19 Jul 2010, 12:15am

leave a comment

Coming back to ‘Neutral’

So what  happens to a player after a 7-9 hours day of rehearsing and practicing, day after day?  That depends on the knowledge of the musician,conscious or unconscious, of how to rest and let go of effort and how to find the moments to do so. It is essential to the prevention of pain and injury and mental fatigue.

Playing in a chamber music festival like Yellow Barn or Marlboro is not only about the physical work involved in playing. There are other stressors like the number of pieces to be learned, the stress of working with highly accomplished and demanding faculty or “elders”, and the constant “raising of the bar” of one’s understanding of the music. There is very little opportunity of “coasting” on what one already knows.

These circumstances, necessary as they are to the development of a good musician, almost always express themselves in extra effort which accumulates over the day, and if not checked, over the weeks of the festival. Pain and aches start showing up and the fear they create adds to the holding of  breath and the unnecessary contraction of muscles. One ends up carrying the particular pattern of contractions that a particular instrument requires into the resting time and into sleep. It is as if one never stops playing completely. It also means that the next day, the work does not start from zero, it is added to the residue of the work from yesterday. After a week of this, the muscles are fatigued and the brain protests.

Unless, we find a way, at least once a day, to come back to our neutral, to the state of being where we give in to gravity and are able to feel how to let go of all work. That is where the Feldenkrais class comes in.  Through doing the movement variations that are the fundamental building blocks of our functioning, we learn to listen closely to the sensations that tell us about excessive effort or the opposite – the cessation of work and the giving in to gravity. We learn to know what no work feels like, so that we can start from zero and do just the amount of work we need for the current project.

That is what I mean by coming back to neutral.

In Yellow Barn at 5:00pm and in Marlboro at 9:00am musicians who have a free hour can come and learn what ‘Neutral’ feels like. Again and again they learn to recognize lightness and ease. They learn to take advantage of little breaks between rehearsals or in the middle of a piece to look for this feeling and reduce the accumulated effort.



web site

leave a comment

Current day month ye@r *