Friday, May 11, 2012
The “B” Side of Music
All we have, in fact all we’ve ever had, is right now, this moment, this ever present instant.
When there’s a sunset over Jordan,
There’s a sunrise over Georgia
What a joy to see eternity, in a single grain of sand
So fear not for tomorrow or how you’re crossing over
Serenity is to rest in me, for I Am that I Am
And I Am, the here and now.
The Holy here and now.
“Hymn to the Here and Now” by Jefferson Ross from Hymns to the Here and Now
This month’s lyric is from a new favorite song called “Hymn to the Here and Now” written and performed by Jefferson Ross, a Georgia based songwriter whose inspiring and spiritual lyrics have taken my heart and brain by storm. Since hearing it very recently for the first time, I find myself singing this beautiful, uplifting a capella hymn honoring the only moment we can ever really experience: the right now. That is the subject of this month’s column.
Before I start, I feel the need to make a confession: Everything I write and have written in this column is as much for me as it is for you, the reader. Truth is, I need what is contained in every single column I write to make me a better artist. I have to write and then read my own thoughts to fully integrate them into my life and art. So, if I seem to be beating a dead horse, please forgive me. You may have already gotten the message, but sometimes I am a little slow. This month’s column is a specific and very focused example of that fact: living and creating in the NOW!
I am a child of the past and future. I spend countless hours analyzing what has gone before and planning what is to come. In the meantime, many moments have been lost as I worried over something already past. Then in response, I’ve wasted even more moments thinking about those I just lost while even more drain away. This whole topic starts to make my head hurt. So, a little philosophy first: All we have, in fact all we’ve ever had, is right now, this moment, this ever present instant. I like to think of it as the eternal moment of now. Now is the only time that has ever been or, for that matter, will ever be. So, I suppose you are asking, “What is with all the pseudo-intellectual, faux philosophical mumbo jumbo? This IS an arts column, right?” But please bear with me. I do have a point to make.
That point is that, for me at least, not being in the now is detrimental to my creative process. When I am fully present in the moment, writing, playing, singing, living or whatever, that is when I stop asking the why, where and how questions and instead become my creation. Everything else disappears and becomes but background noise while I dance ecstatically with the muse and can no longer tell the creation from the creator. The ego is gone, and all that is left is total clarity in that moment. One stray thought, action or slip, and I am back outside in the watcher mode, as I call it, watching time pass rather than participating fully.
The miracle of now, for me at least, is the real miracle of art. That is that blissful moment chock full of promise and creation that an artist lives to experience. Sometimes it comes out of nowhere like a bolt of lightning. Other times it comes after hours, minutes, days, weeks of trying to call it to me. That “calling to me” part almost never works.
What really works is to become aware that I am the one who prevents that magical lightning bolt of creation. One of my favorite singer/songwriters, Dana Cooper, calls it “standing in my own way.”
Or, as the now defunct comic strip Pogo famously exclaimed, “We have met the enemy and they is us.” I know in my own case that I work far too hard in order to do that which really comes naturally if I would only just let it be.
The “now” stuff not only works for creating art but also works on the performance side. Performance at its best is a creative process which demands being fully in the moment. For many, this seems to come very naturally. For me personally, it is very difficult. I have to wrestle with myself in order to turn off this infernal self-analyzing, super critical dialog engine that is my brain. Now, I am sure you don’t ever have that problem, but hey, this is my therapy, so let me talk.
My biggest performance-related shortcoming is that I am often going through the rehearsed motions of performance rather than actually feeling the words and music. Your audience may be sitting there appearing to accept your performance, but trust me, they know the truth. They know if you are going through the motions or are totally absorbed in the moment. That is the difference between a good performance and a great performance. A great performance is not judged by its technical attributes but by its emotional immediacy. Notice the word, immediacy. It means being present to the mind independently of other states or factors.
The grim truth is that when it comes to the creative process, I know nothing. Oh, I can imagine, assume, suppose and deduct. But as far as actual knowledge about how this whole creative process thing works, I got nothing. But the one thing I do know for sure is that you must be present to win. If you ain’t there, the prize will go to he who is. That is just the way this creation stuff works. So, make yourself available to the moment, the here and the now. Stop judging and let the creation unfold and happen. You will find that the results are amazing.
Also, if you get a chance, I urge you to check out Jefferson Ross at www.jeffersonross.com. I think you will enjoy what you hear.
As always, thanks for reading, and if you have comments, suggestions or criticisms about this or any of my columns, feel free to send them to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you ever simply get curious about what the heck this rambling old man does, then go to www.brownrandy.com/music. Listen to a few songs and let me know what you think.
See you next issue.
Randy Brown is a small business owner and singer/songwriter living in East Texas and has been involved with many sides of the music business over the years, from being a sideman, a sound man, touring songwriter, venue operator, and a recording studio owner/engineer. He is still looking backward and forward entirely too much. But he is still working on that.