The Process of the Feathers

I would say that in the last few years my music composition facility has almost exploded. My composition is much better (not just MY opinion) but also is much more facile — a day or two at most for a finished 5 minute piano piece including the polished score.

A shift in my process has played an essential role. In my teens I learned how to hear music in my head and write it down without access to a musical instrument. Contrary to general opinion, this isn’t some supernatural skill — although it does take devoted practice. It’s essentially like we start out reading out loud, then with practice we can hear the words in our heads. (And I also have the benefit of learning piano when I was five, so it is deeply engraved into my ‘reptile brain’)

Much of my earlier music was ‘composed in my head’, so to speak, and the results were very mixed. What I have lately realized, however, is that my hands have an uncanny access to the Muse (if you will) that my ‘brain’ just doesn’t. I’m speaking phenomenologically/metaphorically here — I don’t have ANY sort of ‘philosophical system’ worked out at all. I just know that if I sit down at a piano, and shift my awareness into Receptivity, and let my fingers go at it, that good ideas will come on their own. (And not necessarily ‘piano’ ideas — I compose orchestral music this way too.) They are rough ideas, of course — the musical skills I’ve developed over the decades take those raw good ideas and turn them into a real piece.

My imagination about it is that, speaking from the point of view of evolutionary biology, our hands are physiologically homologous to birds wings, and the fingers to feathers. And birds, doves in particular, are archetypal of Inspiration. It’s as if there is a consciousness in my hands distinct from the consciousness ‘in my head’, and that I’m transferring control from my ‘head’ to my ‘hands’ to get access to good ideas. It is weirdly infallible — I sit down, shift my awareness to ‘openness’, and start noodling (with the recorder recording) and good ideas are infallibly there.

I note that my experience differs from the standard models of our inner Centers such as the Chakras — all of those centers are along the spine — what about outside of the spine? I’m unaware of any system that posits a consciousness/awareness in the hands. Some might argue that I’m misidentifying a consciousness in my hands that’s really located elsewhere. (Including “I’m just a meat machine with the all powerful brain dictating to the stupid fingers what to do.) Maybe, but ultimately I put more stock in my own direct experience than someone else’s theory/dogma. The idea that EVERY part of my body has its own Wisdom — of which I have no conscious awareness — gives me pause.

Looking back, I realize that the better music I wrote in days of yore ‘accidentally’ utilized the Process of the Feathers.

I assume everyone has some Wild Wisdom, some Freak Fire (however seemingly mundane the purpose), that they can share to the benefit of us all. Freak Fires — by definition — don’t neatly fit the Dogma of Science that we’re nothing more than “meat machines”  or any other dogma.

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