The Thursday Thesis – 22/11/2018
Left, right...left, right...left, right...
You don’t even think about it – you just think “I’ll go over there” and magic happens: the teetering stack of bones, tendons, muscles and fat just goes – seemingly effortlessly.
In essence, a walking human is a collection of four perfectly synchronised pendulums, both supporting and supported by a gristle-bound scaffold of calcification: bones.
But here’s a funny thing: if I had a pound for every one of my guitar students who’ve told me that they have no sense of rhythm, I’d have a ton more dosh in my pocket.
Some of those guys (and it is mostly the guys) are serious about their condition, and some of them make a joke out of it. But it’s still there, hogging their mindspace and stinking-up their thinking – despite the evidence to suggest that they are so obviously, so screamingly phenomenal at rhythm.
Way too many of us are convinced that we have no sense of rhythm, and – as a consequence – we lose our inborn capacity to sing, dance, play the guitar, piano, drums: this is malware for your mind.
If you had a virus in your computer, you’d fire up the toughest, most kick-arse, anti-virus software you could lay hands on and annihilate the virus.
If you were ill and couldn’t sing or dance – wouldn’t you seek medical help to restore what you’d lost?
In the same way that a person who doesn’t read has no advantage over someone who cannot read:
if you don’t dance, sing or make music you are no different to someone who can’t do those things.
Here’s the thing, though: every child sings, every child dances, every child will pick up a drum, pluck a string or pound a piano key.
So why are we born with music and rhythm, but grow up to believe we have none of that good stuff in us?
We’re born rhythmic because – as far we know – humans evolved as a pack animal; something like wild dogs or hyenas.
Ancient Homo Sapiens used their natural endurance and unique ability to cool-off as they ran, chasing prey animals to the point of collapse before moving in for the kill.
It’s called persistence hunting, and it is still used in isolated places where “civilisation” hasn’t choked the practice out.
Pack animals have to communicate with one another whilst on the move, and in the absence of language or in noisy environments sound may not be an option. Thus humans became masters of non-verbal communication and rhythm as our ancestors bounced along in perfect synchronisation with one another so they could maintain eye contact and pick up on one another’s body language.
Look at that group of joggers next time they come pounding past your window – they’ll all be in step with one another. Nobody is keeping them in time: they just instinctively fall into step together.
Ever see a couple who are out of step with one another?
What might that tell you about the state of their communications or relationship?
So don’t ever tell me that you have no sense of rhythm, because you, me, and everybody else...
Well, we are all just rhythm monkeys.
It’s our ancient inheritance, our birthright, and it’s what we do when we think there’s nobody watching. We dance when we are alone, when are inhibitions are lowered by alcohol or narcotics, or we are in a socially sanctioned place where dancing is acceptable – clubs and dance classes for instance.
When was the last time you saw someone dance in the street or in their workplace?
It’s been a while...
We all have rhythm, we all have natural – effortless timing – until someone tells us how hard it is and that we shouldn’t try, just in case we make a mess of it and look stupid.
Isn’t it time we let our rhythm monkeys out of their cages?
So shut up and dance, Monkey-face!
© Neil Cowmeadow 2017
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The Thursday Thesis – 15/11/2018
You know the bass-line I mean, don’t you?
It’s the most-sampled bass line in music: three short pulses of a deep note, a pause, then a walk up a scale to three short notes at a higher pitch, then a funky turnaround before the whole business repeats itself.
Try this: Bom, Bom, Bom – baba ba baba ba ba baba bom, bom, bom - badaba baba ba bap baaah... ba-boppa bum...
You might know it from The Sugarhill Gang’s Rappers’ Delight, but me – I know it from the source: Chic’s Good Times.
It’s my favourite bass guitar line, and there’s so much about it to love. So when I was in search of musical insight, it seemed only natural to go to the source of my favourite bass-line and ask for wisdom.
The only problem is that Bernard Edwards – Chic’s bass guitarist and the man who wrote that bass-line - died in 1996.
Strangely, earlier this year I spent ten minutes being Bernard Edwards, using a process known as Deep Trance Identification, all under the supervision of NLP’s co-creator Dr Richard Bandler and best-selling author and media personality Paul McKenna at a training event in London.
The idea of DTI is that a person – the subject - enters a state of trance and inhabits the body of a target person from whom the subjects wishes to elicit knowledge, insight or understanding.
The hypnotist acts as an interviewer, asking the questions and posing the problems upon which the subject wants the target’s viewpoint and wisdom.
One of the key ideas that make this such an effective technique is that the subject is addressing their own questions from the point of view of the target person, and draws upon the resources of the target person, experiencing it all from the perspective of the target person.
As a trained hypnotist I’m used to seeing unusual things happen – it’s part of the process. But I hadn’t touched DTI in over ten years, and I’d pretty much forgotten about it.
So, my questions for Bernard Edwards were these:
What’s the most important thing in music, in your opinion?
What makes the difference between a good bass-line and a great bass-line, in your opinion?
What’s the one thing you have learned during your career and your life which has made the greatest difference to you?
Armed with my questions, Jason (my training partner for the morning) guided me into deep trance and into a seat beside Bernard, from where my consciousness drifted across into Bernard’s body, my mind reaching into his fingertips as my posture shifted to sit like he sat.
Once I was comfortably installed, Jason started with the questions:
“So Bernard, What’s the most important thing in music, in your opinion?”
“Rhythm. You know, rhythm is everything in music – it’s the difference between music and noise. Hit it on The One and let the music tell itself to you. Trust the music, because it already knows what it wants to be, and you and I are just the faucet on that flow: our mission is to remain open to it.”
Some of it I already knew, so it was kind-of expected. But what I didn’t expect was to be speaking with a Queens, New York accent – just like Bernard Edwards did.
Jason made notes and thanked Bernard. I listened closely, knowing that I would remember everything, because hypnosis is mostly heightened awareness, rather than the zombie-like state often portrayed in films and telly.
“Bernard, in your opinion, what makes the difference between a good bass-line and a great bass-line?”
“Shhh! That does – it’s the spaces between the notes, the little air-gaps where the music catches its breath and the listener can’t help but lean in to the song, just trying to catch the first whiff of the next phrase. That’s what makes the difference: the spaces between the notes.”
Right on: Mozart is reputed to have said it, and I say it all the time. We instinctively know that silence is the other half of the music, because – without silence and the discontinuities it creates – music is...well, rubbish.
And again, that voice; I sound like an African-American from Queens.
“And finally, Bernard - What’s the one thing you have learned during your career and your life which has made the greatest difference to you?”
“Hmmm... You know, I think that the most important thing of all is to give all that you have and trust in the power. Empty yourself and more will be given unto you.”
This I did not expect – delivered in someone else’s voice, out of my own mouth – there’s a pointer to deep faith and something beyond the self. When we broke for lunch I was still marvelling at the DTI experience and what I felt I had been told – I’m anti-religious, so Bernard’s last piece of advice rattled me a bit, as did the biblical form of words “more will be given unto you”.
Maybe it was Jung’s collective unconscious, maybe it’s The Force of the Jedi, or maybe it’s just god, with a little g or a big G?
But it’s interesting to ask yourself who you would like to become, for just long enough to have them answer your questions.
So – over to you – who would you like to be, and what would you ask them?
It's Like This...
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