After three unrelentingly cold and rainy Spring days in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, even attending the Adventures in Sound Play workshop with Paul Winter could not shake my gloomy mood. At Kripalu, where this workshop was held, breakfast is held in silence, so on this last morning, my only social contact as I entered our jam room was with my own heavy thoughts. When Paul gathered us for the first jam of the day, 3 of the 4 chairs filled, but I really had no interest in volunteering.
But when I was invited to play violin, I reluctantly joined. Unlike reading music from a page, a spontaneous music session demands complete attention and openness to all the sounds emerging around you. During our opening silence, I thought about making a tentative entrance that would reflect my mood. But after the hand percussion and harp started, I realized that would not blend with the established music. So instead of hesitating, I let those introductory musical moments inspire a true in-the-moment expression. What came out of my violin was almost a grand entrance! I guessed the harp’s key correctly and came in harmoniously. From there a melody emerged, which gave our improv a recurring structure and musical direction. The aural communication amongst us was wonderful, with some dialogs and call-and-response episodes. After maybe 4 or 5 minutes, a clear ending presented itself, and it was over.
Such a rush of joy coursed through me – it was an amazing transformation, dispersing all residue of my funk of 6 minutes earlier. And as both players and listeners shared, it became clear that it touched many quite deeply, some to tears. I have had this experience when playing violin in a slow, plaintive minor key, but never in an up tempo major key. Something special had happened, something that never would have occurred if I had not been invited, and then found the willingness to forego my thinking and let the moment inform my actions.
When asked how I could have played this way despite entering the room shrouded in personal gloominess, I replied, well, “Give your Spirit something to do and it will rise to the occasion!” It truly felt that I was in tune with a presence larger than myself, larger than the other musicians, and even larger than everyone in the room. I felt like an inner sun had burst through the prevailing grayness.
The lesson encapsulated in the title of this post is simple to state, yet sometimes hard to do. No matter how dark your personal mood, you can bypass its pull by allowing your sense of spirit or creativity out to play! And if you can involve others as well, you will have public acknowledgement of what your mood was concealing.