Princely Legacy

The death of one of my personal musical icons died at the end of April and it unleashed a well-spring of emotion in myself and so many others-- musicians from a variety of genres and the public at large. Prince was his own tour de force and thrilled so many of us with his imagination, originality, unfettered sexuality, ecstatic movement, prophetic lyrics and funky, eclectic sound.

What I loved about Prince was his ability to be a channel of Divine Sound and his willingness to let it come through with glorious freedom. Prolific doesn't begin to describe the amount of material he wrote, performed and produced during his lifetime.  HIs legacy of creating on his own terms has become legendary in the music industry and a beacon for recording artists all over the globe.

Although it seems that Prince died too soon and with so much music to share with the world, I have come to respect that each individual soul has its own path, its own Divine Timing and its own agenda. I am so grateful to have been on the planet during his lifetime and to continue to  appreciate his unique and mystical brand of music-making. 

Why Travel for a Summer Music Festival?

One of the great pleasures in a musician's life is collaborating with other musicians. The work of immersing oneself in the great works of the musical repertoire and sorting out the musical nuances and the technically devilish passages forges friendships that can last a lifetime. One of the most memorable and effective ways of participating in this process is at a summer music festival. The intensity of the duration ( usually 1-8 weeks) coupled with a beautiful, often rural locale heightens the learning curve and offers an undistracted dive into all the components that weave together to create a compelling musical performance. 

Interharmony Festival Students and Faculty 2015

Interharmony Festival Students and Faculty 2015

Historically, many of the great European composers would retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city to the quiet countryside to compose, connect with nature and create. We can hear these sensibilities in the music of Brahms and Mahler for example. Following in this tradition, summer music festivals all over the globe provide an environment of inspiration, motivation, challenge, and enthusiasm in which to become aware and achieve high levels of musicianship. Along the way, it is possible to meet musicians from different countries or regions, study with teachers and coaches from around the world and be stretched musically, culturally and linguistically. There is no better way to visit a far off land then as an ambassador of harmony, as I believe all musicians of every level are. These experiences evolve us and nourish us on multiple levels of our being and the vibrations are felt many months and years afterward.

Consider a summer festival this year and let the momenatum carry you to new musical heights!

There is No Age in Chamber Music

Communication starts at a very young age, fostering our connection us to each other, our families, friends, strangers who will become our friends, and humankind at large. Communication can come in the form of music, form, pantomime, sounds, crying, language, singing, acting, dancing, painting, numbers, the written word and more. How does communication stir our soul?  What makes us want to connect, communicate and experience something with another person, perhaps something exciting, something beautiful, something innovative, something energizing? 

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What I love about chamber music is the ability for us to communicate, share ideas, debate stylistic points, experiment with tempi and more. We do this all the time, regardless if there are differences in age or experience level in a group. As we bask in the glow of the recent Winter Recital around the Ossia Musical Forum, I find it meaningful to reflect on how grateful I am for the legacy of chamber music. Preparing works from the 16th century to the 20th century connects the musicians we are today to the composers and the musicians who lived centuries ago. The harmonies and interweaving of voices are fresh to the ear who has yet to experience them. The age range in our last concert spanned 12 yrs old to 80. Varying levels of experience were shared freely, generously, and respectfully. Fresh insights are available from each musician at every level,  as we each have unique filters with which we experience the notes on the page and the melodies and harmonies in our ears. 

Such gratitude I have for the tradition of chamber music, the ageless beauty of a well-crafted string quartet, the fresh excitement of a musician discovering a classic work for the first time, the warmth of a seasoned musician sharing insights with a neophyte, and the matchless camaraderie that comes when a group works together authentically and with commitment. Such gratitude!

Nora Williams, Artistic Director

The Dawn of a New Musical Meme

meme

mēm/  noun: meme; plural noun: memes

an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.

According to one of most inspiring futurists of our time, Barbara Marx Hubbard, we are now entering the age of conscious evolution where there is a mass appearance of a new type of human, which she calls universal.

“As universal humans, we are consciously integrating our social, spiritual, technological, and scientific capacities with our highest aspirations to create a world that works for everyone. We can now imagine living in a more synergistic, co-creative society with extended intelligence, extended life span, extended creativity…and much more. It was Albert Einstein who told us: ‘Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” (From Birth 2012 and Beyond; Humanity’s Great Shift to the Age of Conscious Evolution, by Barbara Marx Hubbard.)

As universal humans, we are consciously integrating our social, spiritual, technological, and scientific capacities with our highest aspirations to create a world that works for everyone. We can now imagine living in a more synergistic, co-creative society with extended intelligence, extended life span, extended creativity…and much more. It was Albert Einstein who told us: ‘Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” (From Birth 2012 and Beyond; Humanity’s Great Shift to the Age of Conscious Evolution, by Barbara Marx Hubbard.)

