Apr 112013

“Everyone wants to feel in ‘control’ – feel ‘inspired’ – feel themselves ‘relaxing’ – ‘focusing’ and ‘concentrating.’ That is why we love our effort so much. But it just doesn’t work that way! When you are all of these things you ‘feel’ nothing – for real control just controls. You simply ‘are’ – concentrating, inspired and in control. It is usual when you allow yourself to go beyond ‘feeling’ – in this sense – to experience a sense of loss – as if something has been taken away. You will ‘feel’ nothing, but your playing will immediately be better.”

This quote of Gyorgy Sebok related to me by Lon Sheer presents us with a truth most amateurs don’t really want to hear. We like our feelings of listening to our music and hope it sounds like our favorite artist. We like the pieces we work on and want to enjoy them as we play. We want to like our playing. Of course, sometimes we don’t like our playing and indulge ourselves in all kinds of negative feelings as we play.

As Sebok implies, you can’t have feelings about your playing as you play. If you do, it interferes with your playing. You cannot be committed to music making and simultaneously observing yourself and then engage in feelings about your observations. That’s three things all at once. You must give up watching and listening to yourself and give up your reactions to your playing to actually play with the total involvement necessary for your best work.

It turns out that neurologists say the same thing. In an article entitled “Brainy Ballplayers” in Science News (Jan. 14, 2012, www.sciencenews.org), it states,

“… experts employ only the finely tuned neural regions that help enhance performance without getting bogged down by extraneous information.”

“The study found that the brains of beginner(s) … showed much more dispersed activity — especially in the pervasive basil gangllia and limbic system, regions of the brain that control emotions and make people consciously aware of their movements.”

In other words, professionals don’t waste brain energy emotionally reacting to what’s happening or consciousness of what they are doing. They let the automatic motor nerve systems take control without second guessing them.

“The experience of ‘being in the zone’ could simply be what happens when the brain regions making athletes conscious of their movements are finally quieted and the motor centers get free reign to guide the players to victory.”

So many of their studies center on athletes simply because there is more money in athletics to support the grants, or so I believe. Performance excellence is the same issue no matter where it occurs.

Another interesting brain economy of professionals is that “they temporarily shut down the memory-forming regions of the brain so as to maximize activity in centers that guide movement. They don’t know what they did so they don’t know…” how to answer questions about their performance. Hence the apparent stupidity of some athletes when asked questions about what they just did. They simply don’t know.

In the coming months I will try to expand on this theme further with an attempt to undestand why we don’t have the “professional” mind and maybe how we can begin to work towards that mind.

In the meantime, another Sebok quote from the same source:

“Sebok to student. ‘I can tell from your playing that you love music very much. But, in fact, you cannot afford to love music; only amateurs can afford to love music. Professionals do not love music they are music. Play it again and become the music that you play.’”

  One Response to “Attentiveness During Playing”

  1. This is the same process that exists in all Art or all activities that require the possession of or mastery of an initial skill set that once acquired, achieved or habituated then opens the door to real or true consciousness. This situates the individual at a threshold. What happens next is never guaranteed but the possibility exists for experiencing or producing unprecedented performance, ability, capacity, this is the “Zone” of Athletics, the “Magic” of individual or group musical synchronicity and the “Bliss” level or “Samadhi” of the Yogi or meditator. All the same at the neural level of that which we can currently measure.

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