Tag Archives: melody

Awareness of Body As Breath

Fairy Tail Etherion

My personal movement Practice this morning opened with laying around on the floor for about 35 minutes watching That 70s Show with my son as he got ready for classes. I love the floor and the silly show made me laugh.

What better way to open a movement practice than laying on the floor laughing organically?

What better way to start a day?!

I danced in the Nia routine Velvet. I didn’t dance with it. I didn’t dance to it. I danced in it. This, for me is a very specific sensation. I know this routine quite well. I’ve taught it a multitude of times. That let’s me be in two places at one time – alert for refinement and connected to my organic experience.

Something else came into play here. First, I’m teaching one class most weeks (2 twice a month). Second, it had been probably close to a year since the last time I shared Velvet with a class.

After Velvet, I turned on Filaw by Issa Bagayogo to play some more and to challenge my ability to let go of structure, technique and be fluid – liquid – in other words to dissolve my physical and emotional identity into movement. No longer “me” but movement. No longer “here is the movement that occurs in me”, “here is my style”. Not so much “mine”  as perhaps spirit. (My apologies for the hideous overuse of quotation marks!)

Lovely sensation of delight and of far less ego and attachment. Not my dance. The dance.

Kalamari Warriors by Bushmen of the Kalahari always creates body giggles and the more I let go of “mine”, the more interesting the body giggles.

Nxa, also by the Bushmen was next. It arrived unbidden; just what came next on the playlist. Not with a typical melody. Percussion with a wall of sound created by what sounds to me like an electronic didgeridoo. I connect easily to percussion, as we all do and these pieces are exciting to my body with the multiple layers of instruments, rhythms and tempos all in one piece. The challenge was to let go of the percussion. What I discovered was breath.

Refresher: Rhythm refers to the duration of a series of notes, and to the way they are organized into groups or units. Beat is the basic unit of measurement. It’s what we tend to tap to, though we may not all tap at the same speed. Tempo is the overall speed/pace of a piece of music. Melody is the predominant theme. Author, musician and scientist Daniel J. Levitin comments melody in This Is Your Brain On Music,  “A cognitive psychologist would say that a melody is an auditory object that maintains its identity in spite of transformations, just as a chair maintains its identity when you move it to the other side of the room, turn it upside down, or paint it red.” Levitin also defines Groove as the way in which beat divisions create a” strong momentum”. “Groove is that quality that moves the song forward, the musical equivalent to a book that you can’t put down. When a song has a good groove, it invites us into a sonic world that we don’t want to leave.”

I’ve always associated percussion with blood flow; heartbeat,  pumping through vessels – artery pulse versus venous pulse, circulation. Today percussion breathed. It became it’s own melody for this experience. As I let go of my body’s typical or habitual response to drumming and other percussion, my dance began to take on a different form, shape, rhythm and tempo. I was for a moment lost. My mental self began shooting thoughts, but they were familiar. My body moved and sometimes didn’t; found it’s way and then the “way” became elusive and collapsed into smoke.

To be lost is not a place from which we are rescued. To be lost is itself a moment of grace. A moment in which we are empty and in that moment we can choose with what we will fill ourselves. With the new, the fresh, the untested? Or the old, stale, familiar, “safety” of habit?

This consideration invited me into a moment of stillness to acknowledge my heartbeat as a downbeat and my breath as the melody. The rhythm and melody of my body.

The Sensation of Music

This post is going to be a little more personal. Music, for me is deeply personal and what has come this morning wouldn’t be organic if I changed the frame of reference  in which I received it

I grew up in a household in which there was hardly a moment without music. There must have been, but that’s not how I sense my childhood. My mother was a professional vocalist and pianist. That meant that if she wasn’t practicing at home, she and I were headed to a rehearsal during which there was something playing o the radio. If she wasn’t practicing a piano piece, I was. Or she was practicing a vocal piece, or I was. As for my father, at the time he did not play, but his passion for my mother drove him to learn to appreciate the music she loved so much and to participate when he could.

I did not inherit my mother’s lyric soprano voice nor her gift for the piano.  My ear is not bad, though and my body responds to music like crazy!

 I was preparing for class this morning with a desire to pull a mix of music together specifically to support the focus of awareness of body sensation. Interestingly the song Monday by Ulrich Schnauss popped into my head. While I’ve listened to this piece a few times, it’s been a little while and I haven’t yet used it in class.

I clicked play.

The first thing my body told me was “this isn’t regular”, “you’re going to have to wait for it to tell you how to move to it”. This piece has alot going on, but it’s layered with such finesse that it works. By that I mean that I receive it consciously in The percussion is attention-getting and almost distracting, but I can’t let go of the haunting melody that caresses my nervous system.

What makes me tingle is the places where the drums drop out and I’m left, as if in mid-air, or mid-breath, my body suspended in anticipation. Pure, unadulterated Joy. Musical details fill the spaces and whisper promises, drawing me into the feminine. But I still find myself holding my breath for the drums to start again.

Simply listening to this piece became in itself, an exercise in awareness.

The tickle of anticipation. My own movements of response to the wave – like quality of the delicate almost crystalline sounds.

Listening to it repeatedly opened the door to creativity in terms of how I could tell the “story” of the music.

The first few times, I was mesmerized by the breathlessness of expectancy and let that experience wash over me again and again.

This time, I’m inviting the drums to take a different role. Is that what I’m doing or am I inviting my nervous system to process the sounds in a new way?

Now, the drums are focused, decisive, even insistent and demanding; they speak clearly without hesitation or apology. The sounds that co-create this piece with the drums are not running to keep up. They are patient. They speak up, but not to be noticed or heard but rather as a gesture – an invitation for an auditory pas de deux.

Over and over into the warm ocean of sounds that wistfully lap against the sides of me. Wistfully. Another new way to hear. I’m never floating; never on autopilot. I’m present to sensation – the sensation of music.

The drums become the heart beat. Each drum stop is a breath. Inhale. Exhale.

At one point I notice a pulsing sound, not unlike the fetal heartbeat heard on a Doppler monitor used in doctor’s offices. Shifting experiences into embryonic.

This time floating is not letting go but becoming.

Through the floating I learn to use my body in the way it was designed. Movements are just the right size and scope; in this place they are perfect. My effort is exactly what it needs to be – not too much to fatigue me, and not too little. I am safe. Everything I do is wonderful. Everything feels good and serves my growth. How could I ever do anything else?

In this place my body tells me what I need to know. Why would I ever listen to anything else? My body knows what I need. Why would I ever listen to anything else?

Thank you, Ulrich Schnauss, for creating this piece of music through which I could take this journey.

Andrew, thank you for sharing this piece with me.

Mom, thanks for all the other stuff. I am grateful.

Photo by Resim and Fotograf