Over the summer I had the opportunity to be part of a group familiar with this world view and tasked with discussing and notating the contrast between the Traditional Memes or paradigms found in the arts over the last several hundred years of Western Culture and the Quantum Based Arts memes that are presently dawning. The discussions were lively as we shared perspectives from the world of visual art and the world of music. The overviews were as follows:

 In Traditional Art, numerous restraints are placed on artists and their ability to have total creative freedom. Historically artists have been record keepers of the past and visionaries of the future.  Only a few individuals are seen to possess creative ability.

In Quantum Art creativity is accessible and affirmed for all. Artists are valued for their immense contribution to all sectors of society and compensated accordingly.  The inherent creativity of each human is expressed by each of us as a contribution to our global humanity.

 One of the aspects I love about the universal human world view is that it reinforces the truth that each and every human has a musical pulse running through their physical being in the form of their heart beat. This internal music, or foundational rhythm is with us from early on in the womb until we draw our last breath. It is one of the tenets of my musical pedagogy that this internal music inherently belongs to each one of us, regardless of the amount of our musical training or at what age we first picked up our instrument or decided to sing our first song. One of my colleagues enlightened me that Plato said something similar thousands of years ago. As  this concept is quite self-evident, how is it that we have convinced ourselves as a culture that only a few have artistic or musical “talent”, and there are precious few artists on the planet that are worthy of our time and attention due to the level of their mastery?

 I believe that the world around us benefits from more harmony, not less, and that each and every effort to attune to the most resonant chord that we are capable of perceiving is elevating not only to ourselves, but to those around us too. One of the beautiful things about music and art is that it is living, breathing and constantly evolving, just as we evolve. For me the masterful artists on the planet are there to inspire us to what is possible, not dissuade us or shame us into not exercising our creative capacities.

 So, let us imagine and embody a new meme in our culture that celebrates each artistic and creative endeavor, and compels us to heighten our awareness of the technical and musical demands of our instruments without the need to assign judgments during the process that assault our character or someone else’s. The sense of freedom to explore, question, experiment, fail gracefully, and quiet our minds so that the structure and nuance of our inner music and creative process can be perceived and executed is one of life’s great joys. Be courageous, and play on!

Nora Williams, Artistic Director

Bolt of Inspiration

I’ll neither forget the day, nor the frustration nor the discomfort within myself as I sat practicing the viola. The musical passage was awkward, the shift of positions was creating a hiccup in the phrase, and I had tried and failed with numerous different fingerings and bowings to find the technical path that would allow the musical idea to flow. Multiple practice sessions couldn’t seem to budge the obstacle and I was at a loss on how to proceed. As I sat there stewing, a recent bodywork session came to mind in which I was describing to my practitioner an image of myself as a 5-year old girl encased in a block of ice. The ice was situated in a field of daisies and I could feel the heart of that little girl longing to be playing, running, dancing in that field with a daisy crown on her head. She was frozen and unable to move, although able to perceive the daisies, the sun and the field through the blur of the ice.

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As I continued practicing, a new thought came into my mind and it was a decidedly different approach. My internal censor protested, but my internal creative director argued: “Nothing else has worked, so what the heck, there is nothing to lose.” As I went over the passage again, I allowed my thinking mind to relax and began to visualize the warm sun beaming down on the block of ice causing it to sweat and begin to melt. I returned my focus to the sheet music in front of me while opening to a peripheral focus in the corner of my mind of that sunny field, the warm sun, and the melting ice. Over and over the passage I went, minutes ticked by, repetitions piled on top of one another, and water trickled off the ice. Achingly slowly did the top of the girl’s head begin to emerge. My body itched, my back began to tire, the musical passage still caught in the vice grip of --what? Was it frozen emotions, or an icy shield hiding my vulnerability, my deficiencies, and lack of confidence? Where did the music stop and me, the musician, start? What was vibrating that day? Was my denser vibration attempting to recalibrate to the elevated vibration of the musical composition? Where was the path? How to connect? Still the practice continued, still the sun was shining; still the ice was receding from the girl’s form. Back and forth my attention flew from the musical process to the melting ice. Impatience threatened to end my practice session and my resolve weakened as  yet again I began to slip into an attitude of defeat.

I don’t recall the shift; somehow I woke up to being in a timeless space that replaced the excruciating effort where everything seemed to float. Achievement didn’t seem to matter anymore; each drop of melting ice became soothing, and the icy paralysis of the girl inconsequential. I surrendered into the sun and with a jolt the girl’s torso became free and she was able to wiggle out of her icy prison and tumble into the field of daisies, laughing, dancing, flexible and free. At that moment the musical passage snapped into place, never to be lost again. In fact I couldn’t even seem to recall what the technical issue had been. What had happened-- emotional healing or musical breakthrough? Had my personal vibration been recalibrated to that of the musical composition, which itself had reflected more perfectly the vibration of cosmic harmony? How to recreate this process for the next musical conundrum and could I teach it to my music students or was it a fleeting moment of grace, too ethereal to be called up at will?

I have reflected on this moment over time, shared it with students, and come to believe that the power of music reaches further than I can imagine. Grateful, I am, for its healing capacity, and grateful, I am, for its beauty and power

-Nora Williams, Artistic Director