intuitions, and/or ideas for concerts or other projects. Examples include book and other work that people mentioned, connecting with someone I met over email, and writing out a one-page concept for a project that came to me over the weekend.
As I write this, I notice some things that I have intuitively done in performing and composing over the years that I can reinforce by making the explicit.
When performing concerts, I often recognized that I needed more work in a certain area, such as drilling an A minor scale. It usually showed up as "oh no! I should have spent more time on that!" After the concert, I can go back and note these areas, and at the next practice session, work on them. Sometimes during the concert, I noticed a strong connection with another musician, and contact them the following week to maintain the connection.
John Cage insisted that a composition was only complete after it was performed. After the first performance of a new piece of music, I go back through the concert in my mind, and note any details that may need revision. At the same time, I notice ideas or intuitions that may lead to a separate work.
One thing I learned from Jürg Frey is that when I don't know how to proceed in writing a piece of music, I can copy out the score one more time, and pay attention to intuition. When I have done this, there is often one or two small details which make an important difference in the piece. When, even after the first performance, I'm not sure of a new work, I copy the whole thing over one more time, and revise any details that have been indicated. In doing so, I often notice an idea that could be more fully explored in another piece.
The full completion of the composition after the performance is the final score, which I then print, and register with the composer rights society and with my publisher. I then print a few copies of the score, and file it in my book of originals.
And so writing this report is one part of completing the process of the course this past weekend, allowing me at the same to end that particular segment, and to open easy access to parts of the course for future use.