“lose yourself”

By Hugo Boettinger, 1907 (source)

A great excerpt that emphasizes the importance of “forgetting yourself,” particularly in collaborative playing, and thinking as a group.

It is egoless listening that tunes you to the music. The same quality of listening applies when playing with a group. Fear-based listening is trying to play with others while being preoccupied with yourself. One of my students said that his self-consciousness got in the way of listening to others while he was playing. He found himself listening and trying to respond. That’s partially right. You want to listen and respond, but you can’t plan your response or you’ll lose the moment: that precious connection with true self. This same person said that once, when he was playing with a group, he kept repeating to himself like a mantra, “Don’t think, listen…Don’t think, listen…” He realized that he was so busy saying, “Don’t think, listen,” that he wasn’t listening. That is called trying not to try and it is one of the follies of an intrusive mind. In the book, The Music of Santeria, Traditional Rhythms of the Bata Drums, by John Amira and Steven Cornelius, the authors point out the nature of listening: “In the early stages of learning it is not uncommon to lose track of the very sounds that one creates on his own drum amongst the broader sounds of the ensemble. While disconcerting at first, this may also be a positive sign, for it suggests that one’s ears are experiencing and assimilating the totality of the ensemble rather than being locked onto a single musical line.”

– Kenny Werner, Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within (New Albany: Jamey Aebersold Jazz, 1996).

What is something you do personally, when playing with others, to help you tune into that group consciousness?

